How Do You Clean A HEPA Vacuum Filter: A Step by Step Process

A HEPA vacuum filter is a type of vacuum cleaner filter that can trap tiny particles in large numbers. It captures particles that other standard filters allow to circulate back into the air. The efficiency level of the filter is what has made it such an important vacuum part.

The filters are recommended for minimizing dander, dust, and other allergens commonly found in the home environment. A HEPA filter is also effective at stopping some types of bacteria mold and viruses from spreading in your home.

However, a HEPA filter also needs to be cleaned. If it is a filter that can be washed and reused, there is a way to go about it. This article provides a step-by-step process of how to clean a HEPA vacuum filter the correct way.

Continue perusing the article to get more insight into the step-by-step guide.

In this post we will cover:

  1. A HEPA filter and its function
  2. How Do You Clean A HEPA Vacuum Filter
  3. How do I know if my HEPA filter is dirty?
  4. Different types of HEPA filters for vacuum cleaners
  5. Difference between HEPA-type filter and True HEPA
  6. Advantages and disadvantages of HEPA filters

What exactly is a HEPA filter and how does it function?

HEPA is an acronym for High-Efficiency Particulate Air, and a HEPA filter can trap irritants and allergens, leaving your indoor air quality cleaner and fresher.

The filter works by pushing air through a mesh screen which captures pollutants that are let through by standard filters.

A HEPA filter can remove and contain 99.97% of contaminants and allergens. The filter is able to work so effectively since it is made using a technology that was applied to gas masks during World War II.

In a residential vacuum cleaner, a HEPA filter may be smaller than an industrial one, but it is still effective in combating debris, pollen, dirt, pet hair, and other contaminants. As you clean the surfaces in your home, the filter also cleans your indoor air.

A true or absolute HEPA filter must be tested and meet specified standards for it to be considered a true HEPA filter. Such a filter has a serial number assigned to it and has been proven to trap at least 99.97 percent of particles the size of 0.3 microns and above.

The HEPA filter applies a different mechanism for removing dirt and dust particles from the air. There are two primary stages. The first takes place in the outer filter which acts as a basic sieve.

The layer may have several filters and it is engineered to get rid of large dirt and dust particles.

The second stage takes place in the inner layer, which is made of glass fiber material that traps particles in many different ways. The heaviest particles which move slowly and randomly in the filter are eliminated through diffusion since they will eventually stick to the glass fibers.

The fast-moving particles directly collide with the fibers and are removed through impact. Lastly, some particles are attracted to the glass fibers as they pass by and are eliminated through interception.

The combination of these techniques is what sets the HEPA filter apart from other filters, making it significantly more effective at getting rid of airborne particles.

That is why the HEPA filter is recommended for those who suffer from allergies and other respiratory issues.

However, HEPA filters do not remove every particle from your home environment. Allergens enter your house through open windows and doors, and using a HEPA filter cannot guarantee the complete removal of allergens.

For instance, the HEPA filters cannot remove the risk of inhalable pollutants such as some viruses as small as 0.1 to 0.004. Other viruses are too large to get through the filters.

How Do You Clean A HEPA Vacuum Filter: A Step by Step Process

HEPA filters have become part of everyday life, but when a HEPA filter is dirty and clogged, it begins to lose its effectiveness.

At this point, if the filter is not tagged as washable or permanent, it is to be disposed of.

However, if it is washable or permanent, the following procedures should be used to clean it:

Cleaning a washable HEPA filter

Step 1: Consult the instruction manual to find out if your HEPA filter is washable and how to go about it. Some are periodically washable as water may affect their functionality.

If there is no instruction manual, visit the manufacturer’s website and enter the model number to access a downloadable copy.

Step 2: Disassemble your device to gain access to the filter and clean it thoroughly. Take the filter out of your home since filters tend to carry more dust and dirt if they are larger.

Step 3: Remove the filters, but first turn your device off and unplug it from the power source. Then remove the instrumental panel protecting the filter and then gradually slide out the HEPA filter. Refer to the manual for guidance.

Step 4: Loosen the dust from the filter by gently tapping it over the dustbin. The filter may be clogged by dirt and dust based on the cleaning frequency of your device. The tapping loosens the dirt and removes the gathered dirt.

Step 5: rinse the HEPA filter with water at medium pressure. If it is a small filter, you can clean it under tap water in your kitchen or bathroom. If it is a large one, rinse it in the garden with the garden hose.

Consult your manual to see the manufacturer’s recommendations, such as the use of cold or lukewarm water. Therefore, ensure that the water temperature is right before rinsing the filter.

Step 6: leave the filter to dry for at least 24 hours. Shake any excess water so that drying can be easy because the filter should be installed back in the vacuum cleaner when it is completely dry.

Cleaning a permanent HEPA filter

If you have a permanent HEPA filter, then these are the cleaning steps to follow:

Step 1: Remove the filter and since it has a lot of dirt and dust, take the appliance outside to avoid indoor air pollution. Just remember to turn off your device and unplug it.

You can refer to the handbook if you do not know how to remove the filter.

Step 2: There are other filters attached to a permanent HEPA filter which also need to be cleaned with water for two or three minutes, or until the water runs clear.

The ultra-fine filters can be tenderly cleaned with a damp sponge or a brush with soft bristles.

After that, dry the filters with a towel and leave them to dry naturally for 24 hours.

Step 3: use a handheld vacuum with powerful suction to clean the HEPA filter to remove debris and dirt from it. Use a nozzle attachment or a soft brush to prevent any damage to the filter.

Vacuum the filter until every speck of dirt has gone.

Step 4: After both the pre-filter and HEPA filters have been cleaned and dried, reassemble your device. First, position the HEPA filter and then the pre-filters. If you are not sure how to go about it, refer to the instructions in the handbook.


The cleaning of a HEPA vacuum filter is cost-effective compared to replacing the filter. The cost of replacing a HEPA filter is the reason why most people choose permanent filters or washable ones.

If you have a washable or permanent HEPA filter, just ensure that you are cleaning it the correct way as outlined above. Also, consult your handbook to adhere to the specific cleaning requirements provided by the manufacturers.


How do I know if my HEPA filter is dirty?

If you want to know if your HEPA filter is dirty, there are two ways of checking. One way is with the help of a filter indicator, which shows you when your filter has lost its capacity to function efficiently due to dirt and clogging.

The other method is by manually checking the filter. If you see any buildup of dust, dirt, or debris in the filter, then it is time to clean it. However, if the filter is entirely clogged up, it should be replaced instead of being cleaned.

Are there different types of HEPA filters for vacuum cleaners?

There are several HEPA-type filters that may be manufactured in similar ways to true HEPA filters and even look like true HEPA filters. However, HEPA-type filters are not required to meet the standards required by true HEPA filters.

Most of the HEPA-type filters can only capture between 85 to 90 percent of all dust and dirt particles and the percentage can even be lower for particles the size of one micron and below. Such filters do not have serial numbers.

There are different grades of HEPA filters because all HEPA filters are not made equal since each grade has a different performance efficiency. In the United States, a filter can only be labeled HEPA if it can trap debris as small as 0.3 microns and 99.97 percent of dirt.

The H12 HEPA filters are made up of microscopic glass fibers that are tightly packed together to form a paper-like surface through which dust and allergens can pass. The filters have a 99.5 percent overall efficiency and are able to capture particles as small as 0.5 microns.

The H13 HEPA filters have an increased efficiency rate of 0.45 percent to 99.95 percent. It can trap particles the size of 0.5 microns or larger. The filter is able to capture particles through three different mechanisms, which are diffusion, impact, and interception.

Others include the H11 HEPA filters which have a 95 percent efficiency and can trap microns as small as 0.5. The H14 filters have an efficiency of 99.95 percent and capture particles of 0.5 microns or larger.

Some HEPA-type filters are labeled with letters A to E, based on effectiveness and all are true HEPA filters. The least effective is A, but it should be more than sufficient, while E is best suited for military-grade applications.

What Is the Difference between HEPA-type filter and True HEPA?

Efficiency: A true HEPA filter has a serial number and its test results printed on it. It also captures particles as small as 0.3 microns at 99.97 percent or above.

The 0.3 microns is the standard testing size since it ensures better performance with large and small particles.

A HEPA type filter has no such printing and its efficiency is 90 to 99 percent in eliminating particles that are less than 2 microns.

Filter density: a true HEPA filter can eliminate 99.97 percent of tiny particles of 0.3 microns which is a filter density that is comparatively high. HEPA filter types, on the other hand, can only remove 90-99 percent of airborne pathogens.

MERV: MERV is a measurement scale used to measure air filters’ efficiency. The rating was formulated to determine the rating of different filters. The rating of true HEPA filters is 17 to 20, which is highly efficient, while that of HEPA type filters is 13-16.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of HEPA filters?

The advantages: the fine fibers in the HEPA filters are very helpful for people who suffer from asthma or allergies. That is because the fibers can capture common triggers of allergies, such as mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites.

The disadvantages: particles smaller than 0.3 microns can escape since the HEPA filters will not trap every particle. The filters cannot remove viruses because they are too small for HEPA filters to remove them.