How to Clean Air Purifiers

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Updated June 27, 2022

Owning an air purifier is only part of the battle in keeping your home’s indoor air quality top-notch. Routine maintenance including regular filter cleaning and replacement is critical to ensure that your air purifier always operates at its peak efficiency. This way the CADR stays in good shape. A good model like the Coway AP-1512HH and the Air Innovations Max Clean compact air purifier is worth keeping clean.

Follow along below as we detail how to clean air purifiers.

Learn how to clean top-rated air purifiers. It’s easier than you think.

Things You’ll Need

  1. Screwdriver (not all models)
  2. Vacuum (optional)
  3. New Activated Carbon Filter
  4. New HEPA Filter

Cleaning An Air Purifier

Alen BreathSmart How to Clean Air Filter
Regularly check filters to ensure optimal air cleaning

Most air purifiers have a visual indicator to alert the user that it’s time to clean and/or replace the filter assembly. For those without any indication of the unit itself, the best practice is to change your filter every 3-6 months. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidance for specific models and routine maintenance procedures. Otherwise, you might get noise, which isn’t good for most of the quietest air purifiers.

Before proceeding with an air purifier cleaning, you should ensure the device is unplugged first. Never clean or replace filters without first turning off power and removing the electrical cord from the wall receptacle. Once power is removed from the unit, you can begin to clean your best air purifier.

1. Clean Exterior Pre-Filters

Permanent, exterior pre-filters can be cleaned with a damp cloth, and debris like hair, fibers, and dust bunnies can be vacuumed away. Pre-filters are often included in the purification process on many portable air-cleaning units.

Washable Filter
A washable air purifier screen.

2. Remove Air Filter Cover

Locate the air filter access panel on your air cleaner. Typically, user-friendly panels (secured by easy-open tabs) are located on the backside of air purifiers like in the Alen BreatheSmart photo above, however, some larger models may require a screwdriver to access filter compartments. If you’re having trouble locating the filter panel, please refer to your manufacturer’s manual or website for specific instructions on how to find and remove it.

3. Remove Air Filter

Soiled filters contain a lot of nasty stuff, so take caution when removing your old filter. We recommend having a plastic bag at the ready to carefully put your dirty filter in, avoiding releasing contaminants back into your home’s air.

4. Dispose of Old Filters

Place the bag containing the used air filter in an outdoor waste receptacle.

Manufacturers make many different configurations of both activated carbon and true HEPA filters, and depending on your specific filter’s design, you may need to consider proper disposal and recycling methods. If your filter assembly contains glass, or plastic, please dispose of it responsibly according to EPA guidelines.

Carbon Filter
A typical carbon filter preceding HEPA filtration.

5. Install New Air Filter

Filters, including great washable air purifier filters, are typically designed to be installed for one-way airflow. Look for arrows, or slots, indicating airflow direction before installation, and replacement filters for home air purifiers aren’t universal. Check the manufacturer’s website for guidance on ordering replacement parts and filters, as some air purifiers have unique filter designs that aren’t available anywhere else.

Read More: Best Air Purifiers 2019

Multistage filters require installation per the air cleaner’s physical design. Usually, airflow is pulled through the exterior pre-filter, then through a carbon filter, and finally through a HEPA filter. Sometimes though, activated carbon filters are placed after the HEPA filter in the adsorption process.

Always ensure you install filters in the correct order according to operation manuals.

6. Replace Air Filter Cover

Replace the filter assembly cover and ensure that it’s secured in place. Plastic alignment tabs on the cover should meet with corresponding guide holes, and if you had to remove screws to access the filter compartment, you’ll need to reinstall those now.

7. Plug-In and Test for Proper Operation

HEPA Filter
A HEPA filter removal from an air purifier.

Perform a startup to verify that the machine recognizes the new filter, and resets control functions that monitor filter performance accordingly. Some machines will recognize improper installation and alert the user that changes need to be made before the operation, depending on the included features.


As with any appliance in your home, always refer to specific installation and maintenance documents provided by the manufacturer before performing any serious maintenance. Cleaning an air purifier regularly will help to maximize the machine’s life, and keep your indoor air quality at its best during operation.

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