cleaning a vacuum cleaner filter

How Often to Clean a Vacuum Cleaner Filter

It’s often neglected as we don’t see it while vacuuming, but not cleaning your vacuum cleaner filter regularly can lead to issues, for the vacuum and even for yourself.

Clogged up vacuum filters make a vacuum’s suction less effective. This means that the motor has to work harder, causing the vacuum to overheat, which reduces its lifespan.

Not to mention, it won’t pick up as much dust or dirt, and your floors would remain dirty. 

A blocked filter can also cause the trapped dirt particles to be expelled back into the air when the vacuum is in use.

Considering that, when tested, some vacuums were found to contain faecal matter, mould and even E. coli bacteria, this could potentially be detrimental to your health. 

If this sounds scary, you don’t need to worry as cleaning a vacuum filter is pretty easy. 

Read on to find out when and how to clean your vacuum filter and when it may be time to replace it.

hand vacuum cleaner filter


How Often Should You Clean a Vacuum Filter?

Assuming that you’re vacuuming your house once to twice a week, you should clean your vacuum filter once every three months.

You may need to clean it more frequently, up to once a month, if you’re using your vacuum more often. 

For example, during spring and summer when hay fever strikes, or when you tackle a particularly dusty room, after doing home improvements, for example. 

If you notice that your vacuum smells strange when you use it, you may need to clean the filters straight away. 


How to Clean a Vacuum Filter

You should always consult the manufacturer’s instructions to find out how to correctly maintain your vacuum cleaner

However, you can follow these guidelines depending on which type of filter your vacuum has.

The most common types of vacuum cleaner filters are foam, cartridge and HEPA, which we will discuss below.

Foam filters

vacuum filter

In bagless vacuum cleaners, you often find foam filters. These can easily be cleaned with soap and water:

  1. Scrape off the layer of dust.
  2. Soak the filter in a bowl with a little dish soap and warm water.
  3. Hand-wash the filter to remove all the dirt.
  4. Run the filter under cold water to rinse.
  5. Dry completely before putting it back.

Cartridge filters

vacuum cartridge filter

Cleaning a cartridge filter will depend on the material the filter is made from. If the filters are paper, you can’t wash them. 

Instead, you can shake them out into the bin to remove excess dirt and replace when needed.

The vacuum should come with replacement filters and instructions on how and when to change them.

If the filter is made from a woven material, you may be able to wash and reuse them:

  1. Bang out the excess dust into the bin.
  2. Run the cartridge under the tap until the water runs clear,
  3. Dry completely before returning it to the vacuum.


HEPA vacuum filter

As efficient as these types of filters are, unfortunately, they don’t usually do well with water. 

Most of these filters can’t be washed with water and, instead, can be shaken out into the bin or vacuumed using a handheld vacuum. 

If the filter is labelled as washable, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to do so. 


When to Change a Vacuum Filter

replace vacuum filter every 6 to 12 months

Your vacuum filter should be replaced every 6-12 months. Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions as they may have specific guidelines on when to change the filter.

If you’ve been washing your filter and the vacuum doesn’t seem to be as efficient at picking up dirt, consider replacing the filter as it may no longer be working correctly.