Air purifiers improve the quality of the air in your home by lowering airborne pollution like dust, pollen and particulates. High-quality air purifiers can also filter our smoke and toxic gasses, as well decrease the presence of some bacteria and viruses. In addition to improving air quality, the presence of an air purifier in the home can also cut down on dust — and on the time you spend dusting!
However, air purifiers need to be cleaned regularly to ensure that they’re in good working order. Additionally, failing to perform routine maintenance on an air purifier can cause it to work overtime, shortening not just its efficacy, but also its lifespan. While they do need to be cleaned often, the good news is air purifiers don’t require a lot to keep them running at peak performance. With the help of experts, we’ve broken down everything you need to know to clean and maintain an air purifier to ensure the air in your home is as healthy as it can be.
Related: Choosing the best air purifier for you
How often to clean an air purifier
“We recommend cleaning your air purifier at least once a month,” says Nicole Backus, the Clorox Home Appliances brand manager at Hamilton Beach Brands.
If you need help remembering to clean your air purifier, pick a recurring date on which to perform routine maintenance, like the first of the month, or the first Sunday of each month. Another easy way to remember to clean an air purifier is simply to set a recurring task with a reminder on your calendar.
Even with reminders, however, most people will fail to clean their air purifier as regularly as needed. Keep an eye (and ear and nose) out for these signs that your air purifier is overdue for cleaning,
• The replacement filter indicator is illuminated
• Increased noise level
• Increase in household odors
• Decrease in airflow
“Lastly,” Backus says, “a good rule of thumb — if you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your air purifier, it’s likely time for a cleaning!”
What you need to clean an air purifier
Air purifiers don’t require any fancy cleaning agents or tools to keep them in good working order — and, in fact, when it comes to cleaning them, less is more.
"Using a vacuum with a brush attachment is the ideal way to clean dirt and dust buildup," Backus says. Most vacuums come with a dusting attachment, but if you need one, replacement attachments can be purchased separately.
"If necessary, cleaning with a damp cloth using only water is recommended," Backus says. "There is no need to clean any part of the air purifier with cleaning agents."
"If your air purifier has a pre-filter," says Odile Liu, the head of product marketing at Blueair, "you can also put it in your washing machine on a gentle, low temperature cycle. Use a detergent of your choice and hang to dry."
What to avoid when cleaning an air purifier
There are some safety considerations to be aware of when cleaning an air purifier, including cleaning agents to avoid using entirely.
“Do not clean your air purifier while it’s plugged in,” Liu says, “especially if using water or near any wet areas in the home.”
Similarly, Backus warns to be careful not to get the filter wet when cleaning an air purifier. “Avoid damp environments and getting the filter wet,” she says. “Most filters, including the Clorox True HEPA filter, are not designed to be washed with water or cleaning agents, as well as essential oils or fragrance sprays, all of which can damage the filter, reducing its overall effectiveness.” Liu adds to the list of things to avoid when cleaning an air purifier, “gasoline, chemical solvents or any corrosive materials may cause damage,” she says.
While the main filter of an air purifier is neither washable nor reusable, Liu says that the pre-filter, if your air purifier has one, can be machine-washed.
How to clean an air purifier
The experts we spoke with provided these step-by-step instructions for cleaning an air purifier.
1. Turn off and unplug the air purifier.
2. Remove the filter. If applicable, remove the pre-filter and consult the instructions for cleaning a pre-filter provided below.
3. Clean the filter using a vacuum fitted with a soft brush attachment.
4. If the design allows for it, vacuum or wipe the inside of the unit where the pre-filter sits to remove any excess dust.
5. Wipe the exterior of the air purifier with a damp cloth, or use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove lint or debris. Pay particular attention to the air intake holes and the air exit holes.
6. Put the filter back in the air purifier, plug it in and turn it on.
Note: Do not use detergent, solvents, spray cleaners or essential oils on any part of the air purifier or filter.
If your air purifier has a pre-filter, follow these instructions to clean it.
1. Remove the pre-filter from the air purifier.
2. Use a vacuum with a brush attachment to remove any lint or debris.
3. If applicable, wash the pre-filter on a gentle, low wash setting with detergent according to manufacturer instructions.
4. Allow the pre-filter to air dry completely.
5. Return the pre-filter to the air purifier.