How Long Does an Air Purifier Filter Last?

Your air purifier works great at removing harmful chemicals, allergens, and other toxins until it doesn’t. 

Eventually, the filters inside your machine are going to max out and need to be cleaned or replaced. If you ignore a dirty filter, your air purifier will not properly filter particles and runs the risk of overheating.

So, from one air purifier enthusiast to the other, stay on top of your filters as diligently as possible. Which leads us to the question: how long does an air purifier filter last?

Depending on the type, an air purifier filter will last anywhere from one month to multiple years. The HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air – filter) is the most common filter for at-home purifiers. It can last between one to two years. This is notably longer than activated carbon and mesh filters, which only last one to three months. 

Some filters are considered reusable or washable and can sometimes last as long as the device. But remember, the quality of the air dictates the lifespan of a filter.

Let’s look at some common filters and their average lifespan:

Activated Carbon Prefilter – This is a carbon filter that lasts about 3 to 6 months. These filters are usually used as a prefilter to absorb smoke, odors, and gasses. They are not effective at absorbing particles.

Reusable / Washable Filters – On average, a reusable filter can last between 5 to 10 years. A shockingly long time compared to HEPA and carbon filters which are considered to be disposable.

HEPA Filter – This is the most common filter and can last an average of 1 year. Once the year comes to an end, its ability to collect particles drops drastically. The HEPA filter is usually the primary filter used in a purifier. Check out the results of a 200-day HEPA filter test.

How do you know when your air purifier needs a new filter?

You can tell when your air purifier needs a new filter by opening the machine and checking the filter’s color. If your filter is a dark gray color and shows clear signs of being dirty, it is probably time to clean or replace it. 

However, just determining by color can be difficult. Notice if your home is dustier than usual or if your allergies seem to be getting worse. 

Using an air quality meter in your home is the most foolproof way to know if your air purifier needs a new filter. This device will give you a lot of assurance that your purifier is functioning properly.

Keeping up with the air quality in your local region can help you determine the quality of air in your home. However, inside houses and apartments, people are exposed to paint fumes, second-hand smoke, chemicals from sprays and cleaners, and many other dangerous toxins that don’t exist outside. 

Therefore, when checking the air quality of your region, be aware that the air inside a house can be even more polluted.

Can you wash an air purifier filter?

You can only wash an air purifier filter if it is marked as washable or reusable. Standard HEPA filters will never be safe to wash, and cleaning them would be a waste of time. 

Water, like a vacuum, often does more harm than good to a filter. A much better idea would be to replace a dirty filter altogether. It may cost more money to replace a filter than clean it, but it will ensure that your air purifier is actually purifying the air – and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? 

Washable filters, on the other hand, can be rinsed with water. These filters aren’t as effective as HEPA filters, but they are a cost-effective option. Watch the video below to learn why washable filters are less functional than standard filters.

Can you vacuum air purifier filters?

You can technically vacuum air purifier filters, but it will often do more harm than good. Vacuums will suck out larger particles and debris; however, they will also take pieces of the filter along with it. 

HEPA filters, for instance, have shown no improvements after being vacuumed – as seen in this example. Activated Carbon filters rely on tiny pores to absorb unfavorable gasses. When vacuumed, those pores can expand and decrease the rate of absorption. 

So, if you are considering vacuuming your air filters, just know that even if you manage to not damage them, it will have very little impact. If you own an air quality monitor, you could check the air before and after vacuuming an air purifier’s filter to verify the ineffectiveness of the cleaning method.

What happens if you don’t change an air purifier filter?

If you don’t change your air purifier’s filter, it can pollute the air, overheat the air purifier, and cause irreparable damage. In addition, colonies of bacteria and mold can also build up on unchanged filters over time and spread the harmful particles you were trying to get rid of. 

A clogged filter means the machine will have to work harder. This will lead to a purifier that frequently overheats, causing the device to shut off or break down. In extreme, rare scenarios, overheating could result in a fire and threaten you and your home.

If you know the filters of your purifier need to be changed, you should wait to run it until you can replace them. Consider stocking up on filters so that you are always prepared when the time comes. If you are worried about forgetting to change the filters, set a reminder on your phone or mark it on your calendar.

Are all air purifier filters the same?

Air purifier filters are not all the same. The different types of air filters include HEPA filters, Activated Carbon filters, UV filters, Negative Ion, and Ozone filters. Each of these uses its own technology to purify the air. 

Most air purifiers rely on two to three filters to purify the air successfully. The air around you – if you don’t have a purifier – is swimming with bacteria, smoke, dust, mold, and pollen. 

Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all filter to handle all of these airborne particles. Purifiers are commonly equipped with an activated carbon pre-filter and HEPA filter to deliver the best results.

Let’s look at the materials of different filters and what pollutants they can prevent.

HEPA Filter: These filters are made of plastic fiber, fiberglass, and glass fibers that are interlaced together. The United States Environmental Protection Agency claims that a HEPA filter can absorb over 99.97% of airborne particles that are a size of 0.3 microns.

Activated Carbon Filter: Carbon filters are often made of petroleum or coconut shell-based carbon, which is more environmentally friendly and often found in US-made products. While HEPA filters thrive in collecting dust and pollen, carbon filters are designed to remove odors and gases.

Reusable / Washable Filter: Most washable filters are made of lightweight plastic materials. They can’t be relied on to remove allergens, odors, or toxins, but they can remove larger pieces of debris like long hair and dust. These filters are not recommended for anyone with allergies.

UV Filter: Unlike other filters, some purifiers use a UV light bulb to destroy germs, bacteria, and viruses. UV purifiers are not as versatile as HEPA filters and can convert air molecules into ozone, which can be potentially dangerous.

See also:

Are air purifier filters recyclable?

In general, you should not recycle air purifier filters. Even though they typically include plastics – which we all love to recycle– fiberglass and glass fibers are not recyclable materials. 

The recycling process would simply destroy them. Not to mention, the job of an air filter is to collect harmful airborne particles. Recycling those toxins would turn into a health hazard. So, the next time you are changing out your air purifier’s filter, make sure to throw it away in the trash!

Conclusion: How long does an air purifier filter last?

Your air purifier filter’s longevity depends on the filter you use. A single HEPA filter can last more than a year, while activated carbon filters need to be replaced every three to six months. 

Washable filters can have a lifespan of up to ten years. However, they are a less effective method of eliminating harmful particles. A more important indicator of how long a filter will survive is the air quality in a home. An air quality meter is a great tool to monitor your purifier’s effectiveness and to know when it’s time to replace a filter. 

So, make sure your filters stay fresh to ensure you’re breathing the finest air possible!

Eustace is a technology enthusiast and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Telecommunication and Information Engineering. His passion and knowledge of computers, and technology in general, is channeled towards helping others understand complex concepts, solve problems, and make informed decisions.