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Hey, you're in the home improvement zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Cooling and Ventilation Systems Category: Central Air Conditioners

Improvement Project:

How to save in maintaining your central air conditioner's air filter (non-disposable).

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Screwdriver

  • Vacuum (including a vacuum wand)

  • Extension cord

  • Bucket / tub (for washing the air filter)

  • Solution of vinegar and water (1:1 mixture of vinegar and water, respectively)



The air filter of your central air conditioner should be changed out regularly to maintain the efficiency (and increase the longevity) of it.  In most circumstances, your air conditioner will have a washable air filter.  Washing an air filter as opposed to replacing it with a new one regularly will save you a lot of money.

To wash your non-disposable air filter, do the following:

  1. Outside of your house, pour a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water (a 1:1 mixture of about 1 part vinegar and 1 part water) into a bucket/tub:  You want to have the bucket/tub filled with just enough solution (half vinegar and half water) in order to be able to completely submerge the air filter you will soon remove from your air conditioner. 

  2. Turn off your air conditioner.

  3. Remove the cover of your air conditioner in order to gain access to the air filter; in some instances, depending on the design of your air conditioner, you may need to use a screwdriver to unscrew any screws that secure the cover to your air conditioner.

  4. With the cover removed and, consequently, having gained access to the air filter, remove the air filter from the air conditioner with your hands; be careful as you remove the air filter, as sometimes an air filter may have accumulated a lot of dust/dander, which may unnecessarily disperse around the interior of your house unless handled with care while taking it outside.

  5. Once outside with the dirty air filter, lay it flat on a clean surface, such as a cement surface.

  6. Using a vacuum, specifically a vacuum wand, carefully vacuum the accumulated dust/dander off of the air filter you have laid down on the clean surface; be careful in guiding the vacuum wand on the air filter as you want to avoid ripping apart the air filter with your movement of the vacuum wand and the powerful suction of it as well.  (Use an extension cord in the event the plug of the vacuum does not reach the nearest electrical outlet.)

  7. Upon vacuuming whatever dust/dander you could off of the air filter, next you will place the air filter into the bucket/tub that you previously filled with the aforementioned vinegar-water solution, ensuring that the air filter is submerged in it.

  8. Allow for the air filter to soak in the aforementioned solution found in the bucket/tub for 2 hours.

  9. After 2 hours, remove the air filter from the bucket/tub and allow it to drain and dry:  Place the air filter on a clean surface, preferably with direct view of the sun.  

  10. Once dry, reinstall the air filter in your air conditioner and re-secure the cover; again, depending on the design of your air conditioner, you may need to use a screwdriver to re-screw any screws that secure the cover to your air conditioner.

That's what it takes to wash your air conditioner's air filter.  You may now turn on your air conditioner, knowing that it is as efficient as can be thanks to your maintaining the air filter.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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