What Happens if You Don’t Clean Your Air Purifier?

After realizing that air purifiers actually clean the air, buying my first air purifier was probably the best investment I ever made. From dreading the allergy seasons, I now get to enjoy it to the fullest without suffering for days at a time.

That said, when I got my first air purifier, I didn’t know that you had to clean it.

So, after a few months, I noticed that my air purifier wasn’t working as well as it once did. And I thought the reason for this was because there was something wrong with the unit.

I asked my good friend for some advice (he’s owned air purifiers for years), and he asked me if I had cleaned it recently.

I said no and instantly knew it wasn’t the air purifier at fault but rather my lack of care for it.

I know that this is a pretty common issue for many, so in this article, I’ll go over what will happen if you don’t clean your air purifier regularly, how often you need to clean your air purifier, and each of the different types of filters, and lastly, I’ll give you a breakdown of how to clean your unit step by step.

What Can Happen if You Don’t Clean Your Air Purifier

Air purifiers are great. If you’re suffering from allergies and own an air purifier for allergies, you’ll know exactly how valuable they are to us – the people who suffer during the allergy seasons.

However, as great as air purifiers are, they still need a bit of maintenance to work well.

So, if you don’t clean your air purifier from time to time, the air grills can get clogged as well as the filters.

When this happens, your air purifier won’t work as well.

I first noticed this problem when I felt like my air purifier wasn’t capturing as many particles as I would have liked.

I noticed that my allergies were returning, even after disappearing for a couple of months.

This is why I thought that my air purifier wasn’t working anymore.

And to be honest, I wasn’t exactly wrong. While all the components of the air purifier were working okay, some areas were clogged, which did a lot of damage to the machine’s performance.

So, I will always recommend cleaning your air purifier regularly, especially if it’s your first time owning one.

After using an air purifier for the first time, it can be hard to imagine what it was like when you didn’t have an air purifier.

And if you want to ensure you breathe clean air at home for years to come, you must regularly clean your air purifier.

I must say that I was one of the few lucky people because if you don’t clean your air purifier regularly, aside from hampering its performance, it can become a breeding ground for mold and other bacteria.

And since your air purifier reintroduces air into your indoor space, you could end up inhaling this mold and bacteria, which can end up causing you unnecessary respiratory issues.

How Often Do I Need to Clean My Air Purifier?

Cleaning an air purifier needs to be done every couple of months or once you see the air grills getting clogged with dust.

If you feel like your air purifier isn’t functioning properly, then it’s probably time to clean it.

With that said, while you can always vacuum the grills and wash the pre-filter, the carbon filter and HEPA filter cannot be cleaned that way.

Some air purifiers come with a “washable” HEPA filter, which allows you to use the filter for a longer time if you wash it every now and then.

However, there will be a time when you will need to change your air purifier filters, and that’s not something you can avoid.

So, if you just cleaned your air purifier and it still isn’t working properly, this could be a sign that the filters need to be changed.

How Often Do You Need to Change an Air Purifier Filter?

Most modern air purifiers come with a multi-stage filtration system.

This is a staple of the modern air purifier industry and one of the signs that you’re getting a high-quality air purifier.

With that said, since these purifiers use a number of different filters, it’s important to change them at just the right time.

Most air purifiers have a 3-stage filtration system.

This starts with a pre-filter, then an activated carbon filter, then the HEPA filter.

If you’re looking for an air purifier, I would recommend specifically looking for options that have all three of these filters if you want to reap as many benefits as possible.

Pre Filters

Most air purifiers use carbon pads as the pre-filter.

This is used to capture larger particles to give the HEPA filter an easier time purifying the air.

And while you can wash and clean the pre-filter a couple of times, you will have to change it eventually.

I found that my pre-filters usually need changing every 6-12 months. If I’m in a polluted environment or there are a lot of particles in the air, the filters won’t last as long.

But if I don’t use the air purifier as much for some reason, then I noticed that the pre-filters could last me up to a year.

Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters are the second stage of filtration for most air purifiers.

The filter is designed to absorb odors and harmful gasses from the air. So, it doesn’t require a fan in the same way as a HEPA filter or pre-filter.

With that said, the thing about these filters is that you cannot wash or clean them.

Instead, you have to replace them every 3-6 months, especially if you want your air purifier to keep working properly.

If the carbon filter absorbs too many gasses, it won’t be able to eliminate odors as well, which is far from ideal.

HEPA Filters

Generally, most affordable air purifiers have replaceable HEPA filters.

These filters can last anywhere between 6-12 months, depending on whether you run your air purifier 24/7, but you can stretch their lifespan by a little bit if you clean them consistently.

I recommend vacuuming the HEPA filter every few months and washing it if you have a washable HEPA filter.

This will allow the HEPA filter to work for a bit longer. However, even if you clean it every couple of months, they tend to last about a year and need replacing after that.

If you have a permanent HEPA filter, you’re in luck.

These filters can last you up to 10 years with proper maintenance.

Of course, they still need regular cleaning, and you must ensure that you don’t accidentally damage the filter.

If you do, you will have to replace it, and permanent HEPA filters can be quite expensive.

The HEPA filter is arguably the most important component of an air purifier.

So, if you want to ensure that your air purifier works well all the time, I highly recommend investing in a model with a True HEPA filter.

How to Clean an Air Purifier

Okay, so now that you know when to clean your air purifier, it’s time for me to show you how to do that safely.

I have to admit, the first time I had to clean my air purifier, I was pretty lost.

And sadly, I couldn’t find comprehensive guides that showed me every process step.

So, that’s why I decided to make a guide myself to make life easier for everyone else looking to clean their air purifiers.

Get the Right Gear

Before anything else, you have to make sure you’re properly equipped to clean your air purifier.

It’s important to have the right tools and prep the space beforehand if you want the process to be as smooth as possible.

To clean an air purifier, you’re going to need:

  • A clean cloth
  • Face mask and gloves to protect yourself (optional)
  • Vacuum cleaner

It doesn’t take that much gear to clean an air purifier, which is great if you’re like me and don’t like complex cleaning processes.

However, to stay extra safe, I recommend clearing the room and telling people to stay away for a while, so they don’t accidentally end up inhaling the dust you clean up.

Alternatively, you can do the cleaning outside.

Wipe the Exterior

After getting all the cleaning gear, you have to start by cleaning the exterior of the unit.

Over time, the exterior of the air purifier can gather dust. So, start by getting a clean, damp cloth and wiping the air purifier.

Remove all the dust on the air purifier and restore it to its original state.

Disassemble the Purifier

After cleaning the exterior, you’re ready to get deep into the air purifier.

To do this, you’re going to have to remove the case of the air purifier.

This can be pretty difficult and might require some tools, depending on your air purifier.

To stay on the safe side, refer to the user manual to see if there are any instructions on how to disassemble the air purifier.

If you can’t find any, then go to the internet and look for videos and tutorials to make sure you’re doing it properly.

Once you remove the case and disassemble the air purifier, you can start with the deep cleaning process.

Vacuum the Grills

After removing the exterior of the air purifier, I recommend starting with the grills.

Since unpurified air passes through the grills, they can get very dusty and dirty pretty quickly.

To remove the dust, I recommend using a vacuum cleaner to ensure the dust doesn’t end up back in the air or on the floor.

However, if you don’t have a vacuum cleaner, you can use the damp cloth again to wipe it down.

If you don’t have a vacuum, wear a face mask to prevent you from inhaling any of the harmful particles.

Remove the Filters

After vacuuming the grills, the next step is removing the filters.

This can be tricky and the process varies depending on the type and number of filters you have in your air purifier.

But again, if you’re in doubt, refer to the user manual to stay safe and make sure that you’re not doing something wrong.

Most air purifiers have three filters, and it’s important to remove all of them if you want to properly clean the device.

Wash & Dry the Filters

Once the filters are removed, it’s time to clean them.

Again, some air purifiers have washable filters and some don’t, so it’s important to find ones that have washable filters if you want to reduce your maintenance costs.

If your air purifier has a washable pre-filter and HEPA filter, then it’s time to wash them.

For the HEPA filter, you can start by vacuuming it and then washing it with hot water.

However, be careful when doing this as HEPA filters are very delicate and you don’t want to damage them.

The thing about activated carbon filters is that they can’t be washed.

So, if you disassemble your air purifier and notice that the carbon filter needs changing, now would be the best time to do so.

Before reassembling the air purifier, make sure that all the components are dry to prevent mold build-up.


Once all of that is done, the only step left is reassembling the air purifier and plugging it in again!

I recommend recording a video of yourself taking the air purifier apart.

You can refer back to the video if you get stuck during the reassembly process.


Cleaning your air purifier is necessary if you want it to work effectively over the coming months and years.

Fortunately, air purifiers are quite simple devices, so cleaning them is pretty straightforward.

If you ever get stuck during the cleaning process, always refer to the user manual, which will tell you exactly what you need to do for your specific model.