Skip to Content

How Do I Clean the Filters of My Car’s Air Conditioning?

The air conditioner of your car is probably the part you appreciate the most, which is why you should take great care of it by cleaning it frequently. Instead of spending a little time and money at the mechanic to clean it for you, you can easily do it at home with some inexpensive tools to help you.

So, how do you clean the filters of your car’s air conditioning? In order to clean your car’s air conditioning filter, you will need to follow three basic steps: dismantle, clean, and put it back together. You can clean the air filter by soaking it, using an aerosol spray, replacing the accumulator, or blowing out the debris with air. 

There are several methods you can choose from to clean your air conditioning, so you can choose whichever works best with your budget and car model. Each method has its reasons for being recommended or not recommended by mechanics, so read on to learn about each one so you can make an informed decision.

How to Clean the Air Conditioning Filter

Cleaning the filter is a simple process that shouldn’t take too much time out of your day. There are several methods you can choose from to clean the filters. Some methods require you to buy products from the auto parts store, while others you may be able to do with what you have around the house. Choose whichever one suits your budget and schedule.

Before You Begin the Cleaning Process

Read your vehicle’s manual before you begin cleaning. Make sure you know what kind of filter your vehicle has, where it’s located, and what other parts might be with the filter that will also need to be cleaned. Vehicles are generally made similarly, but you might have a car that was built differently, so you need to be prepared ahead of time.

Avoid making common mistakes while cleaning. Do not use cleaning brushes or sponges when cleaning an air filter. Filters are delicate and will rip or tear very easily. The bristles of a brush or the coarse surface of a sponge could very easily ruin your filter. If you use a garden hose to rinse the filter, use very little pressure, so you don’t bend or break the filter.

Be aware that cleaning with soap and water has the potential to damage a filter. Some mechanics recommend cleaning with soap and water, while others suggest that it will cause damage. Ultimately, it will depend on the filter and how careful you are when cleaning. If you choose to go with the water method, be extra careful when doing so.

Before you begin cleaning, dismantle the necessary parts of the car so you can remove the filter. If it is located behind the glove box, you will need to remove that in order to get to it. Again, consult your manual before doing this.

Soap and Water

Using soap and water is an option for cloth and carbon filters, but remember that there is a risk involved. Be careful when washing with water. Paper filters should always be replaced and never washed with water.

To wash with soap and water, you will need to start with rinsing off the filter. Use a garden hose on low pressure and rinse the filter from top to bottom. Use as little pressure as possible, so you don’t risk tearing the filter with force.

After you rinse it, fill a container up with soap and water. Make sure the container is wide enough that the filter can lay flat, and deep enough that it can be fully submerged. Carefully move the filter up and down through the suds so it can get cleaned, and then leave it in there to soak for about ten minutes. Repeat this process as necessary. If you do have to repeat it, clean out the container, and add clean water. You shouldn’t use dirty water to clean the filter.

After you have washed it, allow it to dry on a towel in the sun. Do not pat it dry or drag the towel across it to dry it. Only let it air dry. The towel might leave behind lint, or it could damage the filter. Leaving it in the sun will allow it to dry at a faster pace. If needed, you can turn it over halfway through to let the other side dry faster, as well.

Reusable filters can only be washed a few times. If the filter has rips and tears in it, it is time to replace it instead of washing it. A filter with holes can’t do the job it’s supposed to, so it’s not worth cleaning a filter that should be replaced.

Let the filter completely dry before you put it back into the car. If there are any water droplets left behind, it could cause mold to grow on the filter and get into the entire air conditioning system. You should let it air dry for at least one hour, just to be safe. It may need a longer or shorter period of time to dry, depending on the filter.

Aerosol Cleaner

If you don’t want to take the time to wash the filter by hand, you can use an aerosol cleaner. You can clean the air conditioning system in just under an hour. It’s a great option if you’re crunched for time since a can of aerosol cleaner is about $20.

It’s recommended that you wear a mask while using this product. Aerosol sprays can be harmful to inhale, so you should be cautious and cover your mouth and nose, even though you won’t be in contact with the spray for very long.

The first step is to remove any moisture from the air ducts. Turn on your car and crank up the heat to as high as it can go. Make sure the air conditioner is turned off. Close the doors and windows and let the heat run for five minutes. The heat will cause moisture to evaporate and will prevent mold or bacteria from growing in the ducts. It would be best to use this method on a hot, dry day, so humidity and rain won’t affect the results.

Next, turn off the heat and turn on the air conditioning. Only open the passenger door during this step. Take the aerosol spray and set it on the floor of the car on the passenger side. Hold down the spray button for thirty seconds. This is when you should cover your mouth and nose, so you don’t inhale the spray. It will create a cloud of spray that you may have difficulty breathing in.

Only do this on the passenger side. Since the air conditioning filter is located behind the glove box on most vehicles, you should spray the aerosol spray on the passenger side since it will be right next to where the air conditioner sucks up air. It will be easier for the spray to enter into the air conditioning system, and most of it will be sucked up immediately.

After spraying for thirty seconds, close all the car doors. Continue to let the air conditioning run on high while the doors are closed for five minutes. This will allow the product to rotate through the system and clean the air filter.

Do not sit in your car during the cleaning process. Stand outside the car while you wait and do not breathe in the aerosol spray.

Replace the Accumulator

Sometimes, the musty smell coming from your air conditioner is caused by a dirty accumulator, which is the part of the air conditioning system that removes dirt, bacteria, and other debris. This piece should be replaced when it causes the air to be musty.

In order to do so, you need to dismantle the air conditioning system. When doing this, you should remove evaporators, condensers, hoses, and other parts of the air conditioning that you are able to take out of place. By removing every piece, you will be able to clean out debris in every area that it can possibly be trapped.

Use an aerosol spray to remove debris from each piece of the air conditioning system. You can use an aerosol spray like in the method explained above to do this step. Spray all the hoses and parts and wipe them down with a clean towel. You don’t have to spray the accumulator since you’re going to replace it.

Check the ducts for leaks. The ducts are the tubes that connect to the evaporator. If you see any leaks, you can use duct tape to cover them. The goal is to prevent air from leaking out of the holes. Major damage should be inspected by your mechanic. If you can’t patch it up with duct tape, then you will probably need to replace some parts. 

Remove and replace the accumulator. The accumulator will be a cylinder that will likely contain dirt and debris. Remove this and replace it with a brand new one. You can find these at an auto parts store. Different cars will require different sizes, so consult your manual or look online to find out which one will fit your car.

The accumulator and other air conditioning system pieces should be easy to put back together; just put them back in the way you found them. If you think that you will have difficulty with any part of this process, you might want to consider using another method or visiting your mechanic.

Cleaning With an Air Compressor

You can use an air compressor to blow away the debris. To do this, lay it down flat on a table or the ground. Blow the air from the air compressor through each slot in the filter. Make sure to get each corner, too, as dirt may get trapped in there. 

After all of the debris has been removed from the filter, use a filter refresher aerosol spray. This will remove bacteria, pollen, and other harmful things that the air compressor wasn’t able to remove.

After you apply the filter refresher spray, put the filter back into place. Let the air conditioner run for a few minutes, and you will notice the improved air quality. 

Understanding the Air Conditioning System

Before you can begin pulling apart the air conditioning to clean the filter, you should make sure you understand what it does, where it is, and why you should clean it. The air conditioning may be a part of the car that isn’t thought about by the typical driver. It’s there, of course, but you might not know how to find it or how it works. 

What’s Its Purpose?

The air conditioning filter also called the cabin filter, cleans all the air that goes through it from the air conditioning and heating systems. It traps any dirt and debris that gets sucked in. 

Copyright protected content owner: and was initially posted on April 23, 2020.

It’s a great piece of equipment when pollen is in the air because it can trap all of those particles and dust, as well. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, it’s important to make sure it stays clean, and in working condition, so you don’t have to breathe in harmful debris.

Why Should It Be Cleaned?

The filter prevents debris from blowing through the system and into your face. That debris does have to go somewhere, so it stays trapped inside the filter. Over time, debris and dirt will build up and cause the filter to be less efficient, or it might even cause it to stop working altogether. 

A clean filter means you’re breathing clean air. If your filter is dirty, you risk breathing in harmful particles. The air conditioning filter will even catch harmful microorganisms like bacteria that will transmit diseases if you inhale them.

It’s recommended that you clean the air conditioning filter every six months. Frequent cleaning will make it an easier process because you won’t have as much dirt to remove. If the air in your car begins to smell musty when the air conditioning is turned on, that means it’s time to clean the filter. It’s always better to clean it before it starts to smell, however.

It’s also recommended that you get a brand new cabin filter about every 15,000 miles. Even if you regularly clean the filter, it will eventually have to be replaced, but regular cleaning will prolong its lifespan. 

Copyright article owner is for this article. This post was first published on April 23, 2020.

Which filters can be cleaned? The most common types of filters are cloth, carbon, and paper. Paper filters should always be replaced, but cloth and carbon filters can be cleaned a few times before needing to be replaced. If there are any tears or holes, replace the filter right away. The filter will be useless because the debris will go right through the holes.

Where Is the Filter Located?

The air conditioning filter is usually located behind the glove box. Other locations can include under the hood or under the dashboard. Check your vehicle’s manual before you begin dismantling to make sure you know what you’re looking for. The filter should be a flat rectangle that’s fairly small.

Final Thoughts

There are multiple ways to clean out your air conditioning filter, which means you can choose the method you are most comfortable with. Each method has its pros and cons that you should consider.

Soap and water will remove debris and kill harmful germs, but some mechanics say that this method will damage the filter. You will need to be very careful if you choose this method. This method is virtually free if you already have all the supplies at your disposal.

An aerosol cleaner is affordable and will take you less than an hour to complete the process. You will need to wear a mask to prevent inhaling the harmful spray, and it will be best to do it on a dry day.

Replacing the accumulator might be the most difficult process if you haven’t done it before. You will need to remove several parts and be able to put them back together after cleaning. However, replacing the accumulator yourself will save you a trip from the mechanic and will probably save you some money, as well.

An air compressor is about as much work as using soap and water, but there is a smaller risk of damaging the filter. As long as you’re careful, you should be able to complete this process without any damage. Remember to use a filter refresher spray to kill germs.

Air conditioning filters will have to be replaced eventually, but regular cleaning will make them last longer. It’s best to clean them about every six months. A filter can’t do its job when the debris is severely built up, so regularly cleaning it will allow it to continually do its job. 

Depending on how frequently you drive your car and how often you use your air conditioner, you will need to replace it every 15,000 miles. If the air in your car begins to smell musty when you turn on the air conditioning, you should probably clean it then. If cleaning doesn’t fix the issue, then it is probably time to get a new filter.

Related Articles

How to Clean Car Battery Terminals?

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on April 23, 2020.

What Is the Most Efficient Way to Clean Car Windows?