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Every day, we’re surrounded by pollutants. Microscopic contaminants, such as mold spores, dust mites, pet dander, pollen and even cooking fumes, contaminate the air we breathe. Unfortunately, the size of these particles is also what makes them hazardous to our health, allowing us to breathe them in unnoticed, so they can find their way into our lungs.
Because Americans spend the majority of their time indoors, both at home and at the office, their exposure to pollutants is as much as 5 times higher than it would be outdoors. It’s more important than ever to maintain a healthy indoor environment, and air purifiers can play an important role by improving the air quality in your home or office. To keep them working at optimal performance, it’s critical to understand how they work and how to clean them.
HOW DO AIR PURIFIERS WORK?
The purpose of an air purifier is to filter air and reduce airborne contaminants for a healthier living environment. To accomplish that, air purifiers have fans, which channel the air through an intake grate. Prefilters and filters then trap allergens and other pollutants as the air passes through, leaving the air cleaner. Eventually, other powerful fans direct the purified air out of the unit and back into the room.
Some air purifiers also contain ionizers, which release negatively charged ions into the environment. These ions attach to impurities in the air to form larger particles, which can be more easily trapped by the machine’s filters.
WHAT SUPPLIES DO I NEED FOR CLEANING MY AIR PURIFIER?
- Soft, damp cloth
- Small, soft brush
- Garbage bag
- Vacuum (either with attachments or handheld)
- Screwdriver (for some models)
- Replacement filter(s) (for air purifiers that don’t have permanent filters)
HOW DO I CLEAN MY AIR PURIFIER?
Like most other equipment, air purifiers need to be cleaned and maintained regularly to keep them running smoothly. While cleaning and maintenance requirements may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, you can follow these steps to get started cleaning your air purifier.
- Turn off and unplug your air purifier. Unless specifically directed to do so by the manufacturer, you should never attempt to maintain or clean electrical appliances while they’re connected to electricity.
- Inspect your appliance. Check for damaged plugs and frayed or loose cords. If you discover problems with your air purifier, contact the manufacturer for instructions on getting the unit repaired or replaced.
- Clean prefilters. If your air purifier contains exterior prefilters, vacuum away collected debris, such as dust bunnies, fibers and pet hair. Once the surface is free of debris, wipe it down with a soft, damp cloth. If your model contains a washable foam prefilter, remove the filter and handwash it in warm, sudsy water. Let it dry thoroughly before replacing it.
- Open your air purifier. Generally, you’ll find an access panel on the back of your machine. Many units have easy-open access panels secured by tabs, while some models require a screwdriver. For specific instructions on accessing the interior of your particular model, consult your owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer directly.
- Discard the used filter (If your air purifier has a reusable filter, skip to Step 6). Carefully remove the main filter. If your air purifier has done its job well, the old filter will be heavily soiled. Make sure to have a garbage bag ready so you don’t release dirt and other contaminants from the used filter back into the air. Before throwing out your filter, check local recycling guidelines to determine the appropriate means of disposal.
- Clean your filter (only for units with permanent filters). While it’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning, generally, permanent filters can be vacuumed to remove trapped debris. Using an attachment, make sure to clean both sides of the filter and don’t forget to vacuum thoroughly between the pleats. Don’t use water, detergent or household cleaners on permanent filters. It’s normal for permanent filters to show discoloration even after thorough cleaning.
- Install the new filter. (For units with permanent filters, simply reposition your filter in the unit.) Most importantly, make sure the new filter meets the manufacturer’s guidelines. Before installing it in your air purifier, make sure the filter cartridge is oriented correctly for appropriate air flow. Then simply set it in place. For more complex air purifiers, including those with multiple levels of filtration, users should follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Close up the unit. Once you’ve made sure that the filters are properly in place, close the unit and fasten the access panel to your air purifier.
- Clean the exterior. Your machine’s external surfaces can be wiped clean with a soft, damp cloth. Small brushes work well for detailing vents and intake grates.
- Test for performance. Now it’s time to plug in your air purifier and turn it on to make sure it’s working properly. Advanced models may include self-diagnostics to let you know if everything is installed correctly and working properly.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I CLEAN MY AIR PURIFIER?
Unless your owner’s manual states otherwise, most standard air purifiers should be cleaned every 3 to 6 months. If your unit includes a permanent filter, the filter should be vacuumed thoroughly at least every 3 to 6 months. Many air purifiers with permanent filters have an indicator to let you know when the filter needs maintenance.
Exterior prefilters should be checked every 2-3 weeks to determine cleaning needs. For units with washable foam prefilters, these inserts should be taken out and washed at least once every 30 days.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CLEANING YOUR AIR FILTER
While cleaning your air purifier can be time-consuming, it’s essential to keep your machine running properly. Regular maintenance and filter replacement can not only extend the life of your air purifier but will ensure better overall air quality to help keep your family, friends or coworkers healthy.
To choose the ideal air purifier for your home or work environment, visit our Top 5 Air Purifier Reviews and Comparison.