Things to Know About Washable Air Filters

Things To Know Before Buying A Washable Air Filter For Your HVAC System

August 13, 2021

The air filter you choose has a direct impact on the performance of your HVAC system, since it's responsible for trapping all kinds of airborne particles that can cause harm to your health and your costly system components.

While some HVAC systems have been modified to use electrostatic filters, most take mechanical filters that are available in both washable and disposable versions. If you're one of the many homeowners who uses disposable filters, you might be wondering if it's beneficial to switch to a washable air filter. In order to better understand the best HVAC air filter type for your home, you’ll need to understand the different types of air filter technology, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each type.

Different HVAC Air Filter Types

Disposable Fiberglass HVAC Air Filters

Traditional flat-panel filters feature fiberglass mesh stretched over a cardboard framework. The fiberglass mesh catches debris as the air passes through. In general, disposable fiberglass HVAC filters are the most common and most affordable type of furnace filter, but they must be regularly replaced in order to maintain HVAC efficiency and air quality.

Washable Mechanical HVAC Air Filters

Washable or reusable filters can be rinsed with water or vacuumed to remove any ­particle buildup. Washable air filters are typically made out of woven polypropylene media and are electrostatically charged in order to capture more particles. Because they can be reused, washable air filters are more eco-friendly than disposable fiberglass filters, but they are also more expensive.

Disposable Pleated HVAC Air Filters

Disposable pleated HVAC air filters are single-use air filters, like their fiberglass counterparts, but they are constructed differently. Pleated filters are made from dense layers of cotton or plastic fibers. These layers are pleated, which provides more surface area to catch particles. Disposable pleated air filters cannot be washed and reused like washable air filters.

HEPA HVAC Air Filters

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters are highly effective at removing particles from the air. In fact, an HVAC filter cannot be considered a HEPA filter unless it consistently filters out at least 99.97 percent of all particles 0.3 microns or larger. HEPA is an official efficiency designation endorsed by the Department of Energy.

HEPA filters are commonly used in settings such as medical clinics, hospitals and laboratories, where extremely pure air is especially important. Not all HVAC systems can handle high-density HEPA filters, and they can be expensive. HEPA filters are available in washable or disposable options.

UV HVAC Air Filters

UV HVAC air filters do not use fiberglass, cotton, plastic or any other type of fiber to filter particles out of the air. Instead, UV filters use the disinfecting power of ultraviolet light to eliminate airborne particles, including pathogens and microorganisms like viruses, bacteria and mold. UV air filters are often used to supplement another type of air filtration system. Because there is no physical filter, UV HVAC filters are neither washable or disposable.

Characteristics Of Washable Air Filters

Once we have a basic understanding of the different types of HVAC air filters, we can see how washable air filters stack up against the other options.

Energy Efficiency

Washable air filters have a MERV rating of 1-4. A rating of 1-4 means the filter only captures particles larger than 10 microns. Pollen, dust mites and lint are all 10 or more microns in size, so a washable filter could prevent those types of debris from circulating in your HVAC system.

What Is A MERV Rating & What Does It Mean?

MERV ratings are a standardized way to measure a filter’s ability to remove particles from the air. The MERV scale goes from 1 to 16, with lower numbers being less filtering power and higher numbers being very dense, top-of-the-line air filters.

Although it seems like a higher MERV rating would always be better, that is not necessarily the case. A filter with a very high MERV rating will be very dense, and a dense air filter means your HVAC equipment will work harder to pull air through the filter. We recommend talking to a professional about which MERV rating is the best option for both your home comfort and your HVAC system’s capabilities.


Some maintenance is involved no matter which type of HVAC air filter you choose, but special maintenance considerations are involved with washable air filters.

Washable filters need to be cleaned once a month, and they need to dry completely before being reinserted. If you put a wet filter back into the HVAC system, it provides an ideal environment for mold and bacteria growth. Disposable filters don't need any routine care because you can just throw them away and put in a clean filter when they get dirty.


Even if you clean a washable filter every month, it's going to start clogging up with debris over time. The particles that stay lodged in the filter can slow essential HVAC system airflow over time, which can cause costly problems. Another thing to consider with washable air filters is that the electrostatic charge can diminish over time. You can repeatedly wash and reuse a washable air filter, but you will eventually need to replace it with a fresh, fully charged one.

That being said, a well-maintained washable HVAC air filter can last 5-10 years before needing to be replaced.


Washable air filters are more expensive than disposable air filters, but they do not need to be replaced as often. Disposable air filters are less expensive, but it’s recommended to replace them at least twice per year.

Performance also factors into the cost analysis. Washable air filters tend to have a lower MERV rating and are less efficient, whereas a high-quality disposable filter could do a better job at filtering your air. There are many variables at play when cost is considered, so be sure to keep these factors in mind when choosing the best HVAC filter for your home.

Interested In Learning More About Washable Air Filters? Talk To Lozier!

If you have more questions about washable air filters, or if you’re interested in a home energy audit, reach out to the HVAC professionals at Lozier! Contact us today or give us a call at 515-267-1000.