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Make Sure Your Air Purifier Is Clean So It Works Properly During Wildfire Season

Air purifiers can be useful, but only if they're regularly maintained.

Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
2 min read
air purifier on a wood floor

Air purifiers should be cleaned often to ensure they're working properly.

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Air purifiers are effective machines for filtering out allergens, pollutants and pet dander. And importantly, they can also filter wildfire smoke particulates from your home. For many Americans in the Midwest and beyond who are currently exposed to high levels of smoke due to the Canadian wildfires, these machines can be vital for keeping indoor air clean -- but only if they're regularly maintained. 

Air purifiers are fairly straightforward appliances with minimal installation and upkeep. Still, you want to make sure your unit continues to work correctly -- and lasts as long as possible. That's why we're going to walk through the process of cleaning a plug-in portable air purifier, so you know how to keep yours in good shape as it takes on the allergens or smoke in your home. For more, take a look at our guide on where to install your air purifier, and check out these expert-approved tips to protect yourself from wildfire smoke.  

How to clean an air purifier

I took a look at user guides for Honeywell, Winix and Levoit air purifiers to come up with this cleaning overview. Here are the basic steps to follow to clean your air purifier:

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  1. Unplug your air purifier 

This is always the first step. Make sure your air purifier is unplugged before you begin.

2. Check the filters

Most air purifiers come with two different filters: a prefilter and a HEPA filter. Some even have a third filter. Each manufacturer's recommendations will vary in terms of cleaning the filters. Honeywell, Winix and Levoit all say not to wash or otherwise clean their HEPA filters, but instead to replace them regularly. 

Levoit suggests replacing its HEPA filter every six to eight months, while both Honeywell and Winix say their units last up to one year. 

Levoit's prefilter should be cleaned every two to four weeks with a gentle brush or vacuum. You can wash the Winix prefilter every few weeks; just make sure it's completely dry before you put it back. And Honeywell says not to wash it's prefilter at all, but instead to replace it every three months. 

3. Wipe off the air purifier

All of the manufacturers I checked suggested wiping off the air purifier with a dry cloth about once every few months. Do not use water or any cleaning solvent to clean off your air purifier. 

4. Store the filters when not in use 

If the air purifier isn't going to be used for a month or more, Honeywell says it's best to remove and store its filters in tightly sealed bags.  

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One final note

Keep in mind that the specific cleaning requirements might vary slightly depending on the brand and model of air purifier you purchase. Make sure to check the printed or online user's guide that comes with your air purifier to confirm its maintenance needs. Regardless, your air purifier will need some sort of upkeep and it will likely follow the information detailed above (or very close).