How to Clean Pressure Washer Air Filters

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An air filter prevents dirt from building up inside your pressure washer engine. However, these filters collect grime over time and could clog the engine. Knowing how to clean air filters and when to replace them is a big part of pressure washer maintenance. Fortunately, the process is really easy.

Remove the air filter cover and take the air filter out. Use soapy water to remove dirt. If your pressure washer uses a foam filter, dip it in engine oil and squeeze the excess fluid out before putting it back into the pressure washer.

How to Clean or Replace a Pressure Washer Air Filter

This video demonstrates how to clean and remove a pressure washer air filter. Note that the steps may vary slightly depending on the brand, but in general the procedure is similar. If you would rather read the instructions, there are step by step directions here.

Cleaning solution for air filter (paint thinner, mineral spirits or soapy water)
Engine oil SAE 10W-30 like Valvoline is fine

Step 1

Turn the pressure washer off. Wait for the engine to cool down. Once the engine has cooled, move the pressure washer on a flat surface. Do this outdoors or someplace with good ventilation.

Step 2

Take the air filter cover off. The location will vary depending on the model, so check your owner’s manual for details.

With some pressure washers you just have to lift a tab to remove the cover. With others you have to unfasten a nut or screw. If the air filter cover is fastened, remove the screws or bolts. Set them aside for now.

Step 3

Once the cover has been lifted, you will see the filter. There are many types of air filters but most pressure washers use one made from foam.

Remove the air filter. Check for signs of wear and tear. Replace the filter if it is damaged. If the filter needs to be replaced, rinse the new filter in water. Dip it in engine oil SAE 10W-30 and squeeze the excess fluid out of the foam. Put the filter on and return the cover.

If the filter is just dirty, dip it in your preferred cleaning solution. Soapy water is good for general cleaning and removes light dirt well. If the air filter is very dirty, use paint thinner or mineral spirits.

Just dip the air filter in the solution without any rough pulling. This material is foam and can easily break. Keep dipping until all the dirt is gone.

Step 4

When the air filter is clean, cover it in engine oil. Let the excess drip and remove as much of it as you can. Now you can put the air filter back on. Put the air filter cover back and reattach the screws if needed. Turn on the pressure washer and give it aa try. If you have a high-quality unit like the A-iPower APW2700C, it will be up and running again.

How Often Should I Clean Air Filters?

Pressure washer filters should be replaced or cleaned after every 50 hours of use. This is a general guideline only as it will depend on how much dirt the filters get.

If your pressure washer is used for general cleaning, your car, outdoor furniture, driveway, roof etc. the 50 hour applies. Most people do not need to pressure wash their car, roof or driveway every day.

So in most cases, you can get away with cleaning the air filter every 50 hours. The less frequent you use the pressure washer, the longer the cleaning interval can be.

On the other hand, a heavily used pressure washer will require more frequent air filter cleaning. The environment also plays a part here.

If you live in a dry, dusty location, the air filter is going to get clogged more quickly. Pressure washing a 4×4 caked in mud and dirt in a dusty environment is different from the typical weekend car wash.

So if your owner’s manual says clean the filter every 50 hours, it is for general guidelines only. You should let the pressure washer tell you. If it does not perform as well as it has before or the engine seems to struggle, check the filter.

The bottom line is the filter has to be cleaned regularly. If cleaning no longer works, replace it. A dirty air filter can cause a pressure washer to backfire . This can lead to all kinds of problems so it is best avoided.

Should I Clean or Replace Pressure Washer Filters?

This is another common question and the answer is it depends. If the air filter is still working, there is no reason to replace it. If the filter is so dirty and no longer serves its purpose, you should get a new one.

Pressure washer filters are affordable so a lot of people just replace them. You can do this, but if the foam filter is still in good shape, why not make the most of it? At the very least the filter should last 100 hours of use. A well-made air filter coupled with regular maintenance should make it usable for a while.

At some point though you will have to get a replacement. It could be the foam filter is just too dirty now, or it has started to crack. Again the environment is key here. Dust, dirt and debris will build up on the filter.

If you do not clean it regularly, a lot of clogging will occur. Regularly inspecting your pressure washer makes it easy to decide if the filter needs cleaning or replacement.

What Should I Use to Clean Pressure Washer Filters?

Check with the manual if the manufacturer recommends a cleaning solution. That should always be your first option. If there is none, most cleaners used for car air filters will work.

If there is light dirt on the filter, soapy water or liquid dish soap is suitable. Simply put the foam in the solution and wipe the dirt away. Be careful not to tear the foam and just let the soap do the cleaning Rinse the foam and apply engine oil on it before putting it back on.

For dirtier air filters, the previously mentioned paint thinner and mineral spirits are good options. There are also air filter cleaning kits available. As long as the solution does not damage the foam, it should be fine to use.

Pressure washer filters are a bit too small to vacuum, so use the other cleaning options given here. You should also avoid squishing the foam too much because it could tear a hole. Note that worn out foam filters can eventually break apart, which is why having reserve air filters is a good idea.

Tips for Cleaning Air Filters

You should always have an air filter or two in reserve. Even if you regularly maintain your pressure washer, you can never tell when the filter might suddenly tear up. Having another one on standby is good practice.

With respect to brands, it is best to use the filter your manufacturer recommends. Air filters have the same function but the design could vary. To ensure compatibility you should always use the one suggested in the operating manual.

Quality pressure washers have durable air filters. Assuming there is regular maintenance, these filters are going to last a long time. These foam filters are all reusable so even if they get dirty you can clean and use it again.

Do not use WD-40 as a substitute for oil SAE 10W-30. WD-40 is good at cleaning but it cannot replace engine oil for air filters. Doing so could damage the foam and cause the pressure washer to fail.

Clean the entire pressure washer, not just the air filter. Dirt builds up not just in the filter but throughout the hose, main body, engine exterior etc. This prevents dust and other debris from building up all over the unit, making it easier to maintain.