RV Zone is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How to Clean RV Air Conditioner Filter?

Writen by Tom Hank

Fact checked by Joseph Varney

How to Clean RV Air Conditioner Filter

The last thing that you would ever want to happen during a cross-country journey on your RV is for the air conditioner to conk out on you all of a sudden. The heat on the road will be unbearable and might even make you drowsy while driving, which is very dangerous.

More often than not, the reason why your air conditioner stopped blowing cold air is because the air filter is too dirty. If you know how to clean RV air conditioner filter, you will surely have only pleasant journeys ahead of you.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Keeping your A/C Filter Clean


The moment you turn on your RV’s air conditioner, air will start circulating through it and unless you are in a hermetically-sealed clean room of a science laboratory, the air around you is not perfectly clean. This is why your air conditioner has a filter apparatus to clean the air first before cooling it and blowing it out again.

You might have thought all of these years that all air conditioners do is cool the air in the room. What it does is it cleans it and makes it healthier for you to breathe in. When the filter gets too clogged up with all the dirt that was once suspended in the air, air will not be able to circulate through the air conditioner and get properly cooled.

AC filters work by trapping contaminants in its interweaving mesh of fibers. If you do not clean the filters every once in a while, they will have all kinds of nasty stuff stuck on them and this is undesirable for more than one reason.

One reason is that the filter is responsible for protecting the inner workings from all kinds of debris. If the filter gets too full, there is nothing that will protect the air conditioner anymore. Another reason is that a dirty air filter will restrict the effectiveness of the air conditioning system.

If the filter is clogged up with too much dirt and grime, there will be less airflow going through the AC, and this might also cause the air conditioner to use up more energy just so it can draw in more air to cool the space inside the RV.

Furthermore, since the air cannot circulate well through the air conditioning system, the dust and dirt will settle and accumulate in the ducts. This can cause all kinds of breathing ailments like asthma, tuberculosis, and others.

Lastly, if you leave your air conditioner dirty and not working properly for a long time, it can cause your entire air conditioning system to go bad and replacing an entire AC system in an RV can be quite expensive.

How to Clean an RV Air Conditioner Filter?


Before you go any further, you need to keep in mind that you should only wash air filters if they are not the disposable, single-use types. Now, your RV’s AC most likely has washable, reusable air filters but just to be on the safe side, consult the user’s manual or check the manufacturer’s website.

If you find that your RV’s air conditioner air filters are not reusable, do not attempt to clean them. Washing a disposable filter will only cause it to deteriorate, making it useless in cleaning the air. Replace your old disposable air filter with a brand new one. If you like, you can use a reusable air filter this time around.

Remove the Filter

Park your RV and turn off the air conditioning system. Open the front cover of your AC unit and then remove the dirty air filter. Some air conditioner models only require you to pry open the cover. Others, on the other hand, may require you to take out a couple of screws. It is best to bring along your screwdriver just in case.

Usually, the air filter is just slotted in front of the air conditioner but if you find that such is not the case with your RV, it is best to consult the user’s manual or check the website of the RV manufacturer for detailed instructions. You need to take off the cover as well as it is also likely to be covered in dust and dirt, so you need to clean this thoroughly.

It is important to remember that you should never turn on the air conditioner while the air filter is off. Unfiltered air can bring all sorts of debris into the ducts of the AC system, which can cause all kinds of trouble later.

Vacuum the Filter

  • You should never clean the filter indoors. All the accumulated dust and dirt will be released into the air inside the RV. Take the filter out of the RV then use a portable vacuum cleaner to suck up all the dirt and dust. You should take care not to press too hard on the filter as you might punch a hole through it.
  • If it seems like you are not picking up any dirt, it just must be because the filter is not yet heavily contaminated. You should still give both sides of the filter a good vacuuming so the following steps will be much easier. You can also use the brush attachment of the vacuum cleaner to loosen up most of the seated dirt and grime.
  • Keep in mind that it is impossible to clean the filter completely using just a vacuum cleaner. However, you should still suck up as much of the dirt as possible.

Vacuuming is enough most of the time for just regular maintenance and cleaning of the AC unit but for deep cleaning, you need to go through the next steps.

Wash the Filter


If vacuuming did not clean the filter enough then you need to give it a good wash. You can do that through these steps:

  • In a plastic container large enough to fit the air filter, pour in some lukewarm water and a bit of mild laundry detergent.
  • Submerge the filter in the soapy water and agitate it so that it gets completely soaked. Leave the filter in the plastic container for around fifteen minutes. If the filter is filthy, leave it there for one to two hours to loosen up the dirt and grime.
  • Using a soft brush, gently scrub away any dirt left on the surface of the filter. Be careful not to scrub too hard or you will damage the delicate mesh of the filter.
  • Rinse the filter under the tap. Stop when only clean water runs out the other side. You can also use the clean water hose to rinse the filter if the garden hose is inaccessible.

Disinfecting the Filter

At this point, you might have cleaned off most of the dirt from the filter but there are still plenty of germs and bacteria in there. To get rid of all these microscopic organisms, you need to make an antibacterial solution.

Just mix equal parts water and white vinegar and pour the solution into a plastic spray bottle. Spray both sides of the filter with the vinegar solution and let it sit for around 10 minutes before rinsing it again under the tap.

Dry and Replace the Filter

You should never put the filter back into the air conditioner while it is still wet. Let it air-dry for an hour or two before putting it back into the air conditioner. While waiting for the filter to dry completely, take this time to wipe away all of the dust and dirt on the air conditioner cover. You can just use a damp, clean rag to pick up most of the dirt.

To reach the crevices, use a damp cotton swab with some soap. Once the filter is completely dry, put it back into the air conditioner and replace the now clean cover back on the air conditioner. You now have a perfectly clean RV air conditioner air filter ready for use.

When to Replace the Air Filter?

Even reusable air filters have a limited lifespan. When you start noticing holes and tears in the air filter, it is pretty safe to say that you need to replace the air filter with a new one.

If you keep using an air filter that is way past its usable condition, it will be the same as not using an air filter at all. It is your choice if you want to replace the air filter with a reusable or disposable one as long as you use a brand new one.


Who would have thought that something as small as an in-cabin air conditioner air filter plays such a huge role in maintaining the usability of the entire system? If you are not familiar with basic HVAC systems then you probably did not know about the air filter until now.

If this is your first time owning a modern recreational vehicle, you need to know how to clean RV air conditioner filter so that every journey that you take will be all the more enjoyable.

5/5 - (1 vote)