How to Clean an RV Air Conditioner Filter

Has it been a long time since you've cleaned the filter in your RV air conditioner? Then it's about time you take it out and properly clean it. Here's how you do it!

man removing rv air conditioner filter

When I first started going out on RV trips, I didn’t realize how much work needed to be put in to perform all of the required maintenance.

There are several things you need to do to maintain your quality of life when you are out on RV trips. Notably, if you want to stay cool, you need to perform maintenance on your RV air conditioner.

Specifically, you need to learn how to clean your RV air conditioner filter. Let’s go through the steps you need to learn to properly clean your air conditioner filter.

Why do you need to clean your air conditioner filter?

To answer this question, I need to explain how an air conditioner works. It’s rather simple; it works by pulling warm air into the unit, typically through an intake opening via the outdoors.

Unfortunately, when air gets pulled in, so does dust, smog, allergens, and other particles. This is unavoidable, and as a result, you need to keep it clean.

That being said, most air conditioners come with a filter installed that is designed to keep undesired elements from entering your RV. As the filter does its job, particles build up inside it, and eventually, it becomes overloaded.

If you were to never clean your air conditioner filter you could run into one of two scenarios. Number one, the screen could become so clogged that no air would flow through it. The flow would become incredibly weak and inefficient.

Alternatively, the filter might not become fully clogged, but instead, it could become saturated to the point that it is no longer able to stop unwanted elements from entering your RV.

If this occurs, the air conditioner will still perform the function of cooling your RV, but polluted air will enter your RV along with it.

Neither of those scenarios is ideal, and as a result, it’s important that you take the extra time to clean your air conditioner filter. If you don’t, the scenarios above could lead to problems with your health, the RV’s ducting, or the air conditioner itself.

How to clean your RV air conditioner filter in 5 steps

There are five steps that I’ll take you through to help you learn how to clean your RV air conditioner filter. Let’s go through ’em!

Note: If you have a one time use filter, you shouldn’t follow these instructions. If you try to wash a one time use filter, it’ll lose its effectiveness.

1. Prepare the air conditioner unit

The first thing you need to do before you start cleaning is turn off your air conditioner unit. You should disconnect it from its power source to avoid accidentally turning it on while you are cleaning. Whether that’s a portable generator or a direct hook-up.

Once this is done, you can remove the cover to expose the filter. Be careful when pulling out the screen to avoid injuring yourself or damaging the air conditioner.

I’d advise that you check your RV’s owner manual for specific instructions on removing the filter. The exact instructions vary from model to model, and as a result, you should consult the manual to determine how you should do it.

Once the filter is out, don’t try to turn the air conditioner on.

Doing so while the filter is out could cause major damage to the air conditioner unit, and it could cause dirt particles to fill your RV.

2. Use a vacuum to clean the filter

A vacuum cleaner is a great tool for cleaning a filter because it uses suction to loosen and pull out all the particles from the filter.

However, you need to be careful here because applying too much suction could damage the screen. You need to make adjustments to find the sweet spot of suction that gets the job down without creating problems.

In some cases, you’ll be able to put your filter back in your air conditioner after this step. If you don’t see any build up on your screen, you can put it back in.

However, if you still see build up, you’re going to proceed to the next step.

3. Soak and scrub the filter

To properly wash your RV air conditioner filter, you’re going to want to use warm water and a mild detergent. To get the best results, you should submerge the screen and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

That being said, if your filter is extra dirty, it could benefit from some extra time in the solution.

Extra time soaking will not damage your filter, so don’t be afraid of leaving it there for an extended period of time. Some filters might need to soak for a few hours.

Once you have determined that your filter has soaked for long enough, you can start scrubbing. You should use a soft brush like a toothbrush to remove dirt and grime from the filter. It’s important that you are cautious to avoid damaging the fibers of the filter.

Once you are satisfied with the cleanliness level of your filter, you can rinse it. You can use your RV’s shower head for this step.

4. Apply a vinegar solution to avoid the growth of bacteria

Prepare your solution by mixing equal amounts of vinegar and water into a spray bottle.

Spray both sides of your filter with the vinegar solution and let it sit for 15 minutes or so.

Finally, rinse the screen one more time so that your RV does not smell like a bag of salt and vinegar chips when you turn the air conditioner on.

5. Make sure the filter is completely dry before putting it back on

The final step is to put the filter back on your RV air conditioner. However, before you put it on, you need to make sure that it’s completely dry.

It can take several hours for a filter to dry because they have dense fibers. I like to dry my filters in the Sun because it helps kill bacteria, and it speeds up the drying process.

Once the filter is completely dry, you can slide it back into its spot. You can then put the air conditioner cover back in place and reconnect it to power.

You’ll then be free to turn your air conditioner back on at any time!

Final thoughts

As much as you might not like the idea of it, it’s important to perform maintenance on your RV. If you don’t, you’ll run into massive issues down the line, and they could cost you a lot of money. As a result, it’s better to keep on top of things before they get out of control.

One of the things you need to do on a semi-regular basis is clean your air conditioner filter. It doesn’t take long, and once you memorize the steps; it’s not that difficult.

So, take the time to read through the steps I outlined above, and you’ll save yourself a headache in the future!