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Air Purifiers with Permanent vs. Washable Filter: Pros and Cons

There are numerous types of air purifiers available today. The majority of them are equipped with washable or permanent filters, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. To assist you in deciding between a washable filter and a permanent filter, let us examine the differences between the two.

Air Purifiers with Permanent vs. Washable Filter: Pros and Cons

Permanent Filter: Pros and Cons

A permanent air purifier filter is not a filter that you cannot remove, such as a pre-filter in select models. Instead, a permanent filter refers to a filter that is non-washable and non-reusable. Most models in today’s market require the use of a permanent filter of sorts—the best of which is a True HEPA Filter.


  • A brand-new filter has a long lifespan of up to 12 months. Your air purifier’s filter indicator will alert you as to when the filter is nearing the end of its life.
  • Each replacement filter will have a consistent lifespan. Because you don’t wash the filter in any way, you won’t cause damage to the fine mesh. It’s only after the filter has expired that you need to swap it out.
  • Permanent filters can work in conjunction with other types of filters, including UV-C “kill chambers” and electrostatic filters.


  • Depending on the air purifier model and filter requirements, the cost of a replacement filter can be steep. The costs will only add up over time.
  • Extremely dirty air can shorten the lifespan of a filter, which in turn will cost you more to replace.

Washable Filter: Pros and Cons

In a sense, washable filters are permanent because they do not need to be changed, but they do need to be cleaned. To keep your washable filter clean, all you need is a bit of water and soap, and plenty of time to let the filter dry.


  • The washable filters in air purifiers can last upwards of 60 months, depending on how delicately you wash them.
  • Infrequently replacing your filters means contributing less to landfills. True HEPA Filters, whether or not they’re washable, are non-recyclable and will eventually have to be thrown out.


  • It can be nearly impossible to wash a washable filter and preserve the structural integrity of the fine mesh. Over time, washing the filter will create holes in the filter, which will allow larger particles to pass and recirculate into the air.
  • Washable filters are incompatible with other filter types, not including pre-filters and activated carbon filters. Even then, you will have to replace the carbon filter periodically as they are non-washable.
  • Because you have to rinse washable filters with water, there’s a chance that reinstalling a slightly moistened filter can contribute to mold and mildew growth. The air purifier may take those spores and recirculate them into a room.

When and How to Clean Washable Filters

The “when” is quite simple: whenever your air purifier asks you to. Because modern air purifiers come with a filter indicator, you don’t have to pop open the lid to check on how clogged the filter is. The air purifier will warn you when it’s in dire need of a wash.

As for the “how,” it’s a bit trickier. Here’s a quick rundown of how you can maintain a washable filter:

  1. Remove the filter from the air purifier
  2. Using a vacuum cleaner on its lowest setting, vacuum the bits of debris off the mesh surface
  3. After removing most of the debris, take the washable filter to a sink and rinse it under low-pressure water.
  4. Using a soapy sponge, gently dab the mesh until most particles are gone.
  5. Rinse the filter under running water.
  6. Allow the filter to dry completely before reinstalling it in your air purifier.

Are Washable Filters Worth It?

In terms of cost, the differences are minute. An air purifier with a permanent filter can be just as cheap or as costly as one with a washable filter. So, whichever one you choose, you can rest assured that you’re not spending more upfront.

As for operating costs (disregarding energy costs), permanent filters will end up costing you significantly more over the long run. Washable filters have an average lifespan that’s at least five times as long as permanent filters, so you’ll spend less on replacements and contribute less to environmental pollution.

Finally, and most importantly, which of the two is more effective? Permanent filters are, by a wide margin, the more superior of the two. Because there’s no risk of puncturing the mesh filter, they remain intact for much longer.

Washable filters, on the other hand, can develop large pores due to aggressive and frequent washing, which reduces the filter’s effectiveness over time.

Air Recommended Air Purifiers

Our Pick Perfect for bedrooms, playrooms, and living rooms, the Coway Airmega AP-1512HH is one of the best-performing, most durable, and most economical purifiers we’ve tested.

Most Popular The Levoit Core 300 air purifier has some strong suits, but in our opinion it falls short of carving out a meaningful niche for itself. Its ideal use would be in a small bedroom occupied by someone who is sensitive to noise.

Also Great With high end air cleaning performance and a whisper quiet fan, the Winix 5500-2 is the perfect combination of power and finesse. It cleared airborne particulates out of our smokey testing room faster than any other model.

Best of the Best If you have a large space you want to remove irritants from, We recommend the Airmega 400S. All of Coway air purifiers do an excellent job of attacking indoor pollutants, and we highly recommend any of them. The 400S is designed to accommodate large room sizes.

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About the author

Hi I’m Alex, founder of HouseholdMe.com and I’d like to say thank you for dropping by. Like most of you, the first thing I look at before buying something online is reviews or buying guides. By reading what other people say will help me gauge whether or not a product is good or not.  I am trying to help people find answers, solve problems, and get inspired.

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