Washable vs Disposable AC Air Filters

Washable vs Disposable AC Air Filters

When choosing the air filter that is right for your home, you have a lot to consider. From costs, to MERV ratings, to size and shape, several factors affect which type of air filter is best for your air filtration needs. One of the simplest decisions you must make, however, is whether to use a disposable or washable filter. Both options come with pros and cons, so it’s important to educate yourself on them before making your next air filter purchase.

Learn more about washable and disposable filters to decide which is right for you.

Which Type of Air Filter Is Better: Washable or Disposable?

Here’s a little about how each type of air filter compares in terms of cost, convenience, and efficiency.


Disposable: Depending on the material it is made out of, a disposable air filter will run you anywhere, from a couple of bucks to $10 or $15. The price typically varies depending on how efficient the filter is. Although disposable filters are usually much less expensive than washable filters are, you will need to purchase a new one every one to three months, so costs can add up.

Washable: Washable filters are more expensive than disposable filters, but will not need to be purchased as often. When properly taken care of and thoroughly cleaned, a washable filter can last for several years. While the purchase will cost you more upfront, it could end up saving you money in the long run.


Disposable: As a guideline, you should plan on replacing your air filter every month. During more moderate seasons, when your AC is not getting as much use, you may not have to do it as often. Replacing your disposable filter is quite simple and can be done in a matter of minutes. While you will need to purchase a new filter every time you change it out, you can save yourself a few trips to the hardware store by stocking up for the year.

Washable: For a Washable filter to be effective, it must be cleaned with roughly the same frequency as disposable filters need to be changed. One of the issues here is that many people do not realize what it takes to get an air filter completely cleaned. The task can become more difficult as dust and debris cakes on over time. So, while you won’t have to drive to the store each month to buy a new filter, you will have to dedicate some time to giving it a thorough cleaning. Plus, you must wait for a washable filter to dry completely before putting it back in your AC to prevent mold and bacteria growth.


Disposable: In general, the disposable version of a particular kind of air filter is more efficient than its washable counterpart. All types of air filters have a MERV rating, which rates their efficiency at trapping airborne particles on a scale of 1 to 16. The MERV ratings for disposable filters rank up and down this scale, with inexpensive fiberglass filters rating between 2 and 4, and more expensive high efficiency filters reaching 14.

Washable: The main problem with washable filters and efficiency and that they become less efficient over time. Even with thorough, regular cleanings, there may come a time when a filter has become so packed with dirt and dust that it will never be able to come completely clean. Most washable filters only have a MERV rating of between 1 and 4.

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