How to Clean Your RV Air Conditioner Filter

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A hand removes a dirty air filter to clean and replace

Summer RV trips many times take place in sweltering climates. And one of the main reasons for camping in a recreational vehicle is to bring along the amenities of home.

An RV air conditioner is an important appliance needed to combat the summer heat and make your excursion much more comfortable.

But just like your home or car AC, the unit in your motorhome or trailer requires a little routine maintenance. The easiest step on that list is to clean your RV air conditioner filter monthly. This can assure consistent operation and give you peace of mind that your rig has clean, cool, circulated air.

In fact, the status of an RV air conditioner filter can affect the life of the appliance. It can also push pollutants into your vehicle, affecting your health by exacerbating allergies and asthma symptoms. 

We have gathered information on how, when, and why you should clean your RV air conditioner filter to avoid these problems. We’ve provided five steps to assist you in doing it correctly.

Keep in Mind: Maintenance lists are important to ensure your RV is a comfortable place to live. Here are 5 annual RV maintenance tasks you can do yourself.

A man sneezes because he's allergic to dust, dust particles are visible in the air surrounding him.

Why Do You Need to Clean Your RV Air Conditioner Filter?

If you have ever spent time camping in a dusty, arid climate, you know the amount of dirt your RV can collect just by leaving the windows open. Imagine all that dust making its way through your AC as it pulls hot air from outside into its intake opening.

If not trapped by a filter, the debris can damage interior components of the air conditioner, making it ineffective or possibly even halting its operation.

A filter also minimizes allergens that could create respiratory issues for those who might already be compromised. And finally, bacteria, debris, and pollutants not captured by a filter could ‘infiltrate’ the interior of your RV, bringing with them odors and could cause illness.

With all of these issues, it’s easy to see why cleaning your RV air conditioner filter is an important part of vehicle maintenance every month. Just this one easy action can set you up for a cool, clean camping trip.

5 Steps to Clean Your RV Air Conditioner Filter

Cleaning your RV air conditioner filter is a simple and often overlooked chore that takes just a moment to complete. Listed below are five steps to clean your RV air conditioner filter.

Watch how to remove and reinstall the filter on a Coleman-Mach AC unit.

Turn Off Your AC Unit

Never mess with any electrical appliance while it’s running, so start this procedure by turning off your trailer’s air conditioning unit and disengaging the power supply. To begin to clean your RV air conditioner filter, locate it and remove it.  

Most filters lie inside your RV in the plastic casing next to the ceiling. Some air conditioners have two or more filters, so make sure to carefully take out all of them. You don’t want to dislodge any dirt or dust inside your coach, especially if you haven’t cleaned them in months.

Vacuum Your Filter

Once safely outside your RV, decide which type of filter you have. If it is a disposable paper filter, replace it. If you have a spongy plastic filter, you can clean and remount it. 

To clean a reusable RV air conditioner filter, start by vacuuming it gently. If your vacuum has different settings, use the low or medium setting to get as much debris out as possible.

Soak and Scrub

Vacuuming may not get all of the dirt out of your filter. So the next step is to fill a container with warm water and some dish detergent. Let the filter soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Then use a scrub brush to clean any stubborn particles. Finish by rinsing the filter thoroughly to rid it of soap and dirt, then let it dry.

Close up of an air conditioner filter being rinsed with water from a hose outside.

Spray with a Vinegar Solution

To take care of any bacteria or odors in the filter, spray it with a solution of one part water and one part vinegar. Spray both sides, allowing the mixture to penetrate the filter and act as an antibacterial cleaner. Then rinse it in water so the filter won’t smell like vinegar when you replace it.

Dry Completely

Finally, let your clean RV air conditioner filter dry out entirely before reinstalling it in the appliance. This will ensure that no moisture or mildew will occur.

Because filters are usually thick, the drying process may take several hours. Placing it in sunlight may speed things up.

How Often Should You Clean Your Air Conditioner Filter?

Most campers agree that an air conditioner filter can get dirty pretty quickly. We recommend cleaning the filter monthly.

Your situation may require more frequent cleaning if you camp in windy areas where a lot of dirt and debris get blown around. Adjust your maintenance schedule accordingly, but don’t put off cleaning your RV air conditioner filter.

A van drives down a dirt road and kicks up dust that the setting sun filters through.

Pro Tip: If you want to upgrade your RV air conditioner, we recommend one of these 5 Dometic AC units.

Should You Clean Your RV Air Conditioner Right Now?

If you have never cleaned your air conditioner filter, or it seems like a lifetime ago, now is the time to do it. Your family will thank you for providing clean air by keeping the AC in excellent order.

However, if you have cleaned it regularly, stay on a monthly maintenance schedule. Most likely, you will use your air conditioner during the hottest months, and it will need the most cleaning. 

With regular oil changes and tune-ups, you should add cleaning your RV air conditioner filter to your maintenance checklist. Ignoring the chore will only increase the wear and tear on your unit and decrease air quality. Add this easy step to your trailer’s upkeep and extend your comfort and health for future camping trips.

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