How to Clean RV Air Conditioner Filter (Step by Step)

rv air conditioner

Cleaning RV air conditioner may not be a breeze, but it is a must. I’ve got 5 easy steps for you in this step-by-step guide on how to clean a RV air conditioner.

This is only applicable for washable filters, not one-time-use filters. Single-use filters should not be washed or reused.

Here you can also see how to clean the AC ducts as well, but before we get into that let’s discuss why exactly it’s so important to keep your RV AC filter clean.

Why It’s Important

First of all, why and how does an AC filter get dirty? Well, since it pulls air from the outdoors, that air can have dust, smog, allergens, and particles with it. Even clean mountain air carries pollen and dust. So, the filter is stopping all of these undesirable elements from getting inside your camper, and naturally it builds up over time.

If a filter never gets cleaned, it can become so clogged that it prevents any air from flowing through, rendering your AC weak and inefficient. Otherwise, what could happen if the filter doesn’t fully clog up is that it becomes so saturated that it is no longer able to stop those unwanted elements from getting inside. The air conditioner would still work fine, except for the fact that polluted air will also be coming in.

Essentially, not taking care of and cleaning your filter can damage the AC, the RV’s ducting, and worst of all – it puts your own health at risk.

Step 1 – Remove the Filter

Before doing anything, you have to turn off the AC unit and disconnect its power source. Only then can you remove the protective cover by removing screws or pushing tabs to expose the filter. You might not even need to completely remove the cover as some filters can be easily removed while the cover is only partially opened.

It’s a good idea to check your RV’s owner manual first for any instructions on removing the filter because this is something that can vary depending on the model.

Whatever you do, don’t turn on the AC without the filter as it can badly damage your AC unit causing dirt particles to fill your RV.  

Step 2 – Vacuum

By using a vacuum cleaner, you can loosen and pull-out particles from inside the filter, just be careful not to use too much suction as you can damage the screen – use it on a low or medium speed.

Sometimes this is as far as you need to go, as long as you clean your filter regularly. In the case that it’s filthy and requires a deep clean, follow the steps below.

Step 3 – Soak & Scrub

Submerge the filter into some lukewarm water that has been mixed with detergent powder for at least 10-15 minutes. This should be enough for a moderate level of dirt but if it’s really dirty, you’re going to have to leave it soaking for hours. It helps to use a soft brush like a toothbrush to remove grime, just be careful not to damage the fibers.

It’s important that you don’t use any harsh brushes, high pressure, or harsh chemicals as this is a sure way to damage the filter.

Once you’re happy with how it looks, rinse off the filter with a hose.  

Step 4 – Bacteria Removal

Soapy water doesn’t get rid of bacteria, so we’re going to have to use something else. Create a solution by mixing equal parts vinegar and water into a spray bottle, and spray it on both sides of the filter. Leave it for about 15 minutes, then rinse the filter again. Make sure you’ve rinsed it properly, otherwise the smell of vinegar will fill your RV when you turn it on.  

Step 5 – Reinstall

You need to wait until the filter is completely dry. It can take several hours due to the thick, dense fibers. Leaving it in sunlight helps speed up the process and kill any remaining bacteria. Carefully place the filter back once you’re sure it’s dry, and reconnect the power.

How to Clean AC Ducts

If your filter was extremely dirty, there’s a chance your vents will need cleaning too.

These should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year if you are someone who only uses your camper seasonally.

Since this varies depending on how often you use your camper and your AC though, the more you use it the more often you should check/clean it.

It’s even more important if you have pets, cook indoors, or smoke. Once a month would be ideal if you use your RV frequently.

Let’s go over how to clean RV AC ducts.

Start by unscrewing and removing the vent covers, be very careful if you’re using a tool to pry them loose. Don’t shake the dust, take them outside right away and keep them away from your face. Carefully disassemble the vent covers by removing the black circular foam filters and give them a shake.

The way I like to clean them is by using two dishpans; one filled with hot soapy water and the other with hot water to rinse. It’s fine to use regular dish soap. You may also need a dry towel. Take the filters that you’ve already shaken outside and leave them in the hot soapy water for a while.

Next, give them a squeeze but be very careful not to rip or tear the filters, give them a rinse and then place them on the towel to let them dry. If it’s sunny out, leave them in the sun to dry as this also helps kill any remaining germs.

As the filters dry, place the plastic vent covers in the soapy water too and let them soak. Use a soft brush to clean them properly between the louvers – an old toothbrush works great. Then, rinse those and let them dry as well.

Frequently Asked Questions  

How do I clean the filter on my RV air conditioner?

Disconnect the power, remove the cover, and carefully take out the filter. Start by vacuuming it on a low or medium setting, then soak it in some soapy water for 15 minutes or several hours, depending on how dirty it is. If you think it’s necessary, use a soft brush to get out any stubborn dirt. Next, make a solution in a spray bottle with water and vinegar to kill bacteria. Spray this on both sides and let it sit for a while, then rinse thoroughly again. Let it dry completely before placing it back and reconnecting the power.

What is the best way to clean an air conditioner filter?

The best way to clean an air conditioner filter is to vacuum it first at a low speed setting, soak it in soapy water for a while, spray it with vinegar mixed with water, rinse again and let dry.

What happens if your air conditioner filter is dirty?

Dirty in an air conditioner filter restricts the flow of cold air, causing it to build up and lower the internal temperature. This builds up and can cause ice to form on the coils, causing damage. As long as you maintain and clean it properly, your air conditioner can last for a long time.

Do RV AC have filters?

Yes, RV ACs have filters and they can be located inside the RV under the air distribution bezel on the AC unit. You need to check and clean them once a month.

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