Washable Filters Vs Regular Filters

What are HVAC Air Filters?

One of the easiest and most important things a homeowner can do to maintain their HVAC system is to maintain their air filter. An air filter protects your heating and cooling systems from dirt and dust and rids your home of contaminants such as pet dander, pollen and bacteria.

The most common filter is a disposable filter. Another option is a washable filter.

Not sure which one is right for you? Here’s a list of pros and cons to help you decide.


As the name suggests, disposable air filters need to be replaced regularly. They can be bought individually or in bulk packs of filters for a year. Disposable air filters are typically made of polyester, fiberglass, or other synthetic materials.

The Pros of Disposable Air Filters include:

  • They capture small particles – Single-use filters are great for capturing small particles. Some disposable filters can capture up to 95% of tiny particles, including bacteria, mold spores, and pet dander.
  • They are easy to replace – just replace the old filter with a new one. No washing and drying is required.
  • They Are Versatile – A filter’s ability to capture particles is assessed by a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Ratio) rating. MERV ratings range from one to 20, and the typical residential MERV rating ranges from one to eight.
  • Thanks to the MERV system, you are not restricted to one type of filter all year round. For example, you can use a higher rated filter during a high pollen season and a lower rated filter at another time of year.

Cons of Disposable Air Filters include:

  • They need to be replaced frequently – disposable filters should be replaced every one to three months to keep the air in your home fresh. It also prevents your system from having trouble pushing air through a dirty filter and potentially failing.
  • They are not environmentally friendly – disposable filters are not reusable or recyclable. The materials used in disposable filters include non-biodegradable fiberglass, wire mesh and plastic, so they just end up clogging landfills. Since their lifespan is often only 30 days, you throw away up to 12 or more per year if you have multiple registers. Although the frame of a disposable filter is made from recyclable cardboard, its non-recyclable materials can contaminate it.
  • They’re Not Cost Effective – While disposable filters aren’t expensive, their cost adds up over time as they need to be replaced frequently.


Regular filters, on the other hand, are disposable filters that are made from materials like fiberglass or pleated paper. These devices contain fibers that use static electricity to trap particles. Once the filter is filled with dirt, it can be removed and washed.

The Pros of Washable Filters include:

  • Inexpensive – These filters initially cost more than disposable filters, but because they don’t need to be replaced as often, you end up saving money. This is true even if you buy a washable filter for each register in your home.
  • Durable – A washable filter can last five to ten years on average, so it can even outlast your HVAC system.
  • Eco-Friendly – Due to their longevity, a reusable filter is equivalent to 20-60 disposable filters that only last several months.
  • Good if you’re short on storage – If you have a small home that makes storing disposable filter boxes impractical, reusable filters are a useful alternative.

The Cons of Washable Filters include:

  • Lower efficiency
  • Cleaning a washable filter can take some time
  • Particles can escape

Unlike disposable filters, washable filters are only good for capturing large particles. They cannot filter out smaller particles such as animal hair, smoke, viruses, mold spores and bacteria. These filters are not suitable for people with asthma, allergies or lung problems and should not be exposed to pollutants in the air. Washable filters only have a MERV rating between one and four, while disposable filters can be rated up to MERV 12.

When a disposable filter gets dirty, simply pull it out and replace it. However, a reusable filter must be washed monthly. It’s not as easy as it seems. You have to take it apart and clean each layer. While it can be washed off in the shower or bath, it’s best to spray it outside so all of those particles don’t get airborne around your home. A washable filter must be completely dry before reinstallation. Even the slightest moisture can attract mold and mildew and wreak havoc on your system and indoor air. Your HVAC should be turned off until the filter is completely dry, so you may need to purchase a second washable filter to avoid lengthy downtime.

Washable filters rely on static electricity to collect particles. Substances pass through the first layer of the filter, but many are not captured by the other layers. These particles remain positively charged and stick to parts of your HVAC or ductwork, allowing mold to form. Cleaning a washable filter can have a similar effect. Its static charge can prevent some particles from being washed away and leaving residue.

Which Is Best for Your HVAC System?

Ultimately, the type of filter you choose for your HVAC system depends on your specific needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option, washable filters may be the way to go. However, if you need a filter that is more effective at trapping smaller particles, regular filters may be a better choice.

Not sure which filter is right for you? Contact the professionals at Carrano Air HVAC Contractor Inc. and we will help you make an informed choice on the best filter to meet your needs.

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