How to Clean RV Air Conditioner Filter (5 Easy Steps)

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To keep your RV air conditioner running in tip-top shape, regular maintenance must be performed.

Most notably, cleaning the A/C unit’s filter.

In this guide, we show you how to clean your RV air conditioner filter in 5 simple steps, along with some general maintenance tips to keep it running smoothly.

Importance of Cleaning an RV Air Conditioner Filter

An air conditioning unit works by pulling warm air into the unit, typically through an intake opening, from the outdoors. With the outside air comes the dust, smog, allergens, and particles that it carries along. Even the cleanest mountain air still has dust and pollen.

Air conditioner filters prevent most undesirable elements outside from entering your camper with the cold air. As it does its job, these particulates build up within the filter. Eventually, the screen will reach its tipping point.

If it’s never cleaned, the filter will create one of two scenarios.

  1. The screen becomes so clogged that it prevents air from flowing through it. The air conditioner flow will be weak and inefficient.
  2. Or the filter is not fully clogged but instead becomes saturated to the point that it can’t stop the unwanted elements from coming inside. The air conditioner still works in this situation but pushes polluted air through your RV.

When you don’t take care of your air conditioner filter, either option will lead to problems with your health, the RV’s ducting, and the air conditioner itself.

At best, you’ll experience a buildup of particles throughout the ducts. At worst, it might cause the AC unit to fail or cause an increase in health issues like allergies or asthma symptoms.

How to Clean Your RV Air Conditioner Filter

Important: these steps only work for washable filters. If you have one-time-use filters, read the FAQs section below for information on your setup. Do not follow these steps.

1. Prepare the AC Unit

Begin the cleaning process by turning off the AC unit and disconnecting its power source. Then, remove its cover to expose the filter. Use caution when pulling out the screen to prevent injuries or damage.

Tip: Consult your RV’s owner manual for exact instructions on removing the filter, as it will vary by model.

Do not turn on the AC while you have the filter out. This can severely damage your AC unit and cause dirt particles to fill your motor home.

2. Use a Vacuum to Clean the Filter

A vacuum cleaner uses suction to loosen and pull out all of the particulates from inside the filter. Be careful not to damage the screen with too much suction. Find the screen’s sweet spot of force that does the job without creating new problems.

Sometimes, just a vacuum is enough to clean your air filter. If you don’t see a lot of buildup on your screen, you can put it back in after this step.

For filthy filters and those that haven’t undergone regular care, it might be time for a more thorough approach. If that’s your filter, follow the remaining steps below for deep cleaning.

3. Soak and Scrub the Filter

Use warm water and mild detergent to wash your RV air conditioner filter. For best results, submerge the screen and let it soak for at least 10-15 minutes. We suggest using your RV shower or a large bucket.

Filthy filters might require more attention. They will benefit from a longer time in the solution, up to a few hours. You can work a soft brush, for example, a toothbrush, through the screen to remove the dirt and grime from the filter, but use extra caution to ensure it isn’t damaging the fibers.

Once you are satisfied with the filter’s cleanliness, rinse it. Use your RV’s detachable showerhead (or a hose) to wash the soap off the filter and remove any remaining dirt.

4. Use a Vinegar Solution to Prevent Bacteria Growth

This combination makes a natural antibacterial cleanser that won’t put harsh chemicals into the fresh air supply of your motor home.


  1. Prepare your solution by mixing equal parts vinegar and water into a spray bottle.
  2. Spray both sides of the filter with your vinegar solution and wait about 15 minutes.
  3. Then rinse the screen so your RV doesn’t smell like vinegar when you turn it on again.

5. Be Sure The Filter Is Completely Dry, Then Put It Back In Place

Air conditioner filters have thick, dense fibers in the screen. As a result, it can take several hours for the filter to dry.

Tip: Allow the filter to dry in sunlight to help kill bacteria and to speed up the drying process.

Once the filter is dry, carefully slide it back into its spot. Reinstall the air conditioner cover and reconnect the power. Then you’re good to turn your cold air on once more!

Routine Maintenance for Your RV Air Conditioner Filter

Regularly cleaning the A/C filter can help the unit run more smoothly and avoid costly RV air conditioner repairs.

Most manufacturers recommend you clean your air conditioner filter after every two weeks of use.

For people who travel only on weekends, this would mean cleaning the screen every other month. If you take longer trips or live in your motor home, you must clean the filter during your travels.

People with allergies or other health conditions might require even more frequent cleaning. It’s better to spend time cleaning the vent screen than suffering through your vacation.

Replacing an RV Air Conditioner Filter

Replace the filter when it shows signs of wear. As you’d expect, a worn-out filter doesn’t do a satisfactory job stopping particles from sneaking into your air supply. Replace the screen as soon as you notice a weathered appearance.

FAQs About Cleaning An RV Air Conditioner Filter

Where Is the Filter on an RV Air Conditioner?

The RV air conditioner filter is located right behind the unit’s vent cover. You can access the filter by removing the vent cover from the AC unit, which is typically in the ceiling of your RV.

Can I Clean a Single-Use RV AC Filter?

No. Single-use filters are just that, designed for one-time use. Do not attempt to wash and reuse them. If you wash a disposable filter, it will likely lose effectiveness and not work well once replaced. Don’t waste your time or risk your family’s health. Instead, buy a new filter.

Can I Prevent Contamination From Building up on My Air Conditioner Filter?

The more you run your A/C unit, the more contaminants will build up in the filter. To prevent extensive buildup, reduce the amount of air that flows through the screen. If you’re concerned about your air conditioner filter’s cleanliness, only run it when you need it. By pulling less air through your cooling unit, you decrease the number of particles caught in the filter. Even with minimal use, the filter will gather debris, and you must clean it every few months.

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