Sally McDonald, Clark.com
While some of us may fear the potential of robots taking our jobs, most of us are probably pretty happy with the advancements in household cleaning technology: air is cleaned, water is purified and dishes are sanitized, all with a push of a button. But a simple problem can derail the benefits of these sterilizing staples: filthy filters.
Clogged or dirty filters can wreak havoc on appliance performance. Luckily, Consumer Reports pulled together a list of common filters in your home that you can change yourself — and how often you should do it — to help prolong the life of these invaluable appliances.
These 14 filters will keep your home clean and your wallet full
Refrigerators — twice a year
Is your refrigerator running? Then you should probably replace the filter, especially if it has an icemaker or water dispenser. These filters prevent small contaminants, such as lead and chlorine, from infiltrating your water with bad tastes and odors.
Dishwashers — every 3-6 months
Dishwashers either have an automatic or a manual filter, and you can usually tell the type by the noise it makes during the cycle (if it’s quiet, it’s probably a manual filter). Depending on how much you use it, you may need to clean the filter more often to keep your dishwasher running at an optimal performance.
Carafe water filters — every 40 gallons
A water filter’s lifespan can vary among brands, but most need to be replaced after around 40 gallons of use. Stay vigilant, because if you wait too long, the water can end up dirtier than before you filtered it (gross). If your filter doesn’t indicate when it’s time to change, make a note on your calendar so you can continue to enjoy the filtered deliciousness.
Mounted water filters — every 100 gallons
Some water filters are under your sink or connected to your faucet to filter out sediment, lead and other contaminants. The cost of replacement filters ranges from around $40 to $400, so make sure you shop around for the best deal.
Air purifiers — depends on frequency of use
Ironically, air purifiers can get really dirty, and if the purifier gets completely clogged, it can shut down entirely. Fortunately, most air purifiers have a filter indicator that tells you when to check the filter, and you can usually clean them yourself.
Vacuum cleaners — depends on frequency of use
If your vacuum cleaner doesn’t suck, you definitely need to check the filter. Changing the filter regularly saves work and frustration, especially on bagless models.
Dehumidifiers — depends on frequency of use
Often overlooked, dehumidifiers can have a significant impact on air quality, and a dirty filter can severely affect performance. Keeping filters clean is key when the humidity is high because humidity levels above 50% can lead to the growth of dust mites, mildew and mold.
Range hoods — every 3 months
Cooking at home can save time and money — it can also clog your range hood. Luckily, it’s easy to clean. Slide the filter out of the range hood and into a sink filled with hot water and a good degreasing soap. Let it soak for at least 10 minutes. Use a sponge to remove any remaining grease and set aside to air dry.
Microwave ovens — twice a year
Greasy microwave oven filters can result in a fan that can’t exhaust properly or capture cooking fumes, leaving greasy gunk on your appliances. To keep it clean, wash the filter in warm, soapy water and let it air dry.
Clothes dryers — every load
Dirty lint filters extend drying time, use more energy and cost you money. In addition to cleaning the lint filter before every load of laundry, you should inspect the dryer duct regularly to check for any lint buildup, preventing a potential fire hazard.
Gas furnaces — every few months
A dusty furnace filter severely affects airflow and performance. Before you toss the old filter, note the airflow direction so you don’t reinstall the new filter backward.
Central air conditioners — seasonally
Is your heating and cooling system combined? You only need to change one filter. If your air conditioner is separate, you need to change the filter once a month during the cooling season.
Room air conditioners — monthly
All window-mounted air conditioners have a filter and most let you know when it’s time to change it. If you’re not sure, check the filter once a month during heavy use. Use your vacuum to remove the heavy dirt, and wash the filter in the sink with a mild dishwashing soap. After it’s completely dry, reinstall and enjoy the cool breeze!
Read more: Best window air conditioners for the summer
Bathroom exhaust fans — twice a year
Bathroom fans are easy to forget, but they need love, too. To start, dust your exhaust fan with a vacuum cleaner. If the fan cover is removable, wipe the blades (avoid electric parts) with a cloth and an all-purpose cleaner.