How To Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter

How To Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter


December 29, 2021

Owning a lawn mower is a great idea. After all, it makes it convenient to cut your grass.

But it certainly does need to be taken care of. And by that, we mean cleaning the air filter. However, it is important to understand the correct way to go about performing this task.

This article will show you how to clean lawnmower air filter.

We’ll also briefly explain the various types of mower air filters and share a few other lawn mower maintenance tips.

Let’s get started.

Types of Lawn Mower Filters

Types of Lawn Mower Filters

Air filters help to prevent particles from getting into the mower’s engine. They trap dust, dirt, and debris.

Before you start cleaning or replacing these components, be aware that not all air filters are created equal.

Generally, three types of air filters are available for lawnmowers. They are:

Foam filters

These use motor oil as a holding medium to trap debris and dirt on polyurethane foam elements.

If your mower uses a non-oiled or dry filter, it can only trap the largest dirt and debris particles.

Paper filters

These filters are specially designed to catch fine particles outside of the element. The element has microscopic holes that filter air before it gets into the engine’s combustion chamber.

Paper filters are disposable and don’t require any elaborate cleaning. They can be tapped slightly to pour out dirt particles.

Dual-element filters

These types feature both foam and paper air filters. The foam portion acts as the pre-cleaner and for the paper element.

Dual-element filters are more expensive but by pre-cleaning the air, they tend to increase the longevity of the paper elements.

This means you may not need to replace the air filter very often.

How to Clean a Lawn Mower Air Filter

Air filters will become clogged over time. This is absolutely normal and doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your mower. All you need to do is to clean the filter.

Here are the steps required to clean a foam air filter. For a paper air filter, follow the instructions in the next section.

Step 1: Turn off the engine

How To Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter

Switch off the lawn mower and be sure that all the moving parts have stopped working.

You want to be sure that the machine has completely cooled down before attempting to handle and clean it.

Be extra careful here, as mowers can get extremely hot due to a few different reasons. Reaching for the spark plug wire when the engine is still hot can lead to burns.

Step 2: Disconnect the spark plug

Spark plug wires should be disconnected before removing the air filter cover.

This extra precaution ensures that the mower will not accidentally turn on when you are cleaning it. By disconnecting the spark plug wire, you can be super sure that it is safe to work on the mower.

Step 3: Remove the air filter cover

Most lawn mowers come with an air filter cover held securely with clips or screws. In most cases, the air filter is located around the top of the engine inside a plastic or metal cover.

To remove the air filter cover, make sure you have the right screw for the job (if your mower uses screws). Unscrew and remove the screws to remove the cover.

If the cover is held down by clips, simply undo them and remove the air filter shroud.

Remember to have a container close by so you can put all the screws and other components. This will ensure you don’t lose any of the parts.

Step 4: Remove the foam filter

Take out the foam filter and inspect it to know if it’s requires cleaning or replacement.

It is time to replace the filter if it has yellow or brown stains, or the foam is crumbled. But if the foam is still in good shape, simply clean it.

If your mower comes with a hybrid air filter, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

Step 5: Clean and dry the foam filter

How To Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter

Thoroughly wash the foam filter in a wash sink. For best results, use soap or detergent to cut the grease.

Make sure to thoroughly rinse off the soap and use your hands, dry cloth, or paper towel to squeeze out the excess water.

Place the foam in the sun and allow it to dry completely.

Step 6: Oil the foam filter

Next, oil the foam filter when it is very dry. Drip oil directly on the foam, making sure to distribute it well throughout the filter.

To make sure the oil reaches all parts of the foam, massage it through the foam.

However, you don’t want to apply excess oil so it doesn’t drip into your mower.

Step 7: Clean the filter housing

Use a dry cloth to clean the air filter’s fitting. Whatever you do, avoid using solvents and compressed air to clean the filter housing.

Solvents can damage the filter element. And compressed air can push down debris into the carburetor of your mower, potentially causing more problems.

Step 8: Put everything back in place

Insert the clean air filter into the housing and replace the protective cover.

Do not force any parts into place. If something isn’t fitting in nice and tight, you’re probably doing it wrongly. Remove it and try again from another angle.

Note: Do not operate your lawnmower without an air filter. All grass cutting can wait until you finish cleaning the filter or installing a replacement. Serious engine damage can happen if you operate your machine without an air filter.

Cleaning a Lawn Mower Paper Air Filter

How To Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter

Here’s something to keep in mind when it comes to paper air filters. They are not designed to be cleaned!

That may sound counterintuitive, but cleaning a paper air filter will only ruin it. Worse still, it will allow more dirt into the engine of your lawn mower.

Even on low heat, do not use compressed air to clean paper air filters. This is because more microscopic holes can be created, which in turn, allows more debris and dirt particles into the machine.

Okay, if cleaning a paper air filter is out the window, how do you maintain it when it gets dirty? The trick lies with the sponge element.

Most paper air filters feature a sponge element that works just like a re-filter. This component is what you should be cleaning in a paper air filter.

When it is time to clean a paper air filter, all you need to do is just give it a gentle tap. This will knock off any loose dirt. And whatever you do, avoid using a compressor by all means.

A compressor can and will create microscopic holes in the filter. This will let in more dirt particles instead, negating the purpose of having an air filter, to begin with.

In case the paper air filter becomes too dirty, there is no need to bother with any cleaning. Simply replace it with a new one.

For most owners, going through the hassles of cleaning the sponge element of a paper air filter isn’t really worth it. Replacing the filter is usually a smarter option.

In other words, if your mower uses a disposable paper air filter, you should have a new one standby in case you will need to change the old one out in the middle of using the lawnmower.

When to Replace Your Lawn Mower Air Filter

How To Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter

One of the easiest lawn mower maintenance tasks is replacing the air filter. Replacing the air filter can increase the longevity of your mower and even help the machine to perform optimally.

When should you replace your air filter? This will depend on how often you use your lawnmower.

Consider changing the air filter only once a year if you use the lawn mower to cut grass only a couple of times in several weeks.

On the other hand, if you cut the grass more often, say twice a week, then you can replace the air filter every month since it will get dirty quicker.

Generally, it is a good practice to replace your mower’s air filter once in a season or after using it for at least 300 hours. 

However, for better performance, it is best to clean the foam pre-cleaner after every 25 hours of operation.

Another factor to consider is the amount of dust in the area where you use the mower. You may need to clean and replace the air filter more often in areas where with dry and dusty conditions.

Final Thoughts

That’s everything you need to know about how to clean lawn mower air filter.

If your mower stops working, the air filter is probably clogged and will require some maintenance.

Thankfully, cleaning and replacing a mower air filter are pretty straightforward procedures. Follow the steps in this guide, and your lawn mower should be up and running in no time.

For more tips on mower maintenance, read this guide on How To Winterize A Lawn Mower.



Rebecca Vargas is an experienced gardener and landscaper and has been rendering professional services for many years. Her services cover both private homes and commercial properties. Leveraging that rich experience, Rebecca Vargas now dedicates a chunk of time to show just about anyone how to maintain their garden and yard, whether at home or workplace. GreenIQ is his way of reaching and teaching millions of homeowners across the globe about proper gardening and lawn care practices.