Can You Recycle Dirty or Old Furnace Air Filters? Everything You Need to Know!

Are you wondering if you can recycle that dirty old furnace air filter? With air filters needing to be replaced every 3-6 months, it can seem wasteful to just throw them away each time. The good news is that many types of heat source filters actually are recyclable. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to recycle used air conditioner and heat source filters.

are air filters recyclable

Short and fast answer on question: are air filters recyclable?

The answer to the question, “Are air filters recyclable?” is not simple. While the air filter is made to clean the air by removing dust and other pollutants, its recycling process is not straightforward. Most filters come in simple cardboard frames, which are indeed recyclable. However, the filters away all those pollutants which can contaminate the recycling process.

The answer depends on how the filters can be disposed of after they have done their job. Some recycling companies offer mail-in programs for used filters, which is great for the environment. In general, filters can last anywhere from four to twelve months before needing to be replaced. The best way to dispose of used filters is to toss them in the trash unless local recycling centers will accept them. To conclude, what you need to know about recycling filters is that it’s not always possible, but efforts are being made to make it easier.

Author opinion

Why Should I Recycle My Air Filter?

Recycling your old air filters is great for both your furnace system and for the environment. Here are some of the top reasons to recycle filters rather than sending them to the landfill:

  • Reduce waste and your environmental footprint
  • Save money by reusing washable filters
  • Improve indoor air quality by always having clean filters
  • Increase heater efficiency which lowers energy bills
  • Avoid contaminating the reprocess stream if not reusable

What Kinds of heat source Filters Can Be Recycled?

The most common type of heater air filter is the disposable fiberglass style. These are typically made of fiberglass mesh with a cardboard frame. The good news is that fiberglass filters can often be reprocess curbside or through local recycling programs.

different kinds of air filters in dark room

Washable filters made of polyester fabric are also very recyclable. These reusable air filters can be washed and used for years before being recycled. Other furnace filters may have some reusable components like the metal mesh or plastic frame.

How Should I Recycle Used HVAC Filters?

Here are a few options for responsible recycling of old heat source air filters:

– Curbside pickup – Many municipal reprocess programs accept used air filters as long as you remove any non-recyclable materials.

– Drop-off – Take filters to your local recycling center’s drop-off location. Some centers have special air filter recycling bins.

– Mail-in program – Some HVAC companies offer mailers to send back your old filters to be reprocess properly.

– Trash pick-up – If not reusable, seal the filter in a plastic bag before putting in the regular trash to avoid contamination.

Used HVAC Filters

Can I Wash and Reuse Furnace Air Filters?

For washable polyester or foam air filters, you can wash and reuse them several times before recycling. Use mild soap and water, let the filter fully dry, and reinstall. This can save money compared to constantly buying new disposable filters.

However, fiberglass disposable filters should not be reused or washed. The fiberglass fibers can break down when washed. It’s best to properly reprocess fiberglass filters after one use.

5 stylish air purifiers on gray background

Recycling Tips for Furnace Air Filters

Follow these tips when it comes time to recycle used air conditioner or heater filters:

Preparation for Reprocessing Fiberglass Filters

Remove any non-recyclable materials like metal or plastic mesh before reprocess a fiberglass filter.

Consultation with Local Waste Management

Check with your local waste management company before putting filters in curbside recycling. Not all accept used air filters.

Proper Drying of Washable Reusable Filters

Completely dry washable reusable filters before reinstalling to avoid mold growth. Running a fan speeds up drying.

Logging Install Date and Regular Filter Checks

Write the install date on new filters to remember when to replace. Check filters every 3-6 months.

Keep Your Home’s Air Clean and Recycle

With some diligent recycling efforts, you can reduce the waste and environmental impact of your home’s heat source filtration system. Always properly replace and recycle air filters as needed to maintain clean indoor air. Following these heater purifier reprocess tips will keep both your home HVAC system and the planet running smoothly!

two white air purifiers in center of room

Specific product recommendations:

If you’re looking to use washable, reusable heat source filters in your home, consider these highly rated options:

  • FILTRETE Maximum Allergen Reduction Filters – These polyester filters can be washed up to 12 times before recycling. MERV rating of 12 captures small particles.
  • Nordic Pure Pleated AC Furnace Filters – With a MERV rating of 11, these reusable filters feature an expanded metal mesh and can be washed up to 6 months.
  • Honeywell Reusable Allergen Reduction Filters – This budget-friendly 4-pack of reusable filters can be vacuumed and washed repeatedly for years before requiring disposal.
very dirty purifier filter example before and after simple washing

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of furnace filters are recyclable?

Some common types of recyclable heat source filters include fiberglass, washable filters, polyester filters, and cardboard filters. These materials can be broken down and reused in various ways to reduce waste and promote sustainability.

How do I know when it’s time to replace my heat source air filter?

You should replace your heater air filter every 1-3 months, depending on factors such as air quality, the type of filter used, and the level of usage. A dirty purifier filter can restrict airflow and reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system, leading to poor indoor air quality, higher energy costs, and potential damage to the equipment.

Can I include used HVAC filters in my curbside recycling pickup?

Curbside reprocess programs typically do not accept used HVAC filters due to their size and potential contamination with hazardous materials. It is best to check with your local reprocess center or waste management facility to determine the proper disposal method for your used HVAC filters.

How can I recycle an air filter?

There are several ways to recycle an purifier filter. One option is to contact your HVAC company or supplier, as they may have specific recycling programs in place. Another option is to check with your local recycling center to see if they accept air filters for recycling. Additionally, there are companies that specialize in recycling air filters and can provide guidance on how to properly recycle them.

What should I do with old furnace filters?

If your old heat source filters are not recyclable, they should be disposed of properly. Check with your local reprocess center or waste management facility for guidance on how to safely dispose of these filters. It is important to prevent them from ending up in landfills, where they can contribute to environmental pollution.

Can disposable air filters be recycled?

Disposable air filters, such as those made of fiberglass or polyester, can usually be reprocess . However, it is crucial to check with your local recycling center or waste management facility for specific guidelines on how to reprocess them. Proper reprocess of disposable air filters helps to reduce waste and protect the environment.

How is the air filter made?

The construction of an air filter can vary depending on the type. Fiberglass filters are made with layers of fiberglass strands woven together to create a filter media. Washable filters are typically made of a polyester or foam


In conclusion, there are different ways to recycle and dispose of HVAC air filters. Many people may not know about the option to recycle a dirty air filter. These filters can not only be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way, but they can also be reprocess and reused. HEPA filters, for example, are made of wire mesh and can be recycled by sending them in the mail to a reprocess company. Other types of air filters, such as those made of metal and plastic, can be taken to recycling centers where they will be accepted and processed. It is important to keep the air clean and free of potentially harmful particulate matter, so replacing the filter every few months is necessary.

By recycling and properly disposing of dirty filters, individuals can help reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a cleaner environment. By making diligent efforts to recycle, we can keep dirty filters from piling up and potentially causing health issues such as asthma. So, next time you are wondering what to do with a dirty air filter, don’t let it go to waste—recycle it and help keep the air clean for everyone.

P.S. Here is a short video from with an instruction how to clean a HEPA filter by yourself. Sometimes it can help you.

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