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How to Clean a lawnmower Paper Air Filter

The main reason for using paper air filters is to save the lawnmower’s engine and carburetor from any dirt that may have come in during the time you have your lawnmower engine running. In this regard, a properly working air filter in a lawnmower serves as the first defense line. The dirt and grass clippings could enter the engine if the air filter is worn out and cause excessive damage to the engine parts and drastically hamper the engine’s efficiency.

How to clean a lawnmower’s paper air filter:

  • Step 1: Check the Type of Paper Air Filter you use in your Lawnmower
  • Step 2: Turn off the lawnmower  
  • Step 3: Remove / Disconnect the spark plug wire
  • Step 4: Identify the position of the paper air filters
  • Step 5: Vacuum the paper air filter
  • Step 6: Get the right tools
  • Step 7: Clean the encapsulation
  • Step 8: Reassemble the lawnmower
(CC BY-SA 2.0) by artistmac

Cleaning or repairing your lawnmower’s air filter is considered an integral part of general maintenance. Following the steps protects the machine from risks and increases the machine’s performance by extending its lifespan. In the case of pre-cleaner foam, it needs to be washed every 25 working hours. On the other hand, replacement is needed after at least 300 hours of operation in the paper air filter case. Specifically, in dusty environments, an air filter’s replacement is important because it can get stuck. There is no room left for the air to reach the engine when an air filter gets clogged. As oxygen, an important element for initiating the engine’s combustion fails to reach the engine, there will be no engine combustion.

There are various kinds and types of air filters out there, depending upon the machine you are using. The most efficient is the dual-element air filter due to multiple layers: the foam elements and air-pleated. The other type of air filter is foam filters that consist of foam. In this article, we will briefly discuss how to clean a paper air filter in our lawnmower.


Clean your lawnmower’s paper air filter in 8 easy steps.

● Step 1: Check the Type of Paper Air Filter you use in your Lawnmower

Proper research and knowledge regarding your machine serve to be the first and foremost task once we are set to clean your device’s paper air filter. A user manual consists of all the details one needs to know about his machine and eventually decipher the air filter your device uses. Moreover, referring to online resources could also help an individual do searches tailored to his machine’s model and make that could eventually help look for the right replacements it needs.

The method to clean the air filters vary from machine to machine. This is because each machine either uses a single paper air filter or a dual air filter that is a combination of paper and foam air filter. Thus, depending upon the type underhand, the cleaning process might vary. 

● Step 2: Turn off the lawnmower

Once you have discovered the model and make of your machine via research, you are now aware of its structure that not only helps you to identify its parts to pinpoint where an air filter is present but also helps you necessary information about its components that would, in turn, help you to gather supplies for a replacement if necessary.

Turning off or disconnecting the lawnmower is the next step, which serves to be more of a safety precaution. This step is necessary as many parts in a lawnmower might be operational even though the machine is not started.

● Step 3: Remove / Disconnect the spark plugs

Like the previous step, this step also serves to be a precautionary measure before one decides to clean lawnmower engine parts. It is an extra precaution and security against engine back start. Spark plugs are generally located on the engine’s front end and are an integral part of the machine. Once the plugs have been located, you could either disconnect the wires or remove them with appropriate tools.

● Step 4: Locate the air filter

Once all the precautionary measures have been taken, and the machine is completely turned off and idle, the next step is to locate the air filters. Generally, the air filters are placed in an encapsulation made of either plastic or metal. This casing is generally present close to the engine.

● Step 5: Vaccum the Paper air filter

Once the paper air filter has been identified, unscrew the plastic or metal casing and remove the paper air filter from it. Once removed, tap the air filter against some solid surface like a wall until a comparable amount of dust has been shaken off.

Now take out a vacuum cleaner and attach a hose of the appropriate site to it. Use this vacuum to clean out all the contaminations. Take at least one minute to clean both sides. For confirmation, use a bright light to identify any spots left.

● Step 6: Get the right tools

To remove the encapsulation and the screws to clean, make sure you have the right tools. The presence of screwdrivers, soap water, vacuum cleaner, and hoses of appropriate sizes are necessary for cleaning purposes.

Furthermore, if the paper air filter is damaged, it is highly recommended to replace it rather than cleaning it as they are very fragile and comparatively extremely cheap.

● Step 7: Clean the encapsulation

After the air filter has been thoroughly cleaned, the next step is to ensure that the gasket or the encapsulation is free from any debris or dust. In this regard, use a vacuum cleaner and soap water to clean it. Also, make sure that the gasket does not has any leaks so that it is safe from dust and debris and the cleaned air filter remains protected.

● Step 8: Reassemble

To keep track of all the screws and parts, it is advised to keep a bowl for storing them so that you might not lose them. Once you are done with the cleaning and replacement, step the gasket back together and place it where you removed it.

Set the spark plugs back together and make the necessary connection to set the lawnmower in the starting position.

Related Questions:

1) What skills and tools I need to clean my lawnmower’s paper air filter.

Cleaning a lawnmower’s paper air filter sitting is an easy task that could be easily taken care of at home in a couple of hours provided you have the right knowledge.

Substitute air filters, soap water, vacuum cleaner, screw drives, and necessary information regarding the model and make of the machine should be needed once you are set to clean the air filter.

2) What are the symptoms or signs of a bad air filter?

Reduced gs milage, a misfiring engine, jittery engine sounds, service light, and gasoline smell are some of the symptoms that ensure that your air filter has falling health and needs to be serviced.

3) What is recommended to clean or to replace the paper air filter?

Paper air filters are very fragile. Although they can be cleaned, due to minor negligence, its fibers could get hurt, and thus it is rather recommended to replace the filter than to clean it.

4) What types of air filters are present in the market?

Two basic air filters out there in the market are the dual element and foam air filter.

  • Dual-element Air Filter: The dual-element air filter is considered the best fit because of the multiple layers of protection: air-pleated and foam elements.
  • Foam Air Filter: Another type is the foam air filter that has two further types. There is a disposable air filter that should be replaced after a specific time, and then there are reusable foam air filters that can be washed. 

Final Remarks:

Cleaning a lawnmower’s air filter is not a very challenging task, provided you have the right instructions and tools needed. Cleaning and replacing the air filter from time to time is necessary for the machine’s efficiency. A clogged air filter can hinder the engine’s normal combustion process that could cause the engine to malfunction and eventually seize.  

The Importance of Regular Air Filter Cleaning

Regularly cleaning your air filter plays a crucial role in maintaining its effectiveness. A clean air filter ensures the smooth functioning and longevity of your engine. It is advised to clean it at regular intervals so it doesn’t accumulate too much grime and dust, which can eventually clog it up.

• The Risks of Deep Cleaning

While it might be tempting to give your air filter a deep clean, it is strongly discouraged. This is because deep cleaning can over-compress the web-like structure of the filter, rendering it less effective at collecting grime and keeping your air fresh.

• Cleaning a Paper Air Filter Correctly

The recommended way to clean a paper air filter is by tapping it gently against the ground. This action is sufficient to dislodge the dirt from the inside. A more vigorous shake or hit might lead to damaging the finer parts of the filter, disrupting its functionality.

• Using an Air Gun For Further Cleaning

For extra precision, you can blow the filter from the reverse side using an air gun. This will help remove any remaining dust particles stuck deep inside the filter. This method is especially effective in making sure every nook and cranny is dust-free.

• Reinstall After Inspection

Once the cleaning is complete, inspect the filter for any tears or damages. If there are none, reinstall the clean filter. This will ensure that your equipment is functioning at its best capacity.

• Replacing a Soaked Paper Air Filter

The air filter serves as the lungs of your engine, and just like your lungs, the air filter should be kept clean and dry. If you find your paper air filter soaked in oil, it is recommended to replace it with a new one.

• When to Use Soap and Water

Cleaning a paper air filter with soap and water is generally not recommended. However, in certain circumstances, it may be necessary. If this is the case, remove the dirt and dust using a vacuum cleaner first. Then, use hot water and mild detergent to maximize its cleanliness.

• Foam Pre-Cleaner Filter Maintenance

If a foam pre-cleaner filter is part of your engine setup, it is advised to clean these thoroughly after every 25 hours of use. Regular maintenance ensures proper airflow and increases the lifespan of your engine.

• Saying Goodbye to Your Paper Air Filter

Typically, paper air filters should be changed at least once per season or after every 300 working hours. This is not a hard rule and exceptions can be made depending on the surrounding environment and filter conditions.

• Recognizing a Dirty Air Filter

Signs of a dirty air filter are not always easy to detect. However, notable indicators include oil dripping from the air filter shroud, strange engine noises, or the mower not working at all. The exhaust may also produce black smoke, while the engine may experience increased fuel consumption or poor performance.

• Cleaning and Maintenance

Properly cleaning and maintaining your air filter aids in the perfect functioning of your engine. Not only does it remove harmful particles from the air, but it also enhances the longevity of your engine.

For more extensive information about cleaning and maintaining your engine, you can visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s guide on regular maintenance tips.

Maintaining your air filter doesn’t have to be a chore. By making it a regular part of your engine’s maintenance routine, you are ensuring that your engine runs smoothly while also extending the life of your machine. It may seem trivial, but adopting this practice can yield significant long-term benefits.

Importance of Wearing Safety Gloves

Safety gloves are a must-have when cleaning the air filter. They will shield your hands from specks of dust, dirt, and unwanted debris that can irritate your skin or cause more serious injuries. They will provide the much-needed protection while working on this task.

• Preparing the Cleaning Solution

Before you start cleaning, you need to prepare your cleaning solution. Fill a wash basin or sink with warm water and add a small quantity of liquid dish detergent. A good ratio is enough warm water to submerge the filter and a few drops of the detergent.

• Oil Your Foam Air Filter

Once the filter is cleaned, oiling is the next step. Apply a generous dose of engine oil, mostly between 1 to 2 teaspoons, on the filter. This step is not just an arbitrary choice but rather an integral part of maintaining a functional air filter.

• Removing the Shroud Covering

The shroud is usually secured with screws or snap fittings. The appropriate tool (usually a screwdriver or a wrench) should be used to remove the parts. Always make sure to hold onto these tiny parts to prevent them from getting lost.

• Cleaning of Paper Air Filters

Paper air filters need to be tapped gently on a flat surface to remove the debris. Be sure not to press too hard, as these filters are delicate and can be easily damaged. Gentle taps should suffice.

• Inspect the Foam Air Filters

Crumbles and stains should be looked out for. These signs may signal that it’s time to replace instead of cleaning. Regular inspection is recommended to keep your mower in an optimal state.

• Drying the Foam Air Filter

After cleaning, the foam air filter should be thoroughly dried. You can use paper towels, cloth, or even your hands to squeeze out the excess water. This step is vital to ensure the optimum performance of the air filter.

• Importance of Proper Drying Before Oiling

Before oiling the foam air filter, it is crucial to ensure it is altogether dried. This is important as it prevents oil from dripping into the mower, which can cause severe mower malfunctions.

• Avoid Solvents

Solvents should not be used when cleaning the filter fitting. They contain harsh chemicals that can damage the filter element. Instead, use the earlier mentioned warm water and dish detergent method.

• Why Compressed Air Isn’t the Solution

Using compressed air for cleaning the air filter might seem like a good idea, but it isn’t. It can force debris into the mower’s carburetor, leading to potentially costly and complicated issues down the line.

• Proper Installation

When you are putting the mower back together, ensure the air filter is properly installed into the fitting. This will ensure a secure fit and prevent unwanted gaps. The Oregon State University Extension Service offers an excellent tutorial on the correct air filter installation, which can be found here.

• Signs of Incorrect Installation

If reassembling the shroud becomes unusually difficult, that might be your signal that the new filter element might not have been correctly installed. Always make sure everything fits snugly and easily into place.

• Reconnecting the Spark Plug

Finally, the spark plug wire should be reconnected before starting the mower. This is important to ensure that all systems are functioning as they should once the mower is powered back on. Using a mower with a disconnected spark plug can cause damage or malfunctions.

Regular Cleaning Extends Lifespan of Your Air Filter

Keeping your air filter clean is not merely a hygiene exercise; it’s a necessary routine to maintain the optimal air-fuel ratio for your engine.

Cleaning the filter regularly is key for sustained engine performance as it allows the filter to perform efficiently and lengthens its lifespan. You can find more pertinent details about this on the Environmental Protection Agency website.

• Potential Problems of a Dirty Air Filter

Negligence in cleaning the air filter can lead to several problems, such as reduced engine performance and increased fuel consumption. In extreme instances, a dirty filter can cause engine damage.

This is because the dirt blocks the pathways, restricting the flow of air, leading to increased pressure and potential damage.

• Cleaning a Foam Air Filter

Foam air filters are a tad bit dissimilar to regular paper filters; hence, their cleaning procedure is slightly different. Using the appropriate tools and following specific steps is crucial to clean it effectively.

• Importance of Thorough Drying Before Reinstallation

Once the cleaning is complete, it is essential to allow the filter to air-dry completely before reinstalling it. Installing a damp filter can lead to impairment of the engine’s performance and may even cause severe engine damage.

• Inspecting the Filter Before Reinstallation

A crucial step many overlook is inspecting the filter for any damage after cleaning and before reinstallation. A compromised filter can allow dust particles and debris to enter the engine, ultimately causing damage.

• Use of Correct Cleaning Solutions and Oils

Foam filters demand specific cleaning solutions and lubricants. Using the wrong products might depreciate the filter and diminish its efficiency, thereby reducing the overall performance of your engine.

• Mistakes to Avoid

A common mistake committed by many is confusing a paper filter with a foam filter. This can become problematic as both require different techniques for cleaning. Mishandling can lead to reduced effectiveness and, ultimately, a shorter lifespan.

• Cleaning Frequency

Each filter type and brand comes with a manufacturer’s guideline that specifies maintenance and replacement routines. It is crucial to follow these instructions to avoid untimely wear and tear.

• Advantages of Dual-Element Filters

Dual-element air filters are a step up from traditional filters. They boast multiple protective layers which enhance the filter’s efficiency and performance. Using a dual-element filter can provide additional benefits over regular filters.

• Consequences of a Clogged Air Filter

A clogged air filter can create engine misfires, decrease power, and increase emissions. In extreme instances, they may even trigger severe engine damage. Therefore, it is essential to keep an eye on your air filter’s health.

• Signs of a Dirty or Damaged Air Filter

Noticing certain signs can help you identify a dirty or damaged air filter. Telltale symptoms include reduced fuel mileage, engine misfires, and unusual engine sounds. These are loud calls for immediate maintenance.

• Importance of General Maintenance

Ranging beyond air filters, regular cleaning and maintenance of all engine components are equally important for performance and damage prevention. These practices can prolong the lifespan of your lawnmower and save you from unexpected repair expenses.

• Locating the Air Filter in Your Vehicle

In most vehicles, you can find the air filter positioned near the upper part of the engine. It’s usually protected by a shroud that could be made of either plastic or metal.

This location allows the air filter to play an integral role in safeguarding the engine against harmful air particles that can affect the performance of the vehicle. Here is a helpful resource to understand more about basic car parts from the Federal Trade Commission website.

• The Various Types of Air Filters

There is a diverse selection of air filters available to vehicle owners. These range from foam filters to paper filters.

  • Foam Filters: These are mainly used for off-road vehicles because of their superior ability to block dust and other debris. They are made from polyurethane foam, which is soaked in a sticky oil. The oil helps to trap particles, ensuring they do not enter the engine.
  • Paper Filters: These are the most commonly found air filters in most road vehicles. They are made from folded paper pleats and are usually encased within a plastic frame. They are effective at trapping dirt and dust particles, but they must be replaced frequently to ensure optimal engine performance.

• The Steps in Cleaning an Air Filter

Regular cleaning of the air filter is a crucial part of your vehicle’s maintenance routine. To effectively clean the air filter, you would need to follow these steps:

  1. Removing the Housing: Start by unscrewing the housing that covers the air filter. This housing is usually held in place with a couple of screws or clips.
  2. Clean the Filter: Once the housing is removed, you can now take off the filter. You can clean this using a mild detergent or hot water. Paper filters, on the other hand, cannot be cleaned and must instead be replaced when dirty.
  3. Application of Motor Oil: For foam filters, apply a light coating of motor oil after cleaning. This fortifies the filter’s defenses against dust and debris. This step doesn’t apply to paper filters.
  4. Assess the Rubber Gasket: Before reassembling, inspect the rubber gasket that seals the filter housing. This needs to be in good condition to ensure an airtight seal, which is vital for the overall performance of the filter.

• Importance of Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance of the air filter ensures its longevity and effectiveness in trapping dirt, dust, and other particles that might harm your engine. A poorly maintained air filter can lead to reduced gas mileage lower engine performance, and can even damage internal engine parts over time.

I recommend checking and cleaning or replacing your vehicle’s air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. However, if you drive in dusty or dirty conditions, you might need to do this more frequently.

Maintaining a clean and functional air filter is not just about improving vehicle performance and longevity, but it’s also about ensuring a healthier driving environment inside your vehicle.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that poor air quality can lead to a variety of health complications. Having a properly functioning air filter can help mitigate some of these risks for drivers and passengers alike by preventing harmful pollutants from entering the cabin through the vehicle’s ventilation system.

Determining Your Lawn Mower’s Air Filter Type

Identifying the type of air filter used in your lawn mower is paramount. It’s suggested to consult the user manual provided with your equipment. Manufacturers typically specify the appropriate air filter model suitable for each model in their manuals.

You may also find this information on manufacturer’s websites or on reputable .edu sites such as Wisconsin University’s “Small Engine Equipment Maintenance” guide.

• Types of Lawn Mower Air Filters

Lawnmower air filters essentially come in two types: disposable and reusable foam air filters.

– Disposable Foam Air Filters

As the name implies, disposable foam filters are designed for single use and should be replaced when they become dirty. Attempted cleaning or re-usage is not advisable because of their delicate structure.

– Reusable Foam Air Filters

On the other hand, reusable foam filters, albeit more cost-effective, require regular cleaning for the optimum performance of your lawn mower. A simple care routine for this type of filter involves rinsing it with water and gently cleaning it with liquid soap to rid it of any accumulated dirt and grease.

• Cleaning and Maintaining Reusable Foam Air Filters

Once cleaned, you’ll want to dry your foam filter with paper towels before leaving it out in the sun for at least an hour to ensure it’s completely dry.

Once the filter is dry, a small amount of motor oil should be applied to both sides. This helps the filter more effectively trap airborne dirt and dust particles. Take caution not to leave excessive oil on the filter; you can remove any extra oil by patting the filter with a paper towel.

• Dual Element Air Filters

Dual-element air filters are a distinct type that employs a combination of both foam and paper filters. You can clean the foam element using the same method previously mentioned.

• Cleaning Paper Filters in Dual Element Air Filters

The paper filter requires a bit more delicacy. A good technique is to lightly tap the paper filter against a wall or floor. This should dislodge most of the accumulated dirt and debris.

Any stubborn dirt can be identified by holding the filter up to a strong light source. You can then use a vacuum to clean off this remaining dirt.

One important reminder: paper filters can tear quite easily. Whenever you’re handling this part of the filter, use gentle care to avoid damage.

• Prepping for Air Filter Reinstallation

Before putting everything back together, you should also clean the air filter compartment. This can be a simple brush down to ensure that no residual dirt or debris interferes with the filter function.

You’ll again want to apply a bit of motor oil to the foam filter. Then, carefully place both filters back in the housing. During the placement, be sure the two filters are not touching each other.

Once the filters are correctly installed, the cover needs to be securely screwed back on. The last step is reconnecting the power cable or spark plug, and your lawn mower should be ready for action.

Taking care of your lawn mower’s air filter might seem tedious, but it is a necessary part of equipment maintenance. Neglecting air filter care could lead to decreased performance and even damage to your lawn mower. Hence, it’s better to spare some time for regular upkeep.

You’ll find that this routine maintenance not only extends the life of your mower, but also ensures that its performance remains optimal at all times.