Your home air filter is perhaps one of the most important parts of your HVAC system. So many of the issues that could cause your system to slow down or stop working entirely can be attributed, at least partially, to an old or clogged air filter, so regularly changing your filter is an important part of your home’s HVAC maintenance. However, once you change your air filter, your old furnace air filter may release dirt and debris back into the air in your home, which could lessen your indoor air quality. So… how should you properly dispose of an old air filter? Air filters have the benefit of being disposable in your regular trash, but what can you do to prevent all of the airborne debris trapped in the filter from escaping again as soon as you move it? Here are a few disposal tips you can follow.

Don’t Shake a Dirty Air Filter

Air filters can appear to be dirty, but what you see may only be a small visible portion of the dirt and debris one of these filters contain. Most of this debris and dirt can be rather easily unsettled, particularly if you shake the air filter or bang it against something. Do not even consider doing this. You may also be releasing a number of microscopic particles into the air, including bacteria, viruses, mold spores, and other things that could have been trapped in the filter up until that point. Do yourself a favor: quickly put your old filter into a plastic trash bag and avoid any sudden movements with the old filter until the bag has been properly and completely sealed shut with duct tape. 

Dispose of Old Air Filters in an Outside Trash Can

Tying the drawstrings on a trash bag shut is one way to close off the majority of the opening to your bag, but it still isn’t going to completely seal the bag up and lock all of the debris inside with the old filter. Go the extra mile and use duct tape to seal your old air filter in the plastic bag. Tape not only sticks to the plastic your bag is made from, but also grabs hold of a lot of the dust or debris that may be trying to escape and holds it in place. Don’t dispose of your old home air filter indoors; immediately take it to your outside trash can and toss it there instead. While you may be using the plastic bag to seal the dust and debris from your filter inside, trash bags can puncture or accidentally have holes poked in them. Even a small hole can allow some of that dust and debris back into your air. Once you have replaced the old filter with the new air filter, immediately bring the old filter out to your trash can and throw it away there.

Never Leave Your HVAC System Without a Filter

Although this should go without saying, sometimes we run into homeowners who don’t understand this, and it causes issues. It is strongly recommended to always shut off your air conditioner or heater completely when replacing your air filter to ensure no un-filtered air is forced through the system. Debris and dust that get into your HVAC system while your air filter is removed can cause all sorts of havoc to your HVAC equipment. Rather than leaving your system unprotected, replace your filter with a new one right away to ensure your air intake vent remains completely protected at all times.