How to Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter

In Brief: How to Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter

Remove the protective cover on the top of the mower to gain access to the air filters. There may be both a foam filter and a paper filter. Remove both. Wash the foam filter with diluted liquid soap and water. Brush the paper filter gently or shake off the loose dirt. If either filter is damage, replace it instead.

Is your lawn mower running poorly? The small engine on a mower can be impacted by many things, but one of the most common problems is a dirty air filter.

If your mower is more sluggish than usual, it may be time to learn how to clean lawn mower air filter systems.

When the air filters on a mower are dirty, less air is allowed through to the carburetor.

This messes with the mixture of fuel and air sent to the engine, causing the mower to stutter or faulter. Dirty filters are a source of strain on your mower engine, reducing its efficiency and power.

Luckily, cleaning air filters is an easy fix. You can do it at home in a few minutes, even if you have limited mechanical knowledge.

How to Clean Lawn Mower Air Filter: Detailed Answer

Clean your lawn mower air filter in these four simple steps.

  1. Step 1: Accessing the Air Filters

    Before you work on the air filters on your mower, move it to a flat, clean area. You need a clean space, so the filters won’t get any dirtier while you work on them.

    Air filters are located at the top of the mower. Most lawn mowers have two air filters underneath a cover. To access them, you need to unscrew the cover and remove it from the mower.

    The filters should be in view. Check to see if there are two filters or just one. Wipe the rubber seals from around the filters with a clean rag and remove them.

  2. Step 2: Cleaning the Pre-Filter

    The first filter on top is a foam pre-filter. While new lawn mowers usually have this filter, some older models may not. Pre-filters need to be washed at least once per year, or twice annually if you use your mower more regularly.

    Remove the foam pre-filter and inspect it. If it’s damaged, it needs to be replaced. If it’s undamaged, proceed to cleaning.

    To clean a foam filter, use warm water with a little bit of liquid soap. Take a soft brush and rub the filter, or use your hands to gently rub away the dirt. Allow the filter to dry fully.

    When foam pre-filters are too dirty to clean, they may need to be replaced. If after cleaning the filter it still looks dirty, replace it.

    If recommended by the manufacturer, put a light layer of mower oil on the foam filter after it dries. Squeeze out any excess oil. The oil helps the filter to catch smaller dirt particles more effectively.

  3. Step 3: Cleaning or Replacing the Paper Filter

    With the foam filter out, you should be able to see the paper filter. Take it out of the mower and inspect it. Just like the foam filter, if the paper filter is damaged, it should be replaced rather than cleaned. A broken filter will allow debris through even if it’s clean.

    To clean the paper filter, take a dry rag or soft brush and gently rub away the dirt. Do not use a wet instrument or your hands to clean a paper filter, because you could accidentally rip it.

    Brush the filter until it looks visibly clean. You may not be able to remove all the dirt. Remove as much as possible, then set the filter aside.

    If the filter is still dirty after cleaning, you may need to replace it. An easy way to check is to hold the filter up to a light. A good filter will allow a significant amount of light through while a filter that needs replacing will block most of the light.

    Note: You can use gasoline to clean a paper filter if necessary. Allow the gas to evaporate fully as it dries. However, this method should only be used a temporary measure until you can replace the filter, as it can cause damage.

  4. Step 4: Reassembling the Mower

    Wipe down the area where the filters sit. It’s important to remove the dirt in the filter housings to avoid making them dirty again right after cleaning.

    When the foam pre-filter is dry, put the mower back together in reverse of how you disassembled it. Reattach the paper filter, then the foam pre-filter. Replace the cover and secure it.

    Watch a lawn mower filter cleaning in action:


Anyone can learn how to clean lawn mower air filter systems. It’s a simple way to keep your engine running efficiently throughout the mowing season and to extend the life of your mower. With a little bit of time, a soft brush, and warm soapy water, you can start immediately.

Do you have questions about cleaning the air filters on a lawn mower? Leave a comment below.

About Joseph Carter

Joseph is DIYer with a passion for building. He is an experienced writer on tools and design and contributes to his ideas on various platforms.

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