How To Clean Lawn Mower Paper Air Filter

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Lawn mower engines use one of three types of small engine air filters: foam, paper, or dual element (featuring both paper and foam) to keep dirt and debris away from the engine.

This they do by trapping the airborne particles to ensure that muck doesn’t find its way into the combustion chamber, clogging it and subsequently messing the engine’s performances.

However, the air filter must be regularly cleaned for it to continue offering this vital defense against the dirt and debris in the air being drawn into the engine.

This article looks at how to clean lawn mower paper air filter to keep your mower running smoothly throughout the grass-cutting season.

How to Clean Lawn Mower Paper Air Filter

We are assuming that you have checked your owner’s manual and confirmed that your lawn mower model is equipped with a paper filter for this procedure.

Something else: Before I show you how to clean lawn mower paper air filter, there are a few things you need to know.

  1. A significant number of manufacturers don’t recommend that you clean a paper air filter for the following reasons:
  2. First, these types of filters are quite fragile and you may hurt the cell structure opening an avenue for dirt to enter the engine.
  3. Then, there’s no guarantee that the filter will remain effective in catching dust particles and other elements after cleaning – they have a set service life after which it’s recommended you replace it.
  4. Finally, paper air filters cost just a couple of bucks.
  5. If you must clean it- perhaps you can’t find a good replacement – you should use dry methods (obviously, water and other liquid will ruin the paper!).

This brings me to the method that most people suggest as the way to go: using compressed air to clean paper air filter.

Well, friend, we strongly advise against the use of compressed air for this chore.

Keep reading to find out why…

Why you shouldn’t use compressed air to clean paper air filter  

Okay, we understand that some purely rely on compressed air to clean dirty filters but take it from us: blowing air through the filter supposedly to clear filth should be the last thing you attempt.

Here is what makes this is a terrible idea:

  • Even if the filter is made of special paper media, it’s still a paper meaning that blowing it could end up opening up its teeny-tiny holes, creating a free pass for fine dust particles in the process.
  • Shooting compressed air in there gets rid of the bigger chunks of dirt for the most part and the finer pores in between the pleats are not that easy to remove.

Sure, some say your filter will be fine if you use measured pressure but overall, it pretty messy and there is a real danger of tearing the filter

So, which way now?

Don’t panic: there are two great techniques you can employ for this crucial maintenance task.

We look at them below..

How to Clean Lawn Mower Paper Air Filter – best methods and the applicable steps

Method 1: Use a vacuum cleaner to clean your paper air filter

Perhaps the best way to clean a paper air filter without damaging the element is vacuuming the component.

In fact, vacuuming almost always brings maximum gains in airflow and is safer than most other methods out there.



  1. Switch the lawn mower off.
  2. Disconnect the spark plug (pull off the wire going to the spark plug).
  3. Unscrew the nut securing the air filter’s housing and proceed to remove the housing.
  4. Now lift the paper air filter out.

Cleaning the filter:

This is where it gets interesting.

  1. Tap the filter against a wall or any other nearby firm surface severally until all the dirt that can be shaken off is gone.
  2. Whip out your vacuum cleaner and fix a hose attachment.
  3. Vacuum the filter to clean all the remaining contaminants. Vacuum from both the inside and outside the component for around one minute. 
  4. Check if you may have missed some spots by inspecting the filter under some bright light and vacuum those areas.
  5. Replace the filter and the housing and tighten the nut. 


Don’t tap out the filter too aggressively as this may break the glued seams.

Method 2: How to clean a dualelement filter 

In dual air filters, the foam portion operates as a pre-cleaner with the paper element blocking particles that escape the foam.

Step-by-step guide


  1. Stop the mower’s engine.
  2. Disconnect the spark plug as explained earlier.
  3. Remove the air filter housing/cover (be sure to remove any holding screw).
  4. Slide the foam filter off the paper cartridge.

Cleaning the filter:

  • Clean the paper filter by tapping it on a firm surface.
  • To clean the foam filter, first wash it with grease cutting dish soap.
  • Next, dry the water on the filter using a paper towel.
  • Now you need to oil the foam filter (Some foam filters need to be oiled to help catch the dirt). Simply dip it in quality motor oil and ensure that you have evenly worked the oil into the filter.
  • Next, wipe away excess oil again with a paper towel.
  • Reinstall the pre-cleaner, the paper filter, and the cover.
  • Retighten nut(s) securely.


Consult your owners manual before oiling the foam filter to confirm if your model calls for oil- some don’t need to be oiled.

If your foam filter is to be oiled, insert in a way that the paper won’t come into contact with the oil.

Air filters provide important protection for your mower’s engine and helps prolong its life.

Try to replace the paper air filter after the expiry of the operating hours indicated in the owners manual – the standard is after 300 hours- for continued protection and peace of mind.

However, if you must clean it, use a vacuum cleaner instead of compressed air because of the issues we have highlighted above.

That said, you should not clean torn or soiled paper filters- just replace it.

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