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How to Clean Range Hood Filters - 5 DIY Methods

Updated on February 8, 2017
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Brandon has been working with range hoods on and off for the past 4 years and writes about them to help people make wise decisions.

5 Reasons to Clean Your Range Hood Filters

Even though it may not seem like the best way to spend your time, you're going to want to make sure that your range hood filters are maintained well. Top manufacturers such as Broan recommend that you clean the filters at least once a month.

That's definitely a lot of cleaning if you're like every regular homeowner. Most people have never cleaned their filters in years, some even a decade. But, being a self-proclaimed expert on range hoods, I must second what the guys at Broan are telling you. Consistent cleaning of your filters is necessary for the following reasons:

  1. Improved power efficiency.
  2. Longer life of the blower.
  3. Effective grease and smoke removal.
  4. Easier cleaning.
  5. Safety.

Regular Cleaning Makes Things Simple

After & before cleaning using just soapy water and ammonia.
After & before cleaning using just soapy water and ammonia. | Source

Can All Filters Be Cleaned?

There are basically three kinds of filters on most range hoods:

  • Fabric grease filters
  • Metallic grease filters
  • Charcoal filters

Grease filters as the name suggests have a sole purpose of filtering out oil fumes and grease. They are present in all range hoods with the exceptional of a few models in the past.

Fabric grease filters work by absorbing the fumes and grease (much like a sponge) and cannot be cleaned but need to be replaced.

Metallic grease filters can and must be cleaned often. They are usually aluminum or in some cases stainless steel. They would be either mesh filters or baffle filters and are usually visible at the base of your range hood.

Charcoal filters are only going to be present in ductless models as their main purpose is the elimination of odor and smoke. This is only a necessary step if you're recirculating the air back into your kitchen. These filters must not and cannot be cleaned. Instead, they need to be replaced every 3-4 months, depending on how often and what kind of dishes you prepare.

How to Clean a Range Hood Filter in 7 Simple Steps

It may seem like a long process, but depending on how dirty your range hood filters are and the method you choose to follow, the total time could be anywhere up to an hour, whereas the actual cleaning time would be below 15 minutes.

  1. Detach the metallic grease filter(s)
  2. Place the filter in a large pan/sink
  3. Prepare the cleaning solution
  4. Immerse the filters in the solution
  5. Brush to remove the grease easily
  6. Let them air dry
  7. Insert them back into the range hood

When Did You Last Clean Your Filters?

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Detaching the Filter to Be Cleaned

This is going to vary based on your model. However, in all models, the filters are very easy to detach. But before you start fidgeting and trying to figure out how to separate it from the rest of your hood, make sure that you switch off the appliance.

Spend a moment to take a look at the overall setup of the range hood. Are your metallic filters clearly visible or are they mostly hidden? The first step is to make sure that you have a clear view of the filters. Remove any protective plastic or metallic casing that surrounds the base of your hood using a screwdriver. In 95% of the cases, there isn't going to be any protective casing.

Once you have a clear view of the filters, you're going to want to find out how they are connected to the rest of the appliance. You would notice either one of the following:

  • Screws hold them in place and they need to be unscrewed.
  • A T-Lock or similar mechanism holds them in place.
  • A metal/plastic fastener that needs to be rotated to the side. (Video below)
  • Easy to operate latch mechanism where you press on the lever and raise to detach. (Video below)
  • Rim supports where you just need to push up and rotate to set the filter free.

Fortunately, the most difficult type of attachment that you're going to come across is one with a combination of a support and a fastener. The only reason I say it's difficult is because there are models where the rotating flap is placed at such an awkward position, you're going to find it difficult to get your fingers in place. Instead, you may have to use a spoon or a screwdriver to rotate it.

Detaching One with a Metal/Plastic Fastener

The most popular locking mechanism among modern range hoods is the latch. This is by far the easiest to detatch and reassemble. Check out the video below, to know how.

Detaching One with a Latch

Preparing the Cleaning Solution & Cleaning the Filters

We're now going to be covering step 3 to step 5 of the cleaning process. There will be no clear distinction between the steps as each of the five methods stands on its own and may skip certain steps.

Note: I will be proceeding with the most effective cleaning method to the least effective. This is done to save reading time and you would only proceed to another method if you're out of stock on certain supplies and/or prefer another method due to simplicity.

Method 1: Using Dishwasher Detergent

Rather than using dish soap or a grease remover, you're going to be using dishwasher detergent to get the job done.

  1. Wet the filter with a blast hose or under the tap (preferably with hot water as this gets rid of some grease).
  2. Place the wet filter in a pan or a sink (which is going to remain free for the next hour).
  3. Generously apply and spread dishwasher detergent all around the filter, including the metal rim if you want it to be completely clean. Leave no surface untouched.
  4. Let the filter sit for one hour.
  5. Place it in a sink under hot water and wash off the detergent along with the grease.
  6. Apply more detergent and scrub using a brush to remove any small traces of grease in the corners.
  7. For extremely greasy filters you may have to repeat the process and let it sit for another hour.

Method 2: Using a Degreaser

There's a lot of scrubbing involved in this method when compared to the first. It may not be as effective, but the filters do get clean nonetheless.

  1. Find a cooking pot that is large enough to hold the grease filter.
  2. Fill it up with water so that the filter can be completely submerged (do not place the filter in the pot, yet).
  3. Heat the water, but not enough to boil. Spray a lot of degreaser into this water. Around 20 sprays if there's a lot of grease that needs to be removed.
  4. Place the filter and make sure that it is submerged. Do not let your bare hands touch this mixture as it is slightly acidic.
  5. Leave the filter in the solution for 30 minutes up to an hour.
  6. Remove the filter using tongs and place it in the sink and scrub hard on both sides.

Method 3: Vinegar and Baking Soda Solution

As an alternative to method 2, you could also use a combination of vinegar and baking soda to get the job done.

  1. Find a pot large enough for the filter and sufficiently fill it up with water.
  2. Bring the water to boil.
  3. Once boiling add 3 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of baking soda to the solution, one after another. Add the baking soda in slowly and not all in one go.
  4. Place the filter and let it stay for 30 minutes to an hour.
  5. Remove the filter using tongs and place it in the sink and scrub hard on both sides.

Comparison: Method 2 vs. Method 3

Method 4: Hot Soapy Water + Ammonia

If you've been following your cleaning schedule and cleaning every other month, this simple method using just soapy water and ammonia (not always necessary) is all you're going to need.

  1. Block the kitchen sink and add water + dish soap. You may also want to add some ammonia to make the job easier.
  2. Mix the solution and then place the filter in.
  3. Use a brush and scrub on the filter.

Cleaning a Range Hood Filter - the Broan NuTone Way

Method 5: Placing in the Dishwasher

Most modern day range hoods come with dishwasher friendly aluminum or stainless steel grease filters. You're going to need to look at the product specifications to find out if the filters are dishwasher friendly, alternatively, you could look up reviews of the product or contact customer support.

If your filters are dishwasher friendly, you should, by all means, make sure that you clean it every other month. Because, if you do this consistently, you're not going to have to worry about scrubbing and using special solutions to clean them.

However, if you've failed to regularly clean them, your filters may have accumulated a lot of grease and dirt. In this case, just placing them in the dishwasher is not going to do much. You will instead have to follow one of the first three methods explained above.

Air Drying and Reattachment

Since the filters are metallic, I would not recommend using a blow dryer as this could in unfortunate cases lead to electric shocks. Therefore, the best thing that you could do is allow them to dry in time. Before you set them back in place, make sure that they are completely dry as you don't want the wiring of the range hood getting wet by any chance.

Dirty Range Hoods Can Be Dangerous

A dirty range hood doesn't just damage the range hood and increase your electricity bill, it's also a health and fire hazard.

Health Hazards

A dirty range hood is greasy, slimy and warm. This is an environment where some pathogens (bacteria and the like) thrive. Also, the small food particles that are carried along with the fumes and settle on the filters help feed the growing bacteria.

Fire Hazards

The oil and grease deposits on your range hood, just above your cooktop are a fire hazard waiting to happen. It's not common that fires are caused this way, but there have been a few cases where uncontrolled flames on the stove have risen and ignited residues on the range hood filter.

Cleaning the Area Around the Filter

There are bound to be oil and grease deposits on certain parts of the range hood which are immediately above the cooktop and also around the grease filters. These areas can easily be cleaned using a mild degreaser.

All you need to do is use a napkin, spray some degreaser and wipe away. Make sure that you read the instructions before you spray, as some of them are concentrated and you need to mix with water before use.

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