Homeowner Helpers: Why cleaning your range hood filter is important

Your range hood is one of those things in your home that’s easy to ignore; sure, you turn the fan on when you’re coking something steamy or greasy, and maybe give it a wipe every now and then, but cleaning it — and especially cleaning your range hood filter — who ever thinks of that?

You should. Your range hood and that filter is your first line of defence against everything your stove dishes out. It captures grease and food particles released while you’re cooking to help keep your indoor air clean and free of toxins.

And while many range hoods will vent the smoke, steam and odour-filled air outside, some vent back into the room, making it doubly important for that air to be filtered and cleaned first.

But if your filter is clogged, your range hood can’t do its job properly, leading to lingering odours, excess moisture, bacteria buildup and even attracting pests like fruit flies and cockroaches, which thrive on the greasy “meals” dirty filters offer. It’s even a potential fire hazard.

cleaning your range hood filter mesh aluminum filterTypes of filters

The most common filter is a reusable metal one. Often made of mesh or baffled aluminum or stainless steel, these filters are meant to be quickly and easily removed for regular cleaning.

Other types of filters include fabric grease filters and charcoal filters, neither of which can be cleaned. Fabric filters absorb fumes and grease much like a sponge, while charcoal filters, primarily used in range hoods that do not vent outside, are used to eliminate odour and smoke. How often they must be replaced depends on how often you cook, but typically you can expect to replace them every 3-4 months.

cleaning your range hood filter over the range microwave two-tone kitchen

Over-the-range microwave hood vents typically do not have reusable filters. Photo: eQ Homes, Pandora model

Cleaning your range hood filter

If you’re regularly cleaning your filter — meaning every month, or even every week if you cook a lot — generally just popping it in the dishwasher will do the trick. Make sure that your filter is one that can go in the dishwasher first. If so, simply remembering to toss it in either whenever there’s room or on a set day every week is sufficient.

Don’t have a dishwasher or got a filter that can’t go in one? No problem, there are other cleaning options.

The simplest is to add 1-2 tablespoons of degreasing dish soap plus ¼-½ cup of baking soda to recently boiled water in either your sink or a heat resistant pan big enough to fit your filter. (You want the water as hot as possible, but not boiling or the mixture will bubble up excessively.)

Mix well, then submerge your filter in the mixture and let it soak for at least 10 minutes to break down most of the grease. Remove any remaining grease and film with a non-abrasive scrub brush (an old toothbrush works well). Rinse well, then let the filter dry completely before reinstalling.

Most filters will detach from the range hood quite easily, but there are some that need to be unscrewed.

A deeper cleaning

If you’re like most of us and have never thought to clean your filter, it may need more of a deep cleaning than either the dishwasher alone or the dish soap and baking soda method can provide.

cleaning your range hood filter

Detail of a project by OakWood.

For a no-scrub option, you can soak your filter for the day in a sealed container with ammonia in it, rinse thoroughly and dry. But if you don’t want to use ammonia (it does smell awful, after all) or ammonia is not recommended for your filter, try this, which requires some scrubbing:

Add 2 cups of white vinegar and a few drops of dish soap to 4 litres of recently boiled water and soak your filter for at least 30 minutes. Remove and scrub thoroughly with that old toothbrush, rinse well and let dry before reinstalling.

Remember the hood

While your filter is being cleaned, don’t forget to wipe down the range hood itself. A wet non-abrasive cloth may be enough, but if there is any grease build-up, spray some mild degreaser onto your cloth or a paper towel to remove. If you prefer a non-chemical option, often baking soda on your cloth will work.

Once your filter has had a deep cleaning, weekly or monthly cleaning becomes much easier, allowing your range hood to work better at reducing cooking odours, keeping grease from building up on your kitchen surfaces and letting you breathe easier.

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