If you’re like most homeowners, the answer to that question might be never. If it’s been longer than a couple of months since you cleaned the filter in your range hood, you need to do it, and keep doing it every other month.
A dirty range hood filter can create a warm, greasy breeding ground for bacteria and mold, and it can even be a fire hazard if flames from a range fire reach high enough to ignite the residue trapped in your dirty filter.
Even without the health hazards, a dirty range hood filter simply can’t do its job of filtering grease, smoke, and fumes out of your kitchen. Fortunately, it’s not hard to clean the filter — it just takes a little elbow grease. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to stick it in the dishwasher.
It’s usually pretty easy to remove a range hood filter for cleaning. Some filters pop up and out. Others have a T-lock or a fastener that you move to one side. If you can’t figure out how to get the filter out, consult your owner’s manual.
Some kinds of range hood filters can’t be cleaned, but need to be replaced.
Fabric and charcoal filters are among these, but aluminum or stainless steel filters can be cleaned. If you have a fabric or charcoal filter, you should replace it every three to four months. A stainless steel or aluminum filter should be cleaned every other month.
If you’re wondering how to clean a range hood filter, you should start with good, old-fashioned soap and water.
If you have a reusable filter, fill up your sink or a large bucket with hot, soapy water. Use a good, degreasing dishwashing liquid, like Dawn.
Get that water as hot as you can — boiling water would be ideal for soaking your dirty range hood filter. Add ¼ cup of baking soda and a hearty squirt of degreasing soap to the hot water. Submerge the dirty filter in the hot, soapy water completely and let it soak for at least 10 minutes.
You can let it soak a little longer if you need to, especially if you started with boiling water and need to let it cool off a little more before sticking your hands in.
Once the filter has soaked for a while in the hot, soapy water, you should be able to scrub the filter clean with a non-abrasive scrub brush. You might need to use some elbow grease to get all the residue off.
If you need to, you can replace the filter in the hot, soapy water and let it soak for longer. If your range hood filter is very dirty — as it would be if you’ve never cleaned it — you can add a commercial degreaser to the water.
You need to clean your range hood filter every two months. Lots of homeowners clean it once or try to clean it and feel so overwhelmed by the enormity of the task that it doesn’t get done again for years. Don’t fall into that trap.
If you stay on top of it, cleaning your range hood filter every two months shouldn’t be too difficult, even if you cook every night.
You probably don’t even need to scrub it by hand more than once — most range hood filters are dishwasher safe, but your dishwasher won’t be able to handle months’ or years’ worth of accumulated grease and grime. Make sure the filter in your range hood is dishwasher safe before you put it in the dishwasher, but once you’ve scrubbed it the first time, you should be able to stick it in the dishwasher for subsequent cleanings.
Cleaning your range hood filter is one of those dirty jobs that you just have to do if you want your kitchen to stay clean and safe.
Fortunately, once you’ve soaked your dirty filter in hot water and soap, the rest is mostly a matter of elbow grease — and once you’ve got it up to a certain standard of clean, you can just stick it in the dishwasher every couple of months. It couldn’t be easier to keep dangerous fumes and grease out of your kitchen.