How to Clean Reusable Motorcycle Air Filters 

Powersports vehicle air filters come in several different types, some which are reusable like foam and fabric, and others like paper, which should be discarded after one use.

On a lot of factory OEM motorcycles, ATVs and side-by-sides, you'll find a paper type element air filter. And while these filters get the job done, once they become encrusted with dirt and debris, you can try to use compressed air to blow out the contaminants built up inside, but it's not recommended. 

Dirty motorcycle air filter

These paper type air filters should really be replaced altogether, and not cleaned and reused once they’re heavily impacted with dirt and debris that can get past the filter and into the engine.

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Foam and Fabric Air Filters

On some powersports machines, you may find a foam type air filter that can be cleaned, oiled and then re-installed. 

Foam motorcycle air filter

Some aftermarket manufacturers make a fabric type air filter that looks similar to a paper filter, but it can actually be cleaned and reused. Whether it’s a foam or fabric air filter, both can be cleaned with the same type of cleaner (but treated with a different type of oil). 

Foam and fabric air filters

How to Clean Foam and Fabric Air Filters

Some aftermarket air filter cleaners can be used to clean both fabric and foam filters, and they’re basically applied the same way. For both foam and fabric air filters, you basically spray the filter down and then let the cleaner sit. 

Reusable fabric air filter cleaning

The difference in the cleaning method is that with the foam filter, you want to roll the cleaner into the foam to make sure it penetrates it all the way.

PRO TIP: Inspect foam filters to make sure there are no tears, because one drawback to these filters is they start to break down and get brittle. If you ignore it, broken down air filter pieces can get pulled into your vehicle's engine. Make sure to inspect the foam air filter before and then during cleaning as you’re working the formula in.

Torn foam ATV air filter

Once the foam or fabric filter is saturated with formula, let it sit for several minutes, then use regular tap water to rinse out the cleaner and remove all the debris that it pulled out of the filter. 

Reusable foam air filter washing

NOTE: No matter which type of air filter it is, once you've washed it out, it needs to sit for at least 24 hours so it can completely dry before you go through the oiling procedure.

How to Oil Foam and Fabric Air Filters

For the foam type air filters, use a designated foam filter oil to spray both the inside and the outside of the filter lightly, then massage it into the foam and you’re done. 

Foam air filter oiling

For a reusable fabric air filter, use only a designated fabric filter oil to spray both the inside and outside of the filter. Simply apply an even light coat of the fabric filter oil and it’s ready to go.

Fabric air filter oiling

Don’t Clean and Reuse Paper Air Filters

As already mentioned (but can’t be reiterated enough), don’t attempt to clean and reuse paper air filters. If your powersports machine has a paper air filter in it, under no circumstances should you try to use any type of chemicals to clean, oil and reinstall it because all that’ll do is make the filter even more unusable. 

Paper motorcycle air filter

Either discard the old paper air filter and replace it with a new one of the same kind, or consider upgrading to a more powerful, high-flow reusable air filter like those made by K&N



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