Washable Filter vs Mesh: Which Is Better?

Does your air conditioning system need a filter change? Which one do you intend to buy? If you know anything about filters, then you have two choices – washable and mesh filters. But do you know the differences between them? And more importantly, do you understand the merits and demerits of each?

If not, here’s everything you need to know about washable and mesh filters:

Washable Filters

The first thing to know about washable filters is how they’re constructed and, in particular, from what materials they’re made. The first is fiberglass filters. Often blue and containing tightly-packed fiberglass fibers, they’re the cheapest, but less effective. Next, you have pleated filters made from folded polyester or cotton fabric, giving them an accordion look. The design traps smaller particles without restricting air flow. Finally, you have electrostatic filters. Made of different polyester blends encased in an aluminum mesh, they naturally generate an electrostatic charge, which traps particulate matter.


Washable fiberglass filters are inexpensive while the more effective pleated units cost slightly more. These make them good value for money. In addition, a regular wash extends their useful life to about three years, saving money that would’ve been used for replacements. And there’s more. Unlike metal filters, washable designs are lighter, so don’t be surprised to find a portable AC with washable filter. Also, these filters don’t corrode, making them better for humid environments.


Despite their popularity, fiberglass filters don’t filter pollen or mold, making them unsuitable for use by asthmatics and people sensitive to allergies. Also, all washable filters require frequent washing, usually about once every three months, to remain effective. But even with regular washing, their effectiveness and usability reduce with time.


Mesh Filters

Unlike washable filters made from fabric, mesh filters are made from layers of pleated and un-pleated aluminum wire encased in a steel or aluminum frame. The layer is effective at trapping both large and small particles. What’s more, some mesh filters include carbon for filtering abilities unmatched by even washable filters. For instance, besides particles, the carbon mesh also removes odors.


Are easier to maintain. As long as they don’t include carbon, all they require is a quick dip in soapy water and a quick rinse with a hose. And being made of metal, they last longer than their washable cousins, which are limited to a three-year lifespan. In addition, mesh filters work well as pre-filters when they’re placed in front of washable filters. Here, they stop large particles from reaching them, extending their useful life. Also, they provide better air quality without restricting air flow, compared to washable units.


Air conditioning units with mesh filters generate more noise those with washable materials. Also, they corrode in humid environments, especially if they’re left there for long. For this reason, they must be dried well after each cleaning to get rid of residual moisture. Lastly, their dimension, weight, and cost often exceed that of their washable cousins.

Both washable and mesh filters get the job done. So, before settling on one, first consider your needs, including efficiency, durability, and level of maintenance. Then, buy a unit matching these needs.

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