How to Clean a Dirt Bike Air Filter to Get the BEST BIKE PERFORMANCE

Learn How to Clean your Dirt Bike's Air Filter to maintain your vehicle and PROLONG ITS LIFE! See our tips and step by step guide here.

The air filter on your dirt bike is there to maintain your engine and hopefully add to the longevity of your vehicle. Much like all other filters, a dirt bike air filter prevents sand, dirt, and small debris from lodging themselves in your engine. As you can imagine, a dirty air filter will not do the job right. It will inhibit airflow to your engine and cause it to overheat easily.

Although it doesn’t always need to be cleaned after every ride, regular maintenance is vital to the overall performance of your bike. Luckily, it can be done on your own at no extra cost. However, it’s not a fun job.


Look under your seat or on the side of your dirt bike. The air filter should be located there. There are three types of air filters on a dirt bike, a foam filter, a paper filter, or a cotton one. 

Since the material is different, the cleaning method and solution used are also different.

A paper filter is relatively easier compared to the foam option and can be cleaned with household cleaning agents and water. Paper is significantly flimsier than foam, so avoid rough brushes and harsh scrubbing. After scrubbing, make sure you air dry. 

For foam filters, you have your work cut out for you. First off, hand wash the filter and remove all debris and blockages. It could be a pretty gross job, so make sure you wear gloves. Use a mild cleaning solution and fill a bucket with water. Hand washes the filter in the bucket of solution without violent rubbing and scrubbing.

Cotton filters have a higher price point because they are simply better. They allow for more airflow and last much longer than the previous two. With proper maintenance, you won’t need to purchase a filter again.

The annoying part about cotton filters is they require higher-end or special cleaning fluids and oils. So instead of using what you have around your house, you need to buy ones specifically designed for them. To make things easy, there are full cotton filter cleaning kits online. 

Oiling your filter could make cleaning easier and protect the filter.

While washing your filter, you should monitor its condition. Look for any holes or tears in the lining. Do not, we repeat DO NOT use a broken air filter. Paper filters will need to be replaced more often than foam or cotton. You will basically mess up and break your engine immediately after your first ride if you do.

It’s cheap to do replace, many of the paper filters don’t exceed 30 dollars. While it’s not necessary to replace your filter if it’s not damaged, don’t get lazy and skip the whole process of cleaning and replace it every once in a while.

Step by Step

  1. The first thing you should do is remove the air filter. While you do this, you need to be careful not to let any dirt or grime fall into the air intake. Remove the filter slowly or cup it with a towel while doing so. A good idea is to cover the air intake with something during this process.
  2. There are filter cleaners on the market you can buy, such as the highly recommended No Toil oil. It’s biodegradable and meant to clean filters. If you’ve used oil before, the debris could be easily rinsed off with warm water.
  3. After you have cleared the filter of all accumulated gunk, you can now dry it. First, wring out the excess water as you would a towel (but carefully), and let it air dry.
  4. While you are waiting for it to dry, you can clean other areas of your dirt bike, namely the airbox (housing). If there is still lingering dirt after you’ve cleaned your filter, it’s going to get dirty again once you place it back into the airbox.
  5. The next part is reapplying oil on the clean filter. It should be done on a completely dry filter and done evenly. A great way to do that is to use a plastic bag or gloves.
  6. Tossing the filter around in a plastic bag full of oil will help coat it evenly and keep the mess contained. Once you take it out, make sure there are no blotches of oil and smooth it all out before allowing it to dry.

Before placing the filter back in the airbox, grease the rim to ensure a good fit.

After fitting it securely back in, feel around the perimeter of the filter to make sure it’s sealed tightly. Once you’re sure it’s securely sealed, screw it back in.

How Often Should I Clean

As often as you can.

My Dirt Bike Air Filter?

If you’re just learning how to ride a dirt bike, it’s also a good time to learn how to clean it and its air filter.

You aren’t able to see all the gross particles that are embedded in the filter. The naked eye just simply isn’t powerful enough, so it never looks as dirty as it really is.

If you want to maintain the performance of your engine and the longevity of your dirt bike, you will clean it as often as possible.

If you’re riding on a regular road, then you can probably skip the cleaning until next time. If you’ve just come back from a ride over sand dunes and mud, we’d suggest cleaning it right after. You would want to clean immediately too, after doing wheelies on your dirt bike.

Take care of the air filter the way it takes care of your engine.


Don’t rush the process and take your time. Make sure you get in there and you carefully and slowly clean and check your filter. If you have a paper or maybe even a foam filter, think about stocking up maybe 2 or 3 backups so you can have them ready on hand in case your old filter needs to be replaced.

There are many air filter cleaning kits available online, and if you have a cotton filter you might actually need to purchase one. Remember, it isn’t just the exterior of your bike that you need to clean. Never get lazy and always take care of your air filter!

Want to ride your dirt bikes on the streets? Read our review of top-rated street legal dirt bikes and you might find one for you.

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