Plenty of household upkeep duties are downright gross. Peeling out the old air filter and replacing it is certainly one of them, especially when said air filter is an unexpectedly dark gray or black color. Here are some of the most common causes of an air filter turning black that you need to know.

Frequently Burning Scented Candles

One of the most common reasons for a black air filter is also the easiest issue to solve. Burning scented candles often produces enough soot to change the color of your air filter. The easiest way to prevent this (without giving up your candles) is to keep the wicks trimmed. Wicks left at over one-fourth of an inch long provide more area for the flame to burn and produce more soot.

Though the soot from candles is unlikely to cause any significant health problems, it’s best to replace an air filter more often if you frequently burn candles. Keeping the air filter clean allows it to catch more soot particles and improves your home’s air quality.

Using Gas Appliances

When you turn on your gas appliances, you want to see a blue flame. This color indicates your appliance is operating efficiently and as intended. The result of a well-running gas appliance is that it puts out less soot.

If you notice your pilot lights are burning orange or yellow, it’s wise to consider repairs or replacements for your appliance. When you’re speaking with a plumber about replacing a gas water heater, keep air quality in mind as they present you with your replacement options.

Dirty, Dusty, and Moldy Air

A common cause of an air filter turning black that’s worth acting on is mold and dirt buildup. Homeowners in states that see a lot of humidity know mold is especially fond of growing in HVAC vents. If the leakage and air filter clogging is bad enough, it can cause your HVAC to fail entirely. Once you see mold or excessive dirty buildup on or behind your air filter, it’s time to call in a professional. Sometimes the extra dirt can’t be helped, especially in households with pets. However, if mold is the issue, addressing the moisture source and removing the mold today will help your family breathe easier tomorrow.

The purpose of your home’s air filter is to catch all the particles that daily life kicks up and to keep you and your loved ones from breathing them in. If you’re noticing that your air filter always seems dirty, look for ways to improve your overall air quality. Bringing in house plants and cleaning floors and fabrics more often are great places to start. That way, you lighten the load on your air filter and keep it doing its job until its next scheduled replacement.