Abstract The accumulation process of captured particles on the surface of a rigid filter element is experimentally studied by measuring the pressure drop. It is then related to the packing density of the dust layer. The process of the release of dust from filter surface is also studied through the changes in the pressure difference across the filter and the movement of the released dust after clean air is injected. As a result, for a given filtration condition, dust forms the densest layer at the initial and the loosest at the middle stage of the filtration, and forms a uniform layer at the final stage. The cleaning efficiency of the dust layer is found to depend upon the layer structure, i.e, it decreases as dust forms a denser layer, even if the accumulated mass per unit filter surface area is the same. The release velocity of dust from the surface is also found to become slower as the porosity of the layer decreases.