How to Clean an Air Conditioner – 5 Steps

Ah, the smell of spring. We all love that moist, earthy smell that we get once the snow has melted and the sun is warming the earth right?

What if that smell is coming from your air conditioner unit? Most homes older than 15 years do not have central air conditioning as a part of their HVAC system.

This means that many of us have window or floor units for the hot seasons. How and why should you clean this unit? Here’s why:

• All mechanical things work better longer if they are kept clean. Statistics vary widely depending on the machine, but some estimate as much as 25% of maintenance costs can be avoided simply by having a regular cleaning routine.

air conditioner

• Air conditioners in particular work more efficiently if the elements exposed to the outdoors are kept clean and free of debris.

• Air conditioning units have a particular knack for developing mildew and mold inside. These can lead to respiratory problems as well as unpleasant smells.

But HOW do you clean a mobile unit? Most window air conditioners come with a removable filter that should be rinsed monthly, which will be detailed below. However, a much more intensive clean is needed to keep your cooling system working as you would like.

Follow these simple steps at the beginning of each new season.

5 Steps to Clean an Air Conditioner

1. If possible, remove it from the window where it is kept, and start by brushing off the entire exterior with a soft bristled brush. Remove any cover over the condenser unit and brush the fins. Be careful here as those fins bend easily, and this can reduce the efficiency of the unit.

2. If you have an air compressor, blow the dust and debris off the unit. If not, use a vacuum cleaner to get all the dust off of and out of the unit.

3. Remove the interior tray, and spray down all the areas you can reach with a non-toxic cleaning solution. Many recommend a few drops of antibacterial dish soap in water; some prefer a hydrogen peroxide solution.

Whatever you choose, be sure you use something that smells good, as it will perfume your cold air for a while after you turn the unit on.

4. Use a soft cloth to wipe down all the interior surfaces, and the tray.

5. Use a clean cloth to carefully wipe the exterior of the unit, removing any greasy or sticky spots on the air intake areas.

Finally, how should one approach rinsing out the filter monthly? Obviously, unplug the machine first. Then:
1. Check the owner’s manual for directions on how to remove it.

2. Use warm running water if possible to thoroughly rinse the entire filter. If there are greasy or sticky deposits, use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub them away.

Dish soap can help with the greasy stuff.

3. Shake off the filter and allow to air dry completely.

4. Replace the filter in the unit. Make a note of how old your filter is, and what the manufacturer specifies for how often it should be completely replaced.