How to Clean an Air Conditioner and Improve Air Quality

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Many households are blasting their air conditioners right now, to beat the heat and stay cool this summer. But like most things around the house, even air conditioners could use a little TLC. Knowing how to clean an air conditioner ensures that it works properly and will also improve good air quality.

This is often the case when the air filters inside the device start to clog with dust or the device accumulates moisture over time. If you don’t learn how to clean an air conditioner properly, it forces the unit to work harder to move air, as well as effectively cooling a room.

Plus, regular cleaning equates to lower running costs, saves you money on energy bills, and can also extend its life. So if you want to stay cool during those hot months, here’s how to clean an air conditioner and beat the heat.

If you’re in the market for a new unit, be sure to check out our guide to the best smart air conditioners, what to look for when buying an air conditioner, and the best air conditioner deals.

How to clean an air conditioner

1. Remove the dust filters from the indoor unit

Woman opening an air conditioner

Woman opening an air conditioner (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Before attempting to clean your air conditioner, always cut power and remove its power supply for safety. It is also essential to read your manual supplied with the device. This will detail how to access and clean the filters and all other user serviceable parts. Next, open the plastic cover of the indoor unit and remove the filter (or filters if there are several). Usually the filter is located on the front of the unit, but consult your manual if in doubt.

2. Clean the filter

Removing an air conditioner filter

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Take the filters outside to shake them before dust with a brush or microfiber cloth. You can also use a vacuum cleaner using the dusting brush head. To remove stubborn dirt, rinse with lukewarm water and dish soapand let the filter dry completely before putting it back in the device.

3. Empty the coils and condenser

Man cleaning the air conditioner

Man cleaning the air conditioner (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Most air conditioners have evaporator coils inside the unit and condenser coils on the back, which are on the outside. Using a screwdriver, remove the top and side panels to reach the condenser coils. Next, take a soft brush or a special coil brush to gently remove dirt. Be sure to inspect the coil fins for damage, and carefully straighten any bent fins with a fin comb like this Air Conditioner Condenser Fin Comb ($8, Amazon (opens in a new tab)). Once the exterior of the coil is complete, you can use any of the best vacuum cleaners for the interior.

4. Make sure all parts are dry before replacing

Turn on an air conditioner

Turn on an air conditioner (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Next, clean the exterior of the device using dish soap and lukewarm water. Make sure all removable parts are completely dry before replacing the cover. Then you can turn it back on and set it to your preferred cooling mode.

If done correctly, you should notice better performance and a better cooling experience.

How often should an air conditioner be cleaned?

Vacuuming an air conditioner

Vacuuming an air conditioner (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Most manufacturers recommend cleaning dust filters every few weeks, but it really depends on how often you use your air conditioner. It is also recommended to clean or replace the filters once a month while in use. However, if you only turn on your air conditioner occasionally, every two months will suffice.

If in doubt though, you can hire a professional to service your air conditioning unit and your maintenance needs.


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