How to Clean Your Air Conditioner Yourself

Cleaning your AC unit is an important part of regular air conditioner maintenance. Keeping your air conditioner clean helps the unit run at peak efficiency, prevents overheating, and keeps dirt and dust particles out of the air.

For the best results, you should clean your air conditioner 1-2 times per year, depending on how much you use it. Cleaning your AC unit is fairly easy, even for those with little or no HVAC experience. For the most part, no special air conditioner cleaner or supplies are needed. You should already have most of the tools you need to get the job done right.

Follow the steps below and in only a few hours, you can give your air conditioner a thorough cleaning to help it work effectively and keep you cool.


Cleaning the Interior Unit

Letting dirt and dust build up on your interior AC unit can result in both decreased air quality and efficiency.

Before performing any cleaning or air conditioner maintenance, make sure to turn the unit off. First, turn the thermostat to off. Then, find the electrical disconnect or the circuit breaker for your AC unit and make sure that’s turned off as well. Once you’ve done this you’re ready to get started.

There are 3 steps you need to take in order to properly clean your indoor air conditioning unit.


Remove All Dirt and Dust

To start, clean and dust the outside of the air conditioner. If there are large amounts of dirt and dust on the outside it’s only a matter of time before they find their way inside and start comprising the efficiency of the unit.

Next, open the panel to gain access to the blower compartment. Thoroughly clean the inside, removing all dirt and dust particles, but be careful not to damage any of the internal components.

Finally, clean the evaporator coils. These air conditioner coils absorb the heat from the inside of your home and transfer it outside. If they get covered in debris it starts to lessen their effectiveness, meaning it will take longer to cool your home. To properly clean them, purchase some coil cleaner from your local hardware store. Make sure to remove all dust and dirt from the coils.


Clean or Replace Your Air Conditioner Filter

AC units use filters to trap dirt and dust particles and keep them out of the air in your home. When the filter gets clogged, not only can it affect your air conditioner health, but it will also hurt the air quality in your home. So, keeping the filter clean is very important.

To check the air conditioner filter, start by turning off the unit. An air conditioner should never be used without a filter installed.

Remove the filter and inspect it. If you see a large amount of dirt or dust accumulated on the filter it will either need to be cleaned or changed. Some AC units utilize filters that can be cleaned, while others use disposable filters that need to be changed regularly. Check the owner’s manual if you’re not sure what kind of filter you’re dealing with.

If you have a filter that can be cleaned, you can remove dirt and dust with either a vacuum or warm water. Check for rips and tears during cleaning. If you notice any damage you’ll need to purchase a new filter.

It’s a good idea to check your filter every 1-3 months to ensure it doesn’t get clogged.


Clean the Drain Tube

Your air conditioner does more than just cool the air. It also reduces humidity, removing moisture from the air and transferring it outside. This is done by the drain tube. Unfortunately, this tube can sometimes get clogged or get filled with algae, so it’s a good idea to periodically clean it.

Start by locating the condensation drain tube and gently disconnect it. To get rid of any potential clogs, use a wet/dry shop vac. Connect the vacuum hose to the tube using duct tape, or by wrapping a wet cloth tightly around the connection. Run the vacuum for a minute or two to ensure you remove any debris inside.

Next, pour a mixture of half warm water and half bleach through the tube. This should eliminate any algae growing inside.

Finally, clean the drain port and remove any debris that may be interfering with the drainage process. Once you’re finished, reconnect the drain tube.


Cleaning the Exterior Unit

As you can imagine, your exterior AC unit can often be exposed to a lot of unwanted elements. Dirt, leaves, vegetation, and other debris can all start to interfere with your air conditioner health, so you’ll want to make sure to do some cleaning a few times per year to help your air conditioner can function properly.

As with the indoor unit, make sure your air conditioner is completely turned off before you begin cleaning the outdoor unit.


Remove Any Dirt and Debris From the Unit.

Start by removing any large pieces and clumps of debris by hand. Once all that has been cleared, use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner with a soft-bristled attachment to get rid of dirt, dust, and smaller particles.

Next, have a look around the unit and clear away any overgrown vegetation that might interfere with your air conditioner health.

Once all the outside debris is removed it’s time to clean the inside.

Remove the top grille and gently lift out the fan, placing it in a safe spot. Clean the inside of the unit while being careful of the internal components. A vacuum and other cleaning supplies can be used to remove dirt and dust.

When it comes to the condenser coils, you’ll use a similar procedure as the evaporator coils. These air conditioner coils dump heat outside. However, when they’re covered in dirt it adds extra insulation, meaning the heat is dumped at a much slower rate which greatly diminishes your air conditioner’s efficiency. Use coil cleaner to make sure all debris is removed from the condenser coils.


Clean the Cooling Fins

The cooling fins are fine metallic blades that surround the unit. Because air is constantly being sucked through them they can often get clogged with dust, leaves, grass, and other debris.

To get at the fins you may have to remove a metal box. If you’re unclear how to access the fins consult your owner’s manual. The fins are very delicate and can be bent easily, so be careful when removing the box, and while cleaning them. If you find any fins that are bent you should be able to adjust them using a butter knife. If you find large areas that are completely crushed have an HVAC repair technician straighten them for you.

Start by vacuuming the fins with a soft brush attachment. You can also hose them off as long as you’re careful about how much water pressure you use.

Once the fins are clean, put the box back in place. You can now reinstall the fan and reattach the grille to seal the unit back up.


Still having issues? Call in the pros.

Do you have any questions about air conditioner maintenance or how to properly clean your AC unit? The talking to a local HVAC company like Romaniuk Heating & Air Conditioning is your next step!


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