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How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner in Easy Steps

Reviewed by Professional Cleaner Jennifer L. Betts
maintenance in the air conditioning panel

Taking the time to properly clean your window air conditioner on a regular basis will help it operate efficiently and effectively. A clean window unit will do a much better job keeping your home or office cooled to a comfortable temperature than one that is dirty.

How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

It's best to clean your window air conditioner at least once each month. If it is particularly dusty in one area, you may find more frequent cleaning to be beneficial.

Supplies

Gather the following supplies to prepare for cleaning your window air conditioner.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these steps to clean your window air conditioner unit without having to pull it out of the window.

  1. Turn off the unit and unplug it from the wall. This is an important safety step.
  2. Remove the front panel. Use your finger to release the tabs on either side of the top of the louvered grille on the front of the unit.
  3. There should be a filter in place behind the panel. Remove it by grasping one of the tabs and pulling it straight out towards you.
  4. Take the filter and panel outdoors for cleaning so that you don't set off a cloud of dust in your house.
  5. Shake out the filter to dislodge loose particles and dust.
  6. Spray both sides of the filter and front panel with your favorite household cleaning solution or warm soapy water.
  7. Scrub them with a cleaning cloth or paper towel.
  8. Rinse thoroughly with a water hose or outdoor water faucet.
  9. If the filter and cover are extremely dirty, you may need to spray, scrub, and rinse a few more times. Alternately, you may just want to replace the filter with a new one.
  10. Set aside to dry.
  11. Go back inside to clean the inner workings of the unit.
  12. Use a paper towel to gently wipe down the evaporator coil (the grouping of metal fins behind the filter) to remove large areas of buildup. The fins can get damaged fairly easily, so use a very light touch as you are cleaning.)
  13. Spray the entire surface of the evaporator coil and the other exposed parts using your favorite mold and mildew remover or, if you prefer, warm soapy water. Coat the entire area with the cleaning solution.
  14. Using a spray bottle filled with water, spray over the evaporator coil and other areas that were covered with cleaner. The dirt and liquid will drip through to the outside via the drain hole. (If it isn't draining, you may need to unclog the drain on the outside of the unit by running water through it.)
  15. Wipe down as needed using a paper towel and water. Remember to be gentle with the fins.
  16. Go outside to clean the exterior of the unit. Spray it with mold and mildew remover to cover completely, then wipe with a cleaning cloth or paper towels. Repeat if needed.
  17. Once the filter and front panel are completely dry, return them to the unit. Just place the filter in its spot, then snap the front panel back into place.

Proper AC Window Unit Maintenance Made Simple

While the thought of cleaning a window air conditioner might seem a bit daunting, it's really not that difficult. All you need is a few basic cleaning supplies and a bit of elbow grease. The time you invest in maintaining your window unit will play a role in helping to improve the indoor air quality in your home.

How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner in Easy Steps