How to Clean the Window Air Conditioner

Hot and humid days are ahead. Time to clean the a/c unit!

By Tracy Leigh Ritts


By now, many of us are installing our window air conditioners, taking them from storage. It's a good idea to clean them now so that they will work at top efficiency all summer long.

Luckily, cleaning a window air conditioner is relatively simple. First, unplug the unit and then follow these steps:

  1. Remove the filter from the front grille. If your unit has a disposable filter, replace it with a new one. If your filter is not disposable, you’ll need to clean it. This is easy – all you have to do is lay it in the sink and sprinkle laundry detergent on the surface. Cover it with hot water and soak for 15 minutes.Rinse with warm water and then allow to air dry.
  2. Remove the front grille by pulling it gently forward while pushing down at the same time. If it doesn’t come off easily, check to see if there are any hidden screws along the top edge of the grille or behind the control knob door. Once removed, set it aside.
  3. Remove all the screws holding the metal cover in place and then carefully remove the cover.
  4. Locate the fan motor and carefully inspect it for oil holes or oil plugs. If there are plugs, gently remove them – you may need a screwdriver for this. Once you have the motor holes exposed, add a few drops of clean, general purpose oil or motor oil into each end of the motor body. Three or four drops are all you need, but add it slowly.
  5. Using a long handled brush (such as a toilet brush), remove dust and dirt from the evaporator (the front fins). Be careful so you don’t bend or damage the fins. After you’ve cleaned the surface dust and dirt, spray the fins with a de-greaser or even an all-purpose cleaning spray cleaner. Let stand for 15 minutes. Wipe any dirt build-up with a soft rag.
  6. If any of the fins are bent, carefully straighten them using a fin comb or something soft, such as a popsicle stick.
  7. Do the same thing (steps 5 and 6) for the condenser coil (the rear fins).
  8. Using a hand vacuum or a hose attachment, vacuum the front and back surfaces of the grille assembly, along with the underside of the metal cover.
  9. Drain any water that remains in the base and leave it to air dry for three to four hours.
  10. If you had to wash your filter, check to be sure it is dry and then replace it. Before reassembly, plug it in to check for operation. If everything looks and sounds good, turn off the appliance, unplug it, and the reassemble the unit, and then check for operation again.

That’s all there is to it! 

By following these steps yearly, your window air conditioning unit will stay in tip-top shape for years.

Tracy Leigh Ritts is a freelance writer based in Ohio. Her book, How to Plan Your Own Wedding and Save Thousands…Without Going Crazy, is now available.