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3 ways to clean your window AC unit

Window AC units

Keeping your window AC unit clean is going to do two things. It’s going to keep the unit running longer and it’s going to keep the air more pure and clean. Those are two things you definitely want when it comes to these machines. If you follow Imagine It Done on Instagram, you know how much we love to share cleaning tips. That’s because we know when we keep our appliances clean, they last longer and work better.

Too often I’ve seen clients not properly care for their window AC units. So I thought it was time to share my tips on the best way to clean a window air conditioner.

When it comes to cleaning your AC unit, there are three ways you can do it. I want to note that all three should be done at some point as doing each one will reap the benefits I mentioned earlier. They are:

  1. Basic cleaning

  2. Monthly filter cleaning

  3. Seasonal deep clean

Let’s take a closer look at the steps for each of these.

1. Basic cleaning

Basic cleaning is as easy as it gets. This is best to do if you notice a mildew smell when you first use or turn on your unit. You’ll need a spray bottle and hydrogen peroxide. NEVER use alcohol or bleach on your machines. Remember that your unit is flammable and the fumes from the bleach could damage the interior.

Before cleaning, turn the unit off and unplug it. Focus on spraying the intake and outflow area of the unit. Be careful not to get the spray in your eyes and rinse your hands after using.

Allow the unit to dry. The best time to do this type of cleaning is overnight. Or a day or two before you plan on using it. This way you allow the peroxide to do its job.

If you don’t feel the peroxide is getting where it needs to go, you can remove the filter and spray deeper inside the unit. Make sure to place a tray or cloth underneath to catch any drips.

2. Monthly Filter Cleaning

This is the most important step you can do to prolong the life of your unit. It should be done not only during the months the unit is in use but during the off-season as well. Dust still collects when something is not in use so add this to your monthly cleaning routine if you have to.

To do this type of cleaning, you have to first remove the front panel. Again, make sure the unit is off and unplugged. Pull the filter out of its slot. Everyone’s unit is different. Some filters are removed by sliding them up or down. Don’t force it if it’s not coming out a certain way. Try another direction and see if that works. Or reference your manual.

Use a vacuum hose attachment to give the filter a once-over. This will remove any caked-on grime, dirt, or dust. Then rinse the filter under running warm water.

Let the filter dry. You can expedite the process by shaking off the excess water or patting it dry with towels. But you have to let it completely dry before putting it back in. NEVER run an AC unit with a wet filter and never without a filter.

Sometimes cleaning the air filter monthly isn’t always enough. If a filter is torn or not getting clean, replace it. Most companies recommend replacing your AC filter every three months. Always have backups ready to go.

3. Seasonal Deep Clean of your Window AC Unit

This type of cleaning is best to do before you install or use the unit for the first time in the warmer months. Then you should also do this when you don’t plan on using it anymore for the cooler months. Whether you store the unit inside or keep it installed all year long, a seasonal deep clean is so important.

Here’s what you do:

Remove the front panel and fins. Take out all the screws around the casing and put them someplace safe. They’re usually small so keep them together and away from children or pets. Slide the casing off.

Using a soft bristle brush, comb the aluminum fins. This removes any built-up dust and debris. If you want a comb designed specifically for this step, you can find them at your local hardware store or online. Here’s one from the Home Depot. To avoid getting cuts, you can wear gloves while doing this step.

The next step is to blow the coils and fan with condensed air. You’ll want to spray into the fins as well as around the coils. Use a brush to wipe away debris or collected dust from the coils.

Now let’s focus on the tray. Using your vacuum hose attachment, clean the unit’s interior. Get as much debris, dust, and dirt as possible. Then use a regular household cleaner to spray the tray and scrub it. Finally, use a damp cloth to wipe it down.

You can hand dry the tray with a clean towel or let it air dry for a few hours. Finally, put the casing back on.

While it’s not always feasible, the best way to store your unit during the off-season is indoors. Attics or basements are ideal, though a deep closet also works. Secure it by covering it with a plastic sheet or tarp to protect it. For those who can’t remove their unit, purchase a cover designed for air conditioners.

If you live somewhere with bad winters, make sure to check the state of the tarp after storms. If you notice any tears, patch them up or replace the cover completely.

Never remove a window AC unit if you’re unsteady on your feet. Always ask for help if you don’t feel strong enough to take it out. The risk of falls or injuries when handling AC units is high, especially for senior citizens. If you know a senior who could use some help with AC removal, check out these resources:

  • Umbrella — Volunteers or “neighbors” help residents 60+ with household chores such as AC removal, painting, leaf removal, and more. They require an annual membership fee.

  • CHORE Service — Volunteers help Bergen County, NJ residents 60+ with minor household chores such as AC removal, grab bar installation, and more. No cost except for materials and a donation is appreciated.

When we take care of our things, our things take care of us. I understand cleaning is not everyone’s favorite chore to do, but the benefits you reap are astounding. Just like vacuuming your vents to make sure your central air is pure and clean, your window AC unit should be treated with the same respect.

Have any other questions? Comment below. And make sure you’re following our Instagram. We share tons of cleaning tips and highlight our favorite cleaning products just for you.


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