Top Tips on How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

Christine Herrington

Christine is our Chief Editor and a contributing writer to the site.

Last Updated on April 22, 2021

Many people opt for window air conditioning units because they are simpler to install than central heating, ceiling fans, and ductless mini split air systems. 

However, they can quickly become inconvenient when you need to remove them during the winter months after they become dirty. Removing window air conditioners is an arduous process, so it’s a good idea to know how to clean them without having to move them.

The outside of a window air conditioning unit is designed to withstand adverse weather conditions and general wear and tear. However, the interior and front of the system needs regular maintenance to stay in good working condition.  

Here are several tried and true techniques for how to clean a window air conditioner without removing it to save you time and money, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of a fully working system.

Top Tips on How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It
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Table of Contents

How to Clean the Filter

You must disconnect the system from the outlet and remove the front panel or grill on the air conditioner to access the filter. Once you’ve removed the filter, use the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to remove dust from the system. Only vacuum if the filter is dusty; if the system is thick with grime, you’ll need to wash it properly.

If your filter is washable, you can use a gentle detergent mixed with warm water to remove caked-on dirt. Once you’ve finished, shake the filter and leave it to dry in the shade. Never dry your heater with electrical devices, such as hairdryers, and never use boiling water to clean them as this can warp the plastic.

Before you reinstall the filter back into the window unit, make sure it is completely dry to prevent mold development. 

Experts recommended that you perform this process once per month. This ensures the unit doesn’t get clogged and send contaminated air into your home.

How to Clean the Louvers and Grill

After you’ve cleaned the filter and left it out to dry, now’s the time for you to clean the louvers and grill. If your filter was dirty, then the area where air flows through the system is probably dirty, too.

The simplest method for cleaning a removable grill is by taking it outside and hosing it off. You can also use plastic-safe gentle spray cleaners, which are great for removing dirt that won’t budge. You can also soak them in your sink with some detergent. 

Allow the grill to dry off completely before fitting it back inside the system.

If the grill on your AC unit isn’t removable, you’ll need to source some soft material to fit into the spaces. Cotton pads are great for this, as well as static dusters. If you are just removing dust, use your brush vacuum attachment. They are great for cleaning systems with both fixed grates and slide out filters.

How to Clean the Cabinet

The window air conditioning unit’s cabinet is the part that protects the vulnerable components from the elements. 

To clean the cabinet’s interior, use a damp cloth to remove any dirt. However, if you’ve not cleaned your system for years, then you’ll need to use a scrubbing brush alongside some mild detergent. Cabinets can build up grime and dirt extremely easily.

Be sure to clean the cabinet outdoors, as you must unplug your machine and hose it down. Hosing the outside of the AC cabinet on a weekly basis can keep it clean and prevent grime building up during the course of the year.

How to Clean the Condenser Coils

The condenser coils are highly sensitive and is the only area in which your window AC manual would recommend contacting a professional. While this represents a significant investment, it is the most sensible and effective way to ensure that the AC system is clean. If you are on a budget and calling a professional isn’t financially feasible, then it’s a good idea to know how to clean the coils yourself.

These coils are situated on the outside of the system and covered by a set of fins. The front fins are messy and difficult to clean; however, the back coils can be cleaned slightly easier. 

Combine water and dishwasher liquid in a bottle with a spray nozzle and completely cover the fins with the solution. If you must scrub them, use a nylon brush with soft bristles. You’ll notice an instant improvement once they’ve been soaked and scrubbed.

How to Clean the Pans and Drains

If your air conditioner unit has a drain behind the pan, you should regularly check it and clean it accordingly. These pans are a breeding ground for microorganisms. Both the front and back can collect dust and dirt; however, the main culprit can be mold when it comes to drains.

If your window AC system features a hose on the back of the drain port, you should remove it before cleaning. Run a cloth along the drain hole to get rid of any dirt present. 

When it comes to drains and pans, you should also check for blockages in the hose or the hole if your system has one. Blockages can prevent the AC system from working efficiently or even working at all. 

What Tools Do You Need to Clean Your Window Air Conditioner?

If dust is your only worry, you won’t need to break the bank to buy cleaning materials. Source cloths or rags from around your home to regularly dust the interior unit. 

If you have to get into the back of your unit, you’re going to need more specially formulated cleaning products. To clean blades and coils, the best product to use is a foaming cleaning solution. 

Opt for a nylon brush to clean fins, as well as a fin comb that has elongated prongs to reach to the back of the fins. These components need to be cleaned regularly, especially if you want your AC system to run effectively. 

Improve the Air Quality in Your Home By Cleaning Your Window AC Unit

Learning how to clean a window air conditioner without removing it can prevent bacteria, viruses, and mold from spreading around your home due to a dirty AC unit. Regular cleaning also ensures that your window AC system has a long and effective life.

Some of these techniques may require removing some components. However, they do not require you to remove the whole system, making it simple to clean your AC on a weekly or monthly basis. By implementing these techniques, you can ensure your window AC system works perfectly all summer long. 

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