How to Clean a Room Air Conditioner
A simple cleaning is all it takes to keep your room air conditioner humming
IntroductionAir conditioners work more efficiently when the evaporator and condenser coils or cooling fins are clean and the fins are straight. Save money and keep your house cooler by cleaning a room air conditioner yourself.
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Fin comb
- Leather gloves
- Shop vacuum
- A/C coil cleaner
- Electric motor oil
- Household cleaner
How to clean your A/C unit
Most people assume warm air from their A/C unit means it’s low on refrigerant. That’s not always the cause. Many times, window and through-the-wall A/C units can’t blow cold air because the evaporator and condenser coils or cooling fins are clogged. Here are some air conditioning mistakes you can avoid if you have the appliance.
Professional cleaning costs over $100. But you can do the entire job yourself in about an hour with a few dollars in supplies. If cleaning doesn’t do the trick, you can always call in a pro (or buy a newer, more efficient unit). But before you do that, check out our step-by-step air conditioner cleaning instructions below.
Project step-by-step (6)
The cleaning procedure:
First, remove the plastic filter holder/trim panel. It usually snaps off. Then remove it from the window or slide it out of the wall (get help—it’s heavy).
If you’re working on a window A/C unit, remove the mounting frame and the case. The case screws are usually located along the bottom edge. Note the location of any odd-length screws since they have to go back in the same spots upon reassembly.
Comb out the mats
Then straighten the bent cooling fins with a fin comb. Match the correct end of the air conditioner fin comb to the fin spacing on your coils. Then insert the air conditioner fin comb and pull up to straighten the fins. Wear leather gloves to prevent nasty cuts.
Air conditioner fin comb details
Fin combs are available for most common air conditioners. Get fin combs on Amazon.
Clean out the crud
Buy two cans of A/C unit coil cleaner (we used AC-Safe No. AC-920 from homedepot.com). But before applying the cleaner, vacuum all visible buildup from both coils.
Apply foam cleaner
Shoot the spray over the entire surface of both coils and let the foam do the work for you. If the buildup is heavy, brush in the direction of the fins with a nylon-bristle brush.
Service the fan motor
While the foam works, clean the fan blades with a household cleaner and a rag. If the fan motor has plastic- or rubber-capped oiling ports, pop them and squeeze in a few drops of electric motor oil (pros use the Zoomspout oiler) and recap.
Finally, wash (or replace) the air filter and reinstall the unit. It just might blow a lot cooler. If not, you have other problems! And if you don’t have an air conditioner, check out these creative ways to stay cool all summer long.