How to Clean a Room Air Conditioner
A simple cleaning is all it takes to keep your room air conditioner humming.
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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 air conditioning 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.
Professional cleaning costs more than $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.
Plus, here’s where you shouldn’t install your A/C.
Project step-by-step (6)
The Cleaning Procedure:
First, remove the plastic filter holder/trim panel. It usually snaps off. Then remove the unit 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. Plus, your air conditioner won’t work fully if you don’t do this.
Comb Out the Mats
- 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 The Home Depot.).
- 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.