How to Clean an Window AC Unit

by Michael Franco
WHite Frigidaire air conditioner being wiped clean

If your home has window AC units, you may be wondering how to clean them. How difficult is it to clean an AC unit? And how often do they need a deep cleaning? The good news is that cleaning a window AC unit is a relatively quick and easy project that most any homeowner can tackle on their own. The task can be completed in about an hour and doesn’t require any special equipment.

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Below is a guide on how to clean your window unit. This’ll help take the guesswork out of AC unit care and ensure your window units are performing their best, while keeping your home’s air fresh and clean.

Benefits of Cleaning Your Window AC Unit

Regular cleaning of your window units has many benefits. Perhaps the most important is keeping your unit free of excess dust and debris. This works to keep the air circulating through your home as healthy as possible, improving air quality by reducing exposure to allergens, mold and even volatile organic compounds found in dust and debris. This is especially important for folks suffering from asthma or other pulmonary concerns.

But keeping your window unit clean can also save you money. Regularly cleaning your unit can increase its lifespan, help reduce the need for repairs and save on energy costs. Cleaning your window AC unit is a win-win for both your health and wallet, so adding it to your seasonal cleaning regime should be a no-brainer.

How Often Should You Clean Your Window AC Unit?

You should plan to deep-clean your unit at least once a year. This is in addition to regularly replacing the filters, which should be done every three months or so.

Can You Clean Your Unit Without Removing It From the Window?

You can absolutely clean a window unit without having to remove it from the window. To clean a window unit without removing it, simply follow the steps below. Make sure to unplug it from its power source before beginning.

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WHite Frigidaire air conditioner being wiped clean -------------------------------------------

Cleaning a Window Unit: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Remove and Clean the Exterior Face Panel

You can start cleaning your window unit by removing the face panel. Double-check that you’ve unplugged the unit, then get to work on washing the face panel in the sink using warm soapy water. If you don’t want to give the face panel a full wash, you can opt to wipe it down with a wet cloth instead.

Step 2: Replace the Filter

Next, remove and either wash or replace the filter. The filter will be housed in either the face panel itself or directly behind it, depending on the make and model of your unit. If you’re unclear on how to remove the filter, consult your unit’s manual to be safe. If you are cleaning your filter rather than replacing it, you can use a handheld vacuum to remove larger dust build-up first. Then, either spray it down with a hose outdoors or simply wipe it down with a damp cloth.

Step 3: Dust and Vacuum the Interior

Now you can clean the inside of your unit by first giving it a good vacuum. Then you can work to dust off the fins and coils of your unit. There are specialty fin combs built for this task that are ideal for the task, but almost any soft brush can do the job — so long as you’re gentle with the fins, as they can be easily bent. If you do accidentally bend some fins in the process, simply straighten them back as gently as possible. As a final interior cleaning step, you can use a can of condensed air to clean dust off the unit’s coils. You can also apply a coil cleaner here for a deeper clean, or just wait and apply the same hydrogen peroxide solution you’ll use on the rest of the unit later.

Step 4: Clean the Drain and Tray

Now empty the drain tray and wipe it clean. Now is also a good time to inspect the drain and make sure nothing’s obstructing it. Remove any build-up you see here.

Step 5: Spray Clean

Finally, using a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution in a spray bottle, lightly spray both the interior and exterior casing of the unit. The hydrogen peroxide will work as a final disinfecting clean and help prevent mold growth. Let everything dry for about 15 minutes before putting the filter and front panel back on and plugging your unit back in. And voila! Your window unit should be clean, dry and ready to resume normal use.

Fresh and Clean

Cleaning your window AC unit may not be at the top of your list of ways to spend your free time, but a clean AC unit is a happy one. With regular cleaning, your unit will be primed and ready to function at its best, and you can rest easy knowing you’re breathing clean air. Plus, think of the energy savings!