How to Clean Air Conditioner the Right Way

A simple cleaning is all it takes – to make your air conditioner work efficiently and consume less power.

If the air conditioner is not cleaned on a regular basis, the dust gets accumulated on the filters and condenser which results in less cooling and higher power bills.

However, you don’t need to hire a professional every time to clean the air conditioner.

You can do it yourself by following some simple steps.

In this article, we have mentioned clear instructions and step-by-step process of cleaning an air conditioner.

How to Clean An Air Conditioner?

To clean an AC by yourself, all you need to do is invest in your time, a little patience, and precision. With all these, trust me, you can clean the air conditioner to achieve the same level of cooling it once did.

First, let us start with cleaning the indoor unit of the AC.

How to Clean The Indoor Unit Of AC?

Below are a series of steps to follow to help you with how to do it.

1. Turn Off The Power Source And Lift The Front Panel

The very step in the cleaning process is to switch off the power supply to your split A/C. After turning it off, now open the front panel. Depending on the unit, you may have to open up by unscrewing the door or case and removing it.

Only after you open the unit, you can access the inside.

We suggest you turn off the power supply to the entire AC system as they contain indoor and outdoor components.

2. Remove the air filters from your split A/C

As a next step, remove the air filters from the AC. Your unit may have more than one filter, and hence make sure you remove all of them one by one. Washing them thoroughly helps in keeping your filters in top condition.

You can remove them by pressing a tab located at the side of each air filter. This loosens the filters and makes it easy for you to remove them. After removing the filters, shake off any dust from them.

You can refer to the user manual to know how to open the front of the unit.

3. Rinse the removed air filters under running water

Now that you removed the filters, it is time to clean them to get rid of any dirt. Place the air filters under a running tap in a sink or basin. If needed, scrub them gently using a sponge or a toothbrush and a mild cleaning detergent. After cleaning them, let them dry before you put them back in place.

You can normally rinse with water if you feel that the filters are not dirty.

It is advisable to wash the filters at least once in two months.

4. Blow The Dust Off Of The Cooling Fins

After the air filters, shift your focus to the cooling fans. If you do not know what a cooling fin looks like, check for the metallic lines at the back of your AC. These metallic blades that look like a grill are so delicate and can bend easily.

Be careful when cleaning them. We recommend you to use an air blower attached that has a thin canister attached to it. Free the dust from the fins at the back of your AC.

You can even use a brush or vacuum cleaner with a canister attachment to clean the cooling fins.

5. Clean the Air Conditioner Evaporator Coils

The next in line for cleaning is the evaporator coils of the air conditioner. We all know the significant role played by evaporator coils in the cooling process of the air conditioner. When these coils get clogged with dirt, it hinders the dehumidification performance and decreases the cooling capacity.

It is highly essential to clean these coils often to remove the accumulations of any dirt or dust on them. Use a soft brush for cleaning and make sure you are wearing a mask when cleaning, especially if you are prone to allergy.

You can use a no-rinse coil cleaner as the best cleaning solution that will make your job much easier. Spray this foam on the coils, even on the small areas that are hard to reach by hand. After spraying, leave it for about 20 minutes. This cleanser drips into the drain pan while taking the absorbed dirt and dust with it.

6. Spray Antifungal Cleaner Onto The Coils

It is necessary to keep the back of your unit sanitized. Use an antifungal cleaner and spray it on those areas where the toxins are most likely to form.

Allow the spray to sit for at least five minutes as this will prevent toxic particles from growing in your cooling system. Now you can put the air filters back in place.

7. Replace The Air Filters

Replace or assemble the air filters back in their original position after they are completely dry and clean. You will not face any difficulty with the reassembling process. However, if you still feel any, you can always refer to the user manual to be sure from your end. Clean and fresh air filters ensure clean, fresh, and cool air passes through your air conditioner.

8. Clean the AC Drain Pan

Once you finish the job of cleaning the coils, move to the drain pan. You may have to pay attention to this step and make sure you do not skip or neglect it.

It is a very simple and easy cleaning process that requires detergent, water, and bleach (for sanitization).

Prepare a cleaning solution taking equal parts of bleach and water. Mix the solution and pour it down through the drain.

Keeping a drain clean prevents algae growth. You can also use AC drain pan tablets for a long-term effect.

9. Clear the Air Conditioner Drain Pipe

In the earlier step, we saw how to clean the air conditioner drain pan. If using the bleach solution worked in the previous step, you can skip this step. However, if you notice water standing in the drain pan, it indicates a clogged drainpipe.

You can prevent the clogged drain line with a cleaning and maintenance routine. Any negligence towards this may result in algae growth or mold build-up in the pipe. Since it is a one-inch-wide PVC pipe, it would not be that difficult to remove the build-up.

Let us see how to remove the clog from the drain line:

  • Locate the drain pipe and disconnect it.
  • Identify the point of access to the pipe. It is usually a T-shaped vent with a cap over it.
  • Assess the amount of blockage in the pipe and see if you remove it manually.
  • You may use a vacuum cleaner with a canister to clear the clog by holding it to the end of the pipe. After turning it on, allow it to run for about two to three minutes to clear the accumulated build-up.

You can also clear out any clogs by flushing out the drain lines.

You may use any cleaning solution or a vinegar solution to flush the pipe. Let us see how to do this:

  • When using vinegar, make sure you use only white distilled vinegar.
  • Use a one-quarter cup of vinegar and let it through the opening of the drainpipe, i.e., from the access point where you removed the cap.
  • If you find the smell of vinegar too strong, you can also use peroxide or hot water in place of vinegar. Add some dish soap to it and let it through the opening of the drain pipe.
  • Let it stay for about 30 minutes.
  • Now flush the pipe with water until you are sure that the water is running freely outside from the pipe.
  • If needed, flush water from both ends of the drain pipe.
  • After flushing, allow it to dry for about one hour to ensure there is no trace of cleaning solution or water in it.
  • For flushing, use flush kits with a pressurized nozzle. You can purchase them online.

Close the AC Access Panel 

Since you finished cleaning the interior of the air conditioner, close the front panel by reattaching to its position. Make sure you tighten up the screws that took out at the beginning of the cleaning process.

This is all you have to do to clean your air conditioner. But make it a routine to ensure your device to function and perform at its best. However, there will be instances wherein you may encounter some challenges that are difficult to handle.

Let us say your air conditioner has A-frame-designed evaporator coils. You may not access a few parts of it while cleaning. When you do not clean the coils for a stipulated period, it might affect the AC operation. It is when you will need a service technician. Schedule a professional cleaning to get the job done.

How to Clean Your AC Unit Outside?

After cleaning the inside of the unit, let us come to the exterior. Cleaning the outside component and its condenser coils can be tedious and may even require more labor. You will need special equipment to clean the outside unit. Let us learn about the same in the below steps.

1. Disconnect and Remove the AC Grill

The primary thing you need to do is to disconnect the air conditioner once again. Switch off the power connection to it even before you get started with it.

Use a screwdriver to detach the grills conveniently from the outdoor unit. Follow the user manual to take out the condenser fan. This can be the safest way to do it.

2. Remove Debris in Air Conditioner

The next step to do is to remove the debris. The amount of dust that accumulates at the bottom of the AC, varies from unit to unit. Except for the entry-level models, all others have guards that prevent the debris from entering through the fan. It is no surprise if you find leaves, seeds, or anything else at the bottom of these basic models.

  • Clean the bottom and remove all the rubbish using a vacuum.
  • Take the vacuum cleaner and add a brush to the nozzle.
  • Turn on the vacuum to pull the debris or dust from the outdoor unit.
  • Move the vacuum in horizontal and vertical directions in straight lines across the unit.
  • Repeat this until there is no trash left inside the condenser.
  • Make sure you follow this routine frequently to brush off any pieces of trash or stray leaves in the outdoor unit.

3. Clean the AC Coils and Fins

Let us now move on to the cleaning of condenser coils and fins. This is a very simple step and is not time-consuming. However, you may need the below things to do it yourself.

  • Cleaning solution
  • Pump sprayer
  • Hose

Below are the steps to help you with the cleaning process:

  • Take the coil cleaning solution (you can purchase it from any departmental store).
  • Dilute it or add some water to it and transfer the mixture to a pump sprayer.
  • Spray the solution on the coils.
  • After spraying, leave it for about five minutes, allowing it to foam.
  • Wash this foam off using a hose.
  • We recommend not pressure wash the coils as the fins are delicate and can get damaged when you use the pressure washer.

Note: Do not use cleaner on the indoor coils as it can cause burns.

4. Straighten the Air Conditioner’s Fins

After cleaning the condenser coils and fins, it is time to adjust the bent fins. Straightening them is crucial to maintain efficiency and increased airflow. The best way you can do it is by using a fin tool. If you do not have one, you better purchase these inexpensive kits. A fin tool or a fin comb has soft bristles that help you clean and straighten the condenser fins.

In case you do not have a fin comb available, you can use a long dinner knife to straighten the fins. Be careful when you slide it through the indentations between the metal fins that seem bent.

5. Clean Around the AC Unit

After you finished straightening the fins, refix the fan cage to the unit and screw them up tightly. Ensure that the area around your air conditioner is clean.

6. Level the Air Conditioning Unit

Check whether your condenser unit is on the level. It is not, then put it back where it should be using shims. Leaving the condenser out of place for too long may result in costly repairs.


Regular cleaning of your air conditioner will keep it working in a good condition without affecting the air cooling. Since you know how to clean it all by yourself, do it immediately before the summer starts peeping into your homes.

As said, you will not need the help of a professional unless there are some serious issues like a refrigerant leak, seal duct leak, thermistor accuracy, etc.

This ultimate guide to cleaning your AC will surely solve all your cleaning woes.

If you still have any questions, let us know in the comment section below. We will reply to all your queries as soon as possible.

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