How to clean air conditioner | Full guide for Air conditioning cleaning

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Updated on:

May 1, 2023

Efficient AC cleaning | How to clean air conditioning

Your air conditioner plays a big part in making your home comfortable and safe place for you and your loved ones. In order to keep your home a nice hide out from the summer heat, you need to take care of your air conditioning unit.

Cleaning a air conditioner is an important part of maintaining the comfortability of your home. Occasional clean ups of the ac unit will keep your system healthier for longer, save money on the expensive repairs, and lower your energy bill.

In this article, we will go in detail on how to clean your indoor and outdoor ac units with a step by step guide and a helpful video guide.

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visual check up of ac unit

How to tell if you need to clean you air conditioning unit

If you have been noticing that your air conditioner has been working harder to achieve the same level of coolness, it is a big sign you should clean it. Same goes for the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system (HVAC). If you've felt like the heating system is not working properly and taking a while to heat up your home, it is time for a big clean up.

When should you call a professional technician

If you have never cleaned or opened up your ac unit, you can expect that it will be very dirty inside. In this case, it is better to call an expert technicians. They know better how to deal with significant wear and tear, and will make sure not to damage anything while cleaning.

Otherwise, you can surely clean the ac unit yourself. It is not a complicated task, but it does require a lot of patience and good motor skills.

Cleaning supplies

It is not really necessary to buy specialized equipment in order to clean your air conditioner. Most of the stuff you need is lying around your home. And if you don't have an item needed for a deep clean, all the supplies listed is under $20 and can be used again for future clean ups.

1. Cleaning solution for coils

In your ac unit, you have evaporator coils and condenser coils. These coils are sensitive to water, this is why it is important to get an appropriate coil cleaner.

One of the best no rinse coil cleaner is the Nu-Calgon Evap Foam No Rinse Evaporator Coil Cleaner. This cleaner will liquefy dirt, grease, oil, and other residues quickly and easily. It is fortified with corrosion inhibitors which makes it safe to use on metals and other materials.

2. Degreaser

For other parts of the air conditioner, you should use a degreaser. When you open up you will see a lot of dirt that has been collecting there for a while if you haven't cleaned it. A degreaser will help loosen that debris up, and make the whole process faster.

You can use any degreaser you already have, but the Fortador Gold Degreaser is a great option if you want to invest into a powerful and professional degreaser. This product will attack any grease and grime that has been collecting in your ac unit. It will also help loosen up and mold particles you might have in the unit.

3. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a great solution to use for disinfecting. You will be needing this to give a final spray on the areas where air flows in and out to prevent mildew from growing. Just dilute it with water in a spray bottle, and you got your perfect sanitizer.

4. Fin comb

A fin comb is required to fix any bent aluminum fins in the ac. The Robinair 18403 Fin Straightener is a great option since it comes with variety of spacing options that will fit to use on condenser coil, evaporator coil, and more.

5. Steam cleaner

One of the easiest and most efficient ways to clean your air conditioner is to use a steamer. Steam will loosen up all the build up dirt in the ac system without damaging any of its parts. You can also use steam on the ac coils and other gentle parts of the air conditioner.

Industrial steam cleaner for air conditioner cleaning

The Fortador PRO is one of the best industrial steamers on the market. It is very easy to use and it comes with variety of attachments, like the long lance attachment that is very useful for ac coils cleaning. There are different steam settings that you can use for different parts of the cleaning process. The wet steam is great to use to wash down all the dirt and other debris, and dry steam is perfect to clean the window ac unit.

Commercial steam cleaner for air conditioner cleaning inside home

One of the best compact steam cleaners on the market is the Fortador Volt Mini. This steam machine is portable and easily stored. Even though it is small, it is powerful enough to clean and disinfect your air conditioneer and much more inddors applications like no other product.

tools and supplies for air conditioner cleaning

6. Additional supplies

These are the supplies you most likely already have at home or you can find in any store like Target or Amazon.

  1. Microfiber cloth
  2. Soft brush
  3. Garden hose
  4. Vacuum hose
  5. Compressed air

Air conditioner cleaning process

After you have gathered all the necessary supplies, it is time to get to work. This process will take around two hours to do if you have never cleaned air conditioners before.

It is always helps to learn the different parts of the air conditioner before starting the process. If you want to familiarize yourself with the components of your air conditioner, like the condenser unit and central air units, read this article.

Step 1: Preparation

Put protective gear, like gloves, and change into clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.

Turn off the power of the air conditioner at the breaker box on your home's electrical panel. It can also be located on the exterior condenser or compressor. This is an essential step to ensure safety.

Step 2: Open the air conditioner unit

The blower unit will have a door to the evaporator coils. You might have to remove foil duct tape to get to the unit. There are often a few bolts or screws holding the door in place that will need to be removed.

plastic cover for ac cleaning

Step 3: Put plastic envelope

To save your walls from getting dirty when you wash down all the collected dirt in the air conditioner, put a plastic envelop or a plastic cover behind the AC.

This is not necessary, but it will make the whole cleaning process less messy.

Step 4: Use degreaser

Once you have completed all the preparation steps, you can get to cleaning. Grab a bottle of your preferred degreaser and spray it all over the ac unit. Let it soak.

Do not use any degreaser on the evaporator or ac condenser coils.

Step 5: Remove debris

Use a hose, mild pressure washer, or wet steam to wash down all the debris that the degreaser has loosened up.

Be careful when using water around the ac coils.

Step 6: Use compressed air or water

Grab a bottle of compressed air or a vacuum and blow out any dust stuck to the coils. This dust consists of particles that populate the inside of your home. This includes skin cells, pet hair and sometimes pollen, so if you’re prone to allergies, you may want to wear a mask.

A debris free area before using a cleaning solution for coils will make it easier to clean.

ac coil cleaning with foam

Step 7: Spray coil cleaner

Saturate the ac condenser coils and evaporator coils with your preferred no-rinse coil cleaner. Make sure to spray all the parts of the coils for thorough cleaning.

It is best to clean the coils on a warm day so that when you turn the power back on, the condensation from a working ac and warm air will clean the coils even further.

Step 8: Cooling fins

Get a fin comb and use it to tune up any bent fins of the condenser coils. Be careful when straightening out the fins and avoid bending them as much as possible.

Step 9: Clean air conditioner drain pan

After you've fixed the bent fins, make a mixture of hot water, soap, and a few drops of bleach. Use that solution to pour down the drain pan for disinfection. If you want a long-term way to keep your drain from growing algae, you can purchase AC drain pan tablets at most home improvement and hardware stores.

Step 10: Plugged drain pan

If the bleach solution in the previous step was easily washed down, you can skip this step. Otherwise, follow the drain to where it ends and grab a vacuum with you.

Take the vacuum hose and hold it to the end of the drain tube. To prevent air leakage, hold a towel around the gap. Turn on the vacuum and let it run for two or three minutes to clear out any buildup that has accumulated. If you are concerned about soiling the filter, you can remove it from the vacuum.

steam sanitizing of ac at home

Step 11: Sanitizing

After you have completed all the steps for simple cleaning, use a steam cleaner to deep clean and sanitize the whole area. Steam will get rid of any mold or mildew that has been growing in the air conditioning unit.

installation air filter after cleaning

Step 12: Clean the filter

This is a great time to take care of your dirty air filters. Either clean an air filter or grab a new one if it is very dirty and change it.

Step 13: Finishing touches

After you have finished cleaning all parts of the ac, let the whole thing air dry and put the fan cage back on. Use a damp cloth to wipe any dust on the exterior of the air containing unit.

Turn the power back on to enjoy a house cool breeze.

This step by step guide can be used to clean the outdoor unit as well. If you have a window unit, you will use the same steps that were listed above.

About the Authors

Koren Zitser
Vip Air, Panama: 20+ years in global AC excellence. Partners with industry leaders, offers split to large-scale systems, specializing in VRF, Multi V, maintenance, and innovation.
Kristina Tretyakova
Distinguished as a South Florida Top-10 student in 2021. Studying Marketing and Business Administration at FIU. Proficient in daily operations and skilled in cleaning, auto detailing and copywriting.

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