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How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner Without Removing it

Any major appliance needs a little TLC from time to time, especially if we expect it to last long enough to get our full investment out of it. A window air conditioner is no different. Let’s face it, that window ac wasn’t an easy install, and it’s a little overwhelming to think about cleaning it. The last thing anyone wants to do is to remove it or pay someone else big bucks to do just that.

The good news is that simple cleaning can be done without removing the air conditioning unit from the window. Here are a few steps to cleaning a window air conditioner without removing it to keep it in working order for many summers to come.

How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner

What Is Needed

Before we get started here is a quick list of a few things you should have available:

  • A mild detergent or dish soap (for the inside of the unit)
  • An all-purpose cleaner (for the outside of the unit)
  • A bucket for warm water
  • A soft, non-abrasive brush
  • A couple of cloths or clean rags
  • A spray bottle
  • A vacuum
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety Glasses
  • A fin comb

1. Safety

Safety should always be a top priority, no matter what you’re doing, including cleaning your window air conditioner. The most important thing to do during this process is to unplug the window ac unit. If, for whatever reason, you can’t unplug it, turn the unit off both at the unit itself and the breaker. You’re going to be using water throughout this process, and water and electricity don’t mix.

Anytime you use chemicals, even if it is only a mild all-purpose cleaner like we use here, it’s always a good idea to wear eye protection and rubber gloves to avoid any chemical irritation.

2. Remove and Clean the Filter

Most window air conditioner filters are relatively easy to remove. Start by removing the front grill. The air conditioner will either have tabs that hold the grill in place or small screws that you may have to remove. Once the grill is off, the filter is exposed, and in most cases, slides side to side for removal. If it has been some time since the filter has been cleaned, it may be necessary to vacuum some of the larger dirt and debris away before cleaning.

Next, use a mixture of soap and warm water to make cleaning solution for the filter. The best way to do this is by having a mixture ready in a sink or basin. Simply place the filter in the sink and let it soak in the warm soapy water. If it’s not possible to soak it in a sink, soak a clean cloth in the soapy solution and carefully wipe the filter clean. Remember that the filter can be sensitive, so don’t apply a lot of pressure and wipe with care. Note that the filter must be completely dry before putting it back in the unit.

3. Cleaning the Grill and Louvers

While the filter is drying, it is a good time to clean the grill and louvers. The grill and louvers are the areas where the air flows in and out of the machine. If the filter was dirty, then there’s a good chance these grills and louvers are, too. If the grills are removable (and on most units, they are), then clean them in the same manner as you did the filter. Again, the grill must be dry before re-installing.

If the grills on your window air conditioner are not removable, you can wipe them with a damp rag or use a vacuum with a brush attachment to get in between the grills. If using a vacuum with a brush, be sure the brush is soft and non-abrasive to avoid any damage.

4. Cleaning the Cabinet

The cabinet on a window air conditioner is the housing that protects the unit from the elements. The easiest way to clean this is by spraying it with a hose, but this may not be an option if the air conditioner is somewhere the hose cannot reach.  In this case, a spray bottle, some all-purpose cleaner, and a rag or cloth will do the trick. Simply spray the cabinet with the all-purpose cleaner, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe it all clean.

5. Cleaning the Fins and Condenser Coil

While the manual for your air conditioner may suggest hiring a professional for this step, it’s not always practical or in your budget to do so. But don’t worry, with a little care and patience it is entirely possible to do this yourself. Using a spray bottle with the dish soap and water solution, lightly spray the fins and coils. Leave it to soak for a few minutes, and then use a fin comb to remove any of the harder, stuck-on dirt. The fins are sensitive and very susceptible to damage, so use extreme caution and don’t use too much force when cleaning them.

6. Cleaning the Rest of the Interior

While cleaning the fins and condenser coils, take a soft, non-abrasive brush or a damp rag, and depending on the extent of the dirt inside, wipe out any other accessible areas. Vacuum up the loose dirt in the areas that are accessible with the vacuum.

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Things to Remember

  • Window air conditioner parts can be extremely sensitive. Use caution when cleaning. Although not an overly difficult thing to do, you shouldn’t rush cleaning your window air conditioner. Patience is a virtue to avoid causing costly damage to the unit.
  • Always cut the power to the air conditioner before doing anything, not only for your safety but also to avoid any damage.
  • It is imperative that all parts, be it the parts that have been removed or the air conditioner itself, are completely dry before re-assembling.

Helpful Product Links

Air Conditioner Condenser Fin Comb

Spray Nine No Scent Cleaner and Degreaser

Amazer Scrub Brush Comfort Grip & Flexible Stiff Bristles Heavy Duty

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