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How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner

Picture - How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner

Window air conditioners keep living spaces cool and comfortable. Since these units are important, routine maintenance is essential. If you want to learn how to clean a window air conditioner without removing it, this guide explains how to clean the filter, vents, coils and how to prevent mold. With these steps, you can improve your unit’s performance and extend its life.


Warm Water

Mild Detergent

3% Hydrogen Peroxide 

Clean Cloths

Spray Bottle

Drip Trays

Protective Gloves

Small, Soft-Bristle Brush, such as a Toothbrush


Compressed Air Can (optional)

Small Vacuum 

In addition to regular preventative maintenance, you can extend the life of your unit by removing it from the window and storing it inside during the winter.

Cleaning the Filter

The most important part of routine maintenance is cleaning your unit’s filter. Even if you don’t clean the entire unit, it’s a good idea to wash the filter at least once a month. Although proper maintenance can extend your filter’s life, it should be replaced every 6 weeks to 6 months.

  • Step 1. Turn the unit off - Use the On/Off switch to power down the unit.
  • Step 2. Unplug the air conditioner - Remove the power cord from the outlet to avoid electrical hazards.
  • Step 3. Remove the filter - Since the filter is located inside the panel in some units and directly behind it in others, refer to your owner’s manual for instructions on how to take out the filter.
  • Step 4. Vacuum up the large particles - If the air filter is covered with a lot of dust or hair, use a vacuum to dust the filter.
  • Step 5. Wipe down the filter - Next, gently hand wash the filter with warm water, mild detergent and a clean cloth. Then, rinse it with warm, clean water to remove any remaining dirt particles and soap suds.
  • Step 6. Air dry the filter - After cleaning the filter, place it on a soft cloth and allow it to air dry completely. Remember to flip it after the first hour so both sides can dry thoroughly. Be aware that the filter will likely take at least 2 hours to dry completely.
  • Step 7. Reinstall the filter - Once the filter is completely dry, return it to the unit. 

Washing the Vents & Exterior

Since the air filter will likely take multiple hours to dry, you can use this time to clean the other parts of your air conditioner, starting with the exterior.

  • Step 1. Remove the face panel - Unscrew the face panel/grille cover attached to the front of the air conditioner. If your unit doesn’t use screws to secure the face panel to the unit, check the manual for instructions on how to detach the face panel.
  • Step 2. Clean the vents - Use a clean cloth and warm, soapy water to wipe down the face panel, including the vents. Be sure to clean inside the vents, too. Remember to rinse with clean water to wash away any remaining dirt or soap.
  • Step 3. Wipe down the exterior - Next, clean the air conditioner’s exterior with a clean cloth and warm, soapy water. Be sure to not miss small crevices where dust collects. Then, rinse the exterior with clean water. If you’re worried about water dripping onto the floor, place a drip tray under the unit.
  • Step 4. Dry the face panel - After rinsing the face panel, dry it off with a clean, soft cloth. Then, place it on a clean cloth so it can air dry thoroughly: remember to turn it at least once so both sides can dry completely.
  • Step 5. Dry the exterior - Wipe the unit exterior with a dry, soft cloth to soak up any remaining moisture and then allow it to air dry completely.
  • Step 6. Return the face panel to the unit (unless cleaning the interior) - Once the face panel and other exterior surfaces are completely dry, reinstall the face panel. However, if you want to clean the interior, don’t reinstall the grill cover at this point; instead, proceed to cleaning the cabinet, fins and coils.

Cleaning the Cabinet, Fins & Coils

Although you don’t have to clean the interior every time you clean your window air conditioner, it’s a good idea to maintain the cabinet, fins and coils every 3 to 6 months.

Step 1. Comb the fins - To clean the evaporator and condenser fins, gently comb them with a soft brunch. If you accidentally bend the fins, gently push them back into place. The fins are sharp, so wear protective gloves to avoid injury.

Step 2. Clean the coils - Use a small vacuum cleaner or a can of compressed air to dust the evaporator and condenser coils inside your unit. 

Step 3. Clean the drip tray - Empty the drip tray by using a damp cloth to pull out any debris. Next, clean the tray with warm, soapy water and a dry cloth, and then rinse the tray with clean water. Be sure to dry the drip tray thoroughly before reinstalling.

Step 4. Check and clean the drain - Inspect the drain for blockages. Then, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe around the opening.

Step 5. Reinstall the drip tray - Once the drip tray is dry, return it to the unit.

Preventing Mold & Mildew

Although the general cleaning process will remove any visible mold and mildew, it’s important to kill any remaining spores to prevent future growth. Since bleach can damage metal surfaces, using it as an antifungal cleaner inside your unit isn’t advised; instead, use hydrogen peroxide. 

  • Step 1. Spray the interior with hydrogen peroxide - To kill any mold or mildew spores present inside the unit, spray the fins, coils and other interior parts with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.
  • Step 2. Reinstall the filter and face panel - By this point, the filter, face panel and exterior should be dry. If so, return the filter and face panel/grille cover to the unit. If these parts still aren’t dry, wait for these parts to dry completely before reassembling the unit.
  • Step 4. Spray the vents and exterior with hydrogen peroxide - Once the unit is reassembled, use a spray bottle to apply a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to the grates and exterior so as to prevent the growth of fungus.
  • Step 5. Allow the unit to dry - Before using your air conditioner normally, allow the unit to air dry completely.
  • Step 5. Plug in the unit - Once the hydrogen peroxide has dried, plug the power cord into the outlet.
  • Step 6. Turn the unit on - Use the On/Off button to power on the unit and resume normal operations.

Home Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips

In addition to these instructions for cleaning window units, Parts Town also has information on how to care for portable and central AC units. Be sure to check out our home air conditioner maintenance guide for a quick overview of how to maintain various types of units.

Please contact a local authorized service agent who can help with this specific unit and all your heating and cooling needs.

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