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How to Clean an Air Conditioning Unit

how to clean an air conditioner

Keeping your air conditioning (AC) unit clean is very important if you want to keep your home comfortable and your system running efficiently. Regular cleaning helps improve your AC’s performance and extend its lifespan, benefiting the air quality inside your home. By taking the time to clean your AC unit, you can enjoy a cooler, healthier living space while also saving on energy costs.

Signs of a Dirty Air Conditioner 

Knowing when your AC needs cleaning is essential to keep it running efficiently. There are some common indicators that your air conditioner might be dirty:

  • Reduced Airflow: If you notice weaker airflow from your vents, it might be due to clogged filters or dirty coils.
  • Unusual Noises: Strange sounds, like rattling or buzzing, can indicate that dirt and debris have accumulated inside the unit.
  • Higher Energy Bills: A sudden increase in your energy bills can be a sign that your AC is working harder than usual due to dirt buildup.
  • Warm Air: If your AC blows warm air instead of cool air, dirty components could be affecting its performance.
  • Frequent Cycling: If your AC turns on and off more frequently than usual, it may be struggling to maintain the set temperature because of dirt and debris.

Can I clean my AC unit myself?

Yes, you can clean your AC unit yourself. Many tasks involved in AC cleaning are straightforward, and you can handle them with basic tools and a bit of patience. However, make sure you always do this safely by using the proper tools and avoiding electrical components. If a task seems too complicated or risky, it’s always best to contact a professional for help

What parts of an air conditioner need cleaning?

To keep your air conditioner running smoothly, it’s important to clean the key components regularly: 


  • Purpose: Capture dust, dirt, and other particles to keep the air clean.
  • Cleaning Frequency: Check and clean every 1-2 months.

Evaporator Coils

  • Purpose: Absorb heat from the air inside your home.
  • Cleaning Frequency: Clean at least once a year.

Condenser Coils

  • Purpose: Release the absorbed heat outside.
  • Cleaning Frequency: Clean annually, more often if the unit is exposed to dirt and debris.


  • Purpose: Help with the airflow through the coils.
  • Cleaning Frequency: Check and clean during the annual maintenance.

Drain Lines

  • Purpose: Remove the condensation produced by the evaporator coil.
  • Cleaning Frequency: Inspect and clean yearly to prevent blockages.


  • Purpose: Circulate air through the system and your home.
  • Cleaning Frequency: Check and clean annually.

What tools do I need to clean my air conditioning?

To clean your air conditioner effectively, you’ll need a few tools and materials:

  • Screwdriver: For opening panels and accessing internal components.
  • Fin Comb: For straightening bent fins on the coils.
  • Soft Brush: For gently cleaning dust and debris from various parts.
  • Vacuum Cleaner with Brush Attachment: For removing loose dirt and dust.
  • Garden Hose: For cleaning the condenser coils (outdoor unit).
  • Cleaning Solution: Specifically designed for air conditioners, available at hardware stores.
  • Water and Mild Detergent: For cleaning filters and some other components.
  • Gloves: To protect your hands while cleaning.
  • Safety Glasses: To protect your eyes from dust and cleaning solutions.
  • Bucket: For mixing cleaning solutions and rinsing parts.
  • Towels or Cloths: For wiping down and drying components after cleaning.

How to Clean an Air Conditioning Filter 

Cleaning your air conditioner’s filters is one of the simplest and most important maintenance tasks. Follow these steps to keep your filters clean and your AC running efficiently:

  1. Turn Off the Power: Always start by turning off the power to the AC unit for safety.
  2. Locate the Filters: Open the panel to access the filters, usually near the return air duct.
  3. Remove the Filters: Carefully slide the filters out of their slots.
  4. Vacuum the Filters: Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove loose dust and debris from the filters.
  5. Wash the Filters: If the filters are washable, rinse them with warm water and mild detergent. Avoid using harsh chemicals that can damage the filters.
  6. Dry the Filters: Let the filters dry completely before reinstalling them. You can air dry them or use a soft cloth to speed up the process.
  7. Reinstall the Filters: Once the filters are dry, slide them back into their slots and secure the panel.

You should replace the filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, which is typically every 3-6 months.

How to Clean Evaporator Coils in Your Air Conditioner

Keeping the evaporator coils clean is essential for your AC’s performance and longevity. Clean coils transfer heat more effectively, improving your AC’s efficiency and helping reduce energy costs. Clean coils also reduce the spread of dust and allergens in the air quality of your home. Regular coil cleaning also helps prolong the lifespan of your AC by preventing it from overworking and ensuring it continues to run smoothly and effectively.

  1. Turn Off the Power: Start by turning off the AC unit’s power.
  2. Access the Coils: Locate the evaporator coils inside the indoor unit or air handler. You may need to remove a few panels or screws to access them.
  3. Inspect the Coils: Check the coils for dirt, dust, and debris buildup.
  4. Brush Away Loose Dirt: Use a soft brush to gently remove loose dirt and debris from the coils.
  5. Apply Coil Cleaner: Spray a specialised coil cleaner onto the coils. These cleaners are available at most DIY stores and break down grime without damaging the coils.
  6. Let It Sit: Allow the cleaner to sit on the coils for the recommended time (usually around 5-10 minutes).
  7. Rinse the Coils: If the cleaner requires rinsing, use a spray bottle with water to gently rinse off the cleaner and dirt. Be careful not to get other parts of the unit wet.
  8. Dry the Coils: Allow the coils to air dry completely before reassembling the unit.

How to Clean Condensor Coils in Your Air Conditioner

The condenser coil in the outdoor unit is exposed to the elements and can accumulate dirt and debris. 

Maintain the area around your outdoor unit regularly by checking for and removing debris, such as leaves and dirt. Trim any vegetation, maintaining at least two feet of clear space around the unit for proper airflow, and periodically inspect the unit for any signs of damage or wear before opening it. 

  1. Turn Off the Power: Start by turning off the power to the AC unit.
  2. Clear the Area: Remove any debris, such as leaves, grass, and dirt, from around the outdoor unit.
  3. Remove the Access Panel: Unscrew and remove the protective grille or panel to access the condenser coils.
  4. Brush Away Surface Dirt: Use a soft brush to gently remove loose dirt and debris from the coils.
  5. Apply Coil Cleaner: Spray a specialised coil cleaner onto the coils. These cleaners help break down grime and are available at most hardware stores.
  6. Let It Sit: Allow the cleaner to sit on the coils for the recommended time, usually 5-10 minutes.
  7. Rinse the Coils: Use a garden hose to rinse the coils thoroughly. Use gentle water pressure to avoid damaging the fins.
  8. Straighten Bent Fins: If any fins are bent, use a fin comb to straighten them carefully for proper airflow through the coils.
  9. Reassemble the Unit: Once the coils are clean and dry, reattach the protective grille or panel.

How to Clean Other Parts of Your Air Conditioner

To ensure proper cleaning and maintenance of your air conditioner, you should know how to clean all its components, not just the filters and coils. 

Cleaning the Fins

  1. Turn Off the Power: Switch the power off to avoid accidents.
  2. Access the Fins: Open the unit’s access panels to reach the fins.
  3. Brush Gently: Use a soft brush or fin comb to clean the fins. Be careful not to bend them, as they are delicate and can impact airflow if damaged.

Cleaning the Drain Lines

  1. Locate the Drain Line: Find the drain line which removes condensation from the unit.
  2. Clear Blockages: Use a wet/dry vacuum to clear any clogs. You can also pour a mixture of water and vinegar through the line to clean it.
  3. Check for Leaks: Inspect the drain line for any leaks or damage and repair as necessary.

Cleaning the Blower

  1. Access the Blower: Open the unit to reach the blower assembly.
  2. Remove Dust and Debris: Use a vacuum and a soft brush to clean the blower blades and surrounding area.
  3. Lubricate if Necessary: Some blowers may require lubrication. Check the manufacturer’s instructions and apply a few drops of motor oil if needed.

DIY vs Professional Air Conditioner Cleaning 

When deciding to clean your air conditioner, you may wonder whether to tackle the job yourself or hire a professional.

DIY Air Conditioner Cleaning Professional Air Conditioner Maintenance
Cost Effective: Saves money on a professional cleaning service.
Cost: Professional services will come with a fee.
Convenience: You can clean it on your own schedule. 
Time-Saving: Expert technicians can complete the job quickly and efficiently. 
Skill Level
Risk of damage: Incorrect cleaning methods can damage your AC unit.
Expertise: Professionals have the knowledge and tools to clean your unit thoroughly and safely.
Safety Concerns: Handling electrical components and refrigerants can be hazardous. 
Safety Assurance: Experts follow strict safety protocols for a secure and risk-free cleaning process.
Cleaning Limited Cleaning Effectiveness: DIY cleaning might overlook hidden issues and not be as thorough as a professional serviceThorough Cleaning Process: Engineers can identify and fix potential issues that you might miss. 

Choosing between DIY and professional cleaning depends on your comfort level, the complexity of the task, and your budget. If your AC unit has significant issues or you need clarification on a specific cleaning task, it’s best to call a professional.

For most homeowners, a mix of regular DIY maintenance and occasional professional cleaning offers the best balance of cost and care. By scheduling professional cleaning once a year, you can guarantee thorough maintenance and early detection of potential problems.

Keep your Air Conditioner Clean with GLP

For hassle-free, professional air conditioner cleaning, trust GLP HVAC Services to keep your AC running smoothly. Our expert technicians make sure your AC runs efficiently, providing thorough maintenance and addressing any issues promptly. With our reliable services, you can enjoy improved air quality and lower energy bills. Contact GLP today to schedule your AC cleaning and keep the temperature of your home comfortable all year round.

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