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How to Clean Your Window Air Conditioner

Anyone with a window air conditioner – also known as a box air conditioner, maybe even a wall air conditioner – will know how vital it is to providing fresh, cooled air throughout the warmer months of the year.

We all know just how hot an Australian summer can get, and how an air conditioning system can be a genuine life saver. When it’s used as frequently as it is in summer, the window air conditioner can experience notable wear and tear and stop delivering the cool air you need.

Therefore, it’s important to keep your window air conditioner cleaned, so it can continue to provide you and your home with the cooling relief you need. Let’s take a closer look at why you need to clean your air conditioner and how to do it.

How Often Do Window ACs Need Cleaning?

To ensure your window air conditioner continues to function at its best for as long as possible, it is important to maintain a regular cleaning schedule. But how regularly should you be having it cleaned?

Generally, you should look at cleaning your window AC unit at least once a year if not twice yearly. You’ll be best served by cleaning the filters once a month and replacing the filters every three months.

If you opt for just the once-a-year window air conditioner clean, the best time to get it done is before the first use of the summer.

For bi-annual cleans, one at the beginning of summer and another at the end of the air conditioning season should keep the unit happy. If you happen to still have the manual, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise, you can follow our trusty guide.

When You Need to Clean Your Window AC

Cleaning your air conditioner is crucial for a number of reasons. Keeping the air con clean benefits you in numerous ways, including:

  • It helps to decrease your energy bills and makes the window unit more energy efficient
  • It stops the growth and eventual spread of mould
  • It extends the air conditioner’s lifespan
  • It minimises the need for necessary repairs
  • It results in cleaner, healthier air for your living space

Most importantly, clean window air conditioners mean healthier homes. Dust and dirt buildup, as well as mould growth, can act as allergens or exacerbate existing health conditions.

Cleaning out window units removes these irritants and reduces the potential for allergies and illness from affecting you and your family.

The Window Air Con Cleaning Process

To clean your window AC unit, you will need to gather some essential materials and tools. They include a:

  • Screwdriver
  • Bucket of warm water
  • Detergent or mild soap
  • Recyclable, eco-friendly damp cloth
  • Drip tray to collect water used in the cleaning process
  • Spray bottle containing hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration should be okay)
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Compressed air
  • Protective gloves
  • Vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment

The steps to effectively clean a window air conditioner are as follows. First and foremost, it’s important that you switch off the air conditioner and unplug it from the wall before you begin cleaning.

1. Take Off and Clean the Face Panel

Your window air conditioner’s face panel will likely be fixed to your unit either with screws, tabs or clips. The air conditioner’s user manual should have detailed instructions on how to remove the panel from your AC system.

Spray the removed face panel with your hydrogen peroxide solution – make sure you have your protective gloves on – and then clean off the spray with your cloth. Another option is to take the face panel outside and clean it off with a garden hose. Once you’ve cleaned the face panel, leave it aside to air dry while you continue cleaning the rest of the air conditioner.

2. Clean the Air Filter

This is possibly the most important part of the cleaning process. Even if you choose not to persist with the other steps, cleaning the filter of your window AC unit should be a matter of importance.

Generally, your unit’s filter will either be situated in or just behind the face plate, so you can usually take both off the air conditioner at the same time.

Once you’ve taken the filter out, remove any significant amounts of dirt and dust build up with your vacuum cleaner. You can then remove any remaining traces of dust and dirt with a wet cloth.

3. Clean Out the Inside of Your Window Air Conditioner with a Vacuum

Time to get the vacuum out again, this time to clean out the interior of your window AC. Be sure to get into the evaporator at the front of the unit and the condenser at the back.

It’s especially important that you clean the thin, aluminium fins on each of these. To prevent the fins from getting bent or damaged, make sure you use the soft brush attachment, and vacuum in the same direction as the fins.

Additionally, in the middle of the unit you’ll need to clean out the fan and the blower, and at the bottom of the air conditioner you’ll need to vacuum the drain pan as well.

4. Spray the Air Conditioner with the Hydrogen Peroxide Solution

Take your hydrogen peroxide spray bottle and spray the inside of the cabinet and the outside housing. Wipe down everything you can get to – inside and out – with a clean cloth. For the condenser and evaporator coils, it is safe to use the same hydrogen peroxide solution. Coil cleaning is important for any AC unit.

You can also use a spray cleaner specifically designed for air conditioner evaporator and condenser coils. Whichever option you choose, you can either allow the cleaning solution to air dry, or rinse it off.

Should you prefer to rinse off the cleaning solution, allow it to sit for a good 10-20 minutes first to allow it to soften up any hardened dust and dirt deposits.

5. Get the Fins Straightened Out

If the cleaning process has bent any fins out of shape, it’s important to bend them back into shape to ensure your window air conditioner continues to work at its best. Be sure to have your protective gloves on – safety is paramount, after all.

Then take a knife or a fin comb and place it into the gaps between the fins. It’s important that you insert it just above or below the points that are bent. Then softly move the knife or comb parallel to the untouched fins until those that have been affected are straightened.

And there you have it! You can now reattach the face plate to the unit and enjoy cooler, cleaner air.

How to Keep Your Window Unit Cleaner for Longer

Window air conditioner cleaning might seem like a bit of a chore, it is certainly important. But you can make the process just that little bit easier, simply by following these helpful tips in between each yearly (or twice yearly) clean.

We’ve said it before; make sure to clean the air filter once a month. Every three months, replace the filter.

Give the outside of your window air conditioning unit a light dusting once a week and wash it with a cloth dampened with warm water once a month.

In those cooler months of the year when you’re not using the unit, take it out of the window and put it away for when you will be using it more frequently.

A thorough cleaning of your window air conditioner is certainly something you can do yourself. But for any major servicing, maintenance or repairs, a licensed air conditioning technician is your safest bet.

Contact the heating and cooling specialists at Metropolitan Air Conditioning for any essential repairs or maintenance needs so you can enjoy relief from the heat this summer.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.


Published: 2022-11-03

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I called them in the morning, and they were at my doorstep within a few hours. The technician was quick to identify the problem, had the necessary parts, and repaired my AC unit in no time.

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My AC was acting up, and I was worried about a hefty repair bill. However, the technicians quickly identified a minor issue, fixed it, and didn't overcharge me. I appreciate their honesty and expertise in troubleshooting the problem.

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