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Your Window Air Conditioner is Gross – Here’s How to Clean It

We’re in the heat of summer, and scorching hot days have become the norm – which likely means your air conditioner has been working overtime… and then some. For some air conditioning systems, like central AC, it’s best to have a professional come and inspect the unit at least once a year and make sure it’s operating efficiently. But if you have a window air conditioner or portable air conditioner, you can definitely clean and maintain it yourself. By keeping your air conditioner clean, you’ll prevent mold and mildew from growing inside (gross!) and get more longevity and value out of your appliance. Plus, a well-maintained window AC uses much less energy than a dirty one. 

If you’ve never cleaned an air conditioner before, it may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, the process is pretty straightforward. With the following tips, you’ll be able to keep your AC unit clean, functional, and energy-efficient. 

Here’s What You’ll Need: 

  • Vital Oxide 
  • Fragrance-free dish soap
  • Warm water
  • HEPA vacuum 
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Soft-bristle brush 
  • Condensed air 
  • Screwdriver 

Step 1: Clean the AC Filter 

Regularly cleaning the filter inside of your window AC is the most important thing you can do to keep your appliance running smoothly. Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system's efficiency significantly. With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil's heat-absorbing capacity. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, cleaning or replacing a dirty, clogged filter can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5% to 15%.

First things first, make sure your air conditioner is unplugged. From there, take off the front panel and remove the filter. Use your HEPA vacuum to remove as much of the dust and debris from the filter as you can. Next, wash your filter with warm, soapy water and thoroughly rinse with clean water. Then, spray the filter liberally with Vital Oxide to sanitize and deodorize. Do not rinse; let the filter air dry before reinstalling it in your AC unit. 

If you have a disposable filter inside your AC unit, it should be replaced regularly. The timing will depend on how much you use your conditioner and environmental factors like your local climate, but generally, it’s a good idea to swap out your filter every six weeks to six months. 

Step 2: Wipe Down the Exterior & Grill 

While your AC filter is drying, wash the grill and exterior of the unit. Start by wiping the grill thoroughly with a soft microfiber cloth dipped in warm, soapy water, making sure to remove all the dirt, dust, and gunk that may be lingering in the grill openings. Rinse with water, and then spray the grill with Vital Oxide. Let it dry completely before reattaching it. 

After cleaning the grill, wipe down the top and sides of the air conditioner with a microfiber cloth lightly damped with Vital Oxide. Be sure to get inside the tiny spaces where it’s easy for dirt and dust to collect. 

Step 3: Dust the Fins & Coils 

This step takes a bit of elbow grease, but thankfully you don’t need to dust the fins and coils every time you clean your air conditioner. It’s important to wear personal protective equipment for this step, including eye protection and gloves. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning the fins and coils at least twice a year. If you aren’t comfortable cleaning the inside of your air conditioner, seek the help of an HVAC professional.

To dust the fins, start by taking a soft-bristle brush and gently brush the aluminum fins inside your AC unit. Be sure to take your time during this process – because the fins bend very quickly and can be sharp. If you notice any bent fins, softly move them back into place. 

Next, spray your can of condensed air inside the AC unit to dust off the coils. 

Step 4: Clean Out the Drip Tray & Drain 

Finish the interior maintenance of your window AC unit by emptying the drip tray and clearing out the drain. To remove the dirty water and debris from the tray, use a wet-dry vacuum or a cloth and remove everything that’s collected inside. Wipe down thoroughly with a cloth damped with Vital Oxide. Once clean, spray the drip tray with Vital Oxide and let air dry before reinstalling. 

Finally, check the drain to see if anything is clogging it. Use a soft cloth to wipe around the drain’s opening to remove any debris and make sure there’s a clear pathway for water to exit the unit. 

Step 5: Reassemble & Spray Your Unit With Vital Oxide

You’ve cleaned everything and allowed it to dry – now it’s time to reassemble your window air conditioner! Finally, grab your bottle of Vital Oxide and spray the areas of the unit where the air flows in and out to de-germ and neutralize any mold or mildew spores. Wait for the unit to completely dry before plugging it back in and turning it on. 

You’re done! Now you can go back to enjoying cool air whenever you need it! By regularly cleaning your air conditioner, not only will you be extending the life of your appliance – you’ll be breathing in cleaner and cooler air. 

Keep Your AC Cleaner, Longer 

Taking the time to regularly spruce up your window air conditioner (even when it’s running smoothly!) will help prevent mold and mildew buildup and keep your AC running longer. In addition to cleaning your unit regularly, there are other steps you can take to keep your AC unit in proper working order. For example, if you live somewhere that’s only hot during the summer months, consider cleaning it and storing it when you won’t be using it for long periods. 

The product you use to clean your window air conditioner is as important as the frequency of maintenance. Harsh conventional cleaners like bleach can do more harm than good. In fact, bleach should always be avoided for air conditioner maintenance as it is highly corrosive to metals. There is a better way. Vital Oxide is the ideal product to use to clean and sanitize your window AC unit, as it’s non-corrosive to most treated articles, it contains no harsh chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), it’s effective against a broad spectrum of pathogens, and requires no rinsing after application. 

Have questions about planet-friendly cleaning or reducing harsh chemicals in your home? We have answers! The Ecology Works has been leading the way in green cleaning since 1993. We can help you select the products you need to live a better, allergen-free life. Please feel free to Contact Us or message us on Facebook. No question is too small! We're here to help.
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