How To Clean A Window AC Unit Without Removing It

Lisa Borga
by Lisa Borga

Although easy to forget, window air conditioners do need to be cleaned. Notably, window AC units become less efficient as they get dirty. In fact, they may even contain mold.

Straighten the condenser fins on the air conditioner with a knife and clean them with a brush. Carefully pull the front off of your air conditioner and remove the filter. Wash the filter with warm water under a faucet, reinstall it, and put the front panel back in place.

Additionally, air conditioners recycle the air in your home that you breathe every day. A dirty air conditioner can mean dirty air in your home. This can lead to all sorts of respiratory problems, making a clean air conditioner all the more critical.

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How Does A Window Air Conditioner Work?

An air conditioning system is too complex to describe in detail in this article. Still, in brief, it transfers heat from a set of coils inside your window. Then, a compressor moves this to a set of coils outside the window.

In a window AC, the hot and cold parts of the air conditioning system are in the same unit but separated by a panel. This is important to understand because there are two fans usually powered by the same motor.

On the outside, it pulls air from the atmosphere to cool the hot coils. On the inside, it pulls air from your room to cool the air, thereby heating the coils.

The Cleaning Procedure

Cleaning your air conditioner unit should be a regular occurrence. First, we will assume you have not cleaned for a long time and need a deep clean. Follow these steps:

  • Turn the machine off and put on safety gloves. This is because the coil fins are often sharp edges.
  • The filter is ordinarily removable without taking off the front panel. If this is the case on your unit, remove it now and gently wash it out with dish soap. Otherwise, do this after the next step.
  • Remove the front panel on the AC unit. Generally, you can do this by merely unsnapping clips, but sometimes there will be screws than need removed.
  • Straighten the fins on the now exposed coil. You can do this very carefully with a kitchen knife. However, it is better to use a specialized coil fin comb. Typically, these can be bought at a hardware store.
  • Vacuum the interior of the air conditioner, including the coil. Next, gently dislodge any stuck material from the coils, a soft brush can do this well.
  • Clean the coils with a coil cleaner spray. Follow the directions for how long to leave it on before wiping off. If you cannot get some specialized spray, don’t worry and just move onto the next step.
  • Wash the interior. Use water with a few drops of detergent. Spray the coils, fan blades, and entire exposed area down thoroughly. After this, wipe everything off with a cloth.
  • The Outside. Repeat the fin straightening, vacuuming, brushing, coil cleaner spray, and soapy water on the always exposed rear coils.
  • Your AC unit probably has a small port for machine oil. Apply the oil for the fan in the port before putting everything back together. It’s a good idea to gently pry the cap off, put a little machine oil in, and reseal it.
  • Time to finish. Now, it’s time to put it back together.

How An Air Conditioner Gets Dirty

Your air conditioner not only cools and dehumidifies your air it also runs it through a filter. This filter picks up all the dust and debris in your air, slowly clogging the filter.

Your AC picks up the moisture in your air when it runs the air through its cold coils. This makes your AC moist, and though it is cold, it can build up fungus and mold.

The air being run over the coils outside often carries leaves, bugs, and other debris. Then, this can often catch inside the coils and clog it up.

One sign your air conditioner may need cleaning is excessive dripping

Benefits Of Cleaning A Window Air Conditioner

  • The air conditioner will run more efficiently because a clean machine will transfer heat better, thus cooling faster.
  • It can remove loud sounds such as crackling.
  • The machine will use less electricity because it is running more efficiently.
  • A cleaner machine will be less likely to malfunction, thus requiring repairs. If you have a room that is still a bit too hot, a window AC can help.
  • The air you breathe will be healthier and more pleasant smelling due to cleaner filters.
  • It can stop excessive dripping.

If There Is Mold

Window air conditioners are relatively prone to mold buildup due to their humid environment. Therefore, if you notice a musty smell coming from your AC and haven’t been using it, check for mold.

If the unit has mold, you will have to remove your window unit. Otherwise, protect the surrounding area, including the condensation drain port.

  • Practice safety: No matter what you choose, ensure good ventilation. When working with bleach and mold, the fumes can be dangerous. You will also need a mask designed to protect against mold spores and goggles to prevent eye injury.
  • Clean thoroughly: Follow all the steps for a thorough cleaning. However, also clean all mold with a mixture of 1/6 cup bleach, 1/2 tablespoon dish detergent(check that the dish detergent can be safely used with bleach), and 1 1/2 gallons water. Soak this solution into a cloth and scrub all the mold off.
  • Clean drain port: Pour a cup of bleach through the condensation drain lines access opening. Remember that this will drip out, so take care of where it’s going.
  • Dry: Allow it to dry completely before running again.

Regular Cleaning

Your air conditioner needs to be cleaned regularly.

  • Daily: If you live in a dusty area, you may want to clean your filter daily. Just take it out and wash it with mild dish detergent.
  • Biweekly: Generally, in most areas, cleaning your air conditioner filter every two weeks is a good idea.
  • Every season: It’s a good idea to clean out the fins and wash the front cover. Just wipe the fins with a soft cloth and diluted dish detergent.
  • Biyearly: Additionally, it is best to deep clean the air conditioner every six months if you live in a warm climate. For this, just follow the steps we outlined for a deep clean.

Can I Clean My Window Air Conditioner With A Hose?

You can use a hose to clean the exterior of your window air conditioner. However, without removing it from the window, you cannot hose out the coils and fins clean.

Avoid getting too much water in the unit, and try the following steps:

  • Turn the hose on, not too heavy. You want it to where there’s a nice stream coming out, but you don’t want the water blasting out of the hose.
  • Let the water run on the window. Hose the outside, the fins, and the coils.
  • Move the unit around to drain it. You want all of the water out of it before you finish otherwise you run the risk of growing mold.

Although cleaning with a hose will help clean your unit, it is not as effective as the method described above.

Related Questions

Is my air conditioner low on refrigerant?

If the air conditioner is not putting out cold air, it could be low on refrigerant. However, before calling a repairman, try cleaning the coils and fins. If the coils or fins are clogged, the air conditioner will not blow cold air. Never apply refrigerant on your own as most times you will need a license or certification to do so.

How do you clean mold out of a window air conditioner?

In order to clean mold out of your window air conditioner, you will need to put a few gallons of hot water and 1/2 a cup of bleach in a five-gallon bucket. You’ll need to soak the sponge and wipe down the inside of your air conditioner. Make sure you’re removing any mold that you see. Th bleach in the mixture will help to kill any existing mold spores.

Can I spray Lysol in my window air conditioner?

Yes! You can spray Lysol into your air conditioner. this will help save some money on calling a professional to essentially do the same thing. You can apply Lysol to the coils in the back of your unit and then scrub them with a hard-bristled brush. Also, it’ll be a good idea to wash your air filter using the disinfecting Lysol cleaner, Lysol Power & Free®.

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Wrap It All Up

Having to wash your window can be a hard venture when you have a big old clunky air conditioner in the way. However, there’s ways to do that without moving the air conditioner from your window. That way, you won’t need to go through all the steps of removing it, and putting it back. We hope this has been helpful, and that you are able to clean your window successfully using this guide.

Lisa Borga
Lisa Borga

I am a writer who enjoys working on home improvement projects. My husband was in the navy, so we moved frequently. This gave me many opportunities to fix up new places. In my spare time, I enjoy reading mysteries and hiking.

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