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White wall air conditioner blowing cold air into a living room

How To Clean Your Air Conditioner

Air conditioner maintenance is key to keeping your appliance performing at its best, cooling your home properly when the summer season begins. This guide will walk you through the process of cleaning your A/C unit with household supplies.
Woman with rubber gloves removing a filter from a wall air conditioner

How To Clean An Air Conditioner

How often you give your air conditioner a good cleaning is dependent on what kind of unit you have in your home. For example, window units are small and quite accessible, which makes a regular routine easier for a user. It's recommended that you clean a window A/C unit at least every two weeks. Central air conditioners, on the other hand, are quite large and complex, so the recommendation is once a year. Their outside location can make cleaning more tedious, especially during the hotter and colder months of the year. That's why it's strongly recommended you call a professional to inspect and clean your system for you. They will be able to check for leaks, level out your coolants and clean the coils.

Before You Get Started

Before you start gathering your supplies, there are a few important things to note about air conditioners. Learning the most important functions and pieces of your unit will help you learn how to clean your air conditioner properly, handling each step the right way throughout the process. Here are the primary areas and parts you'll be focusing on:


Air conditioner filters are responsible for removing dust and other particles from the air in your home. When these filters become clogged, your air conditioner must work harder and use more energy to cool the environment. This over-compensation will cost you more down the line once your utility bill comes, which is why cleaning it regularly is so vital.
A dirty and a clean air conditioner filter next to each other

Evaporator & Condenser Coils

All air conditioners, whether a small window unit or large central unit, have both indoor and outdoor components and each component contains its own unique coil that must be cleaned. In the interior portion of your air conditioner, you will find the evaporator coils. These coils are constructed with copper in order to conduct heat and inside, they contain coolant. When warm air passes over the evaporator coils, they will absorb the heat, while the refrigerant evaporates into a gas state. The refrigerant will then push the warm air toward the outside component so it can pass through the compressor and reach the condenser coil. The compressor will turn the refrigerant back into a liquid, while the condenser coil, with the help of an exhaust fan, releases the remaining heat into the air outside. Because both the evaporator and condenser coils move hot and cool air in and out of your home, ensuring they are not clogged with dust or dirt is essential.

Cleaning Supplies You'll Need For Your Unit

  • Screwdriver
  • Soft cloth(s)
  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild dish soap or detergent
  • Spray bottle


  • Plastic container
  • Soft brush
  • No-rinse coil cleaner

How To Clean Your Air Conditioner

Step One: Turn Off Your Air Conditioner

When exploring the inside of any electrical device or applying liquid to it, it's the safest idea to turn the power off and unplug the cord before you begin. This will keep you safe from injury and keep your appliance safe from water damage.

Step Two: Unfasten and Clean the Air Conditioner Cover

While every model and unit is different, often there is a front cover fastened to your appliance with knobs, screws or tabs. For additional assistance in removing it safely without damaging your air conditioner, consult the manufacturer's manual. If you no longer possess your air conditioner manual, try finding your specific model on, as many of our appliance listings have owner's manuals attached. Wipe the air conditioner cover down with a soft cloth.

Step Three: Remove The Filter For Cleaning

Locate the filter in your air conditioner, which usually sits in the front of your unit. If you do not see it and have trouble finding it elsewhere, once again, double-check the manual. Use a soft cloth to remove dust from the surface of your filter. Then, using the cloth again, rinse it gently with lukewarm water and mild dish soap. If you have additional time or are seeking out a deeper cleaning, you can even fill a container with this water/soap mixture and let your filter soak for 10 minutes. Remove and allow your filter to dry completely before putting it back inside your air conditioner.
Water running over an air conditioner filter

Step Four: Clean The Evaporator Coils

The hardest part of tackling each of the coils in your air conditioner is truly locating them. Your handy manual can also tell you where the evaporator coils are and what they look like. Coils are extremely delicate and applying too much pressure can damage or bend them. To prevent this, use a soft cloth or a soft-bristled brush to gently brush away the dirt and dust. If you are prone to allergies, you may want to wear a mask during this step as agitating these particles may cause your symptoms to flare up. The easiest way to continue cleaning the coils after this mild brushing is by combining lukewarm water and dish soap in a spray bottle and spraying the coil (make sure the mixture is not too sudsy). You can then dry the coils with a clean, soft cloth. An alternate way to clean the coils requires a no-rinse coil cleaner, which can be found and bought separately at most home improvement stores. This spray will foam up and trap dust and dirt for you. Then, it will turn into condensation and drip clean into your unit's drain pan. No matter which cleaning solution you choose, be careful to not spray any electrical components or wiring. Dry all leftover moisture with a clean, soft cloth.
A user spraying their open air conditioner with a spray bottle

Step Five: Clean The Condenser Coils

Once again, refer to your manual if you're unsure where the condenser coils are or what they look like. Remember, though, that the condenser coils sit within the outdoor component of your unit. Using a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush, remove dirt and dust gently from the coils. Any remaining debris can be cleaned away with the same soap and water spray solution or the no-rinse coil cleaner. Dry all leftover moisture with a clean, soft cloth.

Step Six: Test Your Results

Wait until every component and coil within your air conditioner is completely dry. Before restoring power to your appliance, make sure that the thermostat is set to "off." Once your air conditioner is powered up and ready to go, adjust the cooling settings as you would on a typical day. If you know how to clean your air conditioner and have done so correctly, you will notice an improved experience and temperature within the house.

Maintenance Tips:

Know When To Contact A Professional with Regular Checkups

Outside of regular cleaning, you should also regularly keep an eye on your air conditioner for common issues like iced-over coils, weak airflow or leakage from any source. Breaks or malfunctions like this will tell you that either your filter is clogged or there is some sort of blockage inside the air conditioner. Is your unit struggling to maintain consistent temperatures? Is your air conditioner making weird noises? Are your utility bills increasing although your A/C use has been the same? These are most likely signs that something has gone wrong with your cooling appliance and you are in need of professional assistance.

Keep Your Air Conditioner Environment Clear

Whether you have a window A/C, central A/C or another unit type, keeping the area around your appliance free and open is ideal for creating the best cool airflow. Inside the home, make sure dressers, beds, clothes and other obstacles are not blocking the vents. Outside the home, it's recommended that you do not allow plants and other wildlife to grow and populate within a two-foot radius of your air conditioner.
A central air conditioner outdoors with open space around it

Changing The Filter

Just as filters can get dirty, they can also get damaged. Depending on your at-home lifestyle, you may want to check your air conditioner filter every 30-60 days to ensure you're not in need of a new one. Pet owners, for example, may realize theirs get dirtier quicker due to pet hair and dander, which can take a toll on the filter long term as well. While learning how to clean your air conditioner and doing so consistently will prolong the life of your filter, it will need to be replaced eventually. When the time comes, explore Abt to see if we carry the perfect new filter for your unit.
If you have a central air conditioner in your household and are interested in getting a professional cleaning or another service done, local customers can take advantage of Abt's appliance repair services today. If you've learned how to clean your air conditioner and take the proper steps, but notice the performance is still lacking, it may be time to completely replace your unit. Explore our air conditioner buying guide to learn more about what you may need in a new appliance, as cooling technology is constantly evolving. Otherwise, our HVAC experts are happy to give you more cleaning tips and answer any air conditioner questions you may have at 800-860-3577.