How to Clean the Inside of Your AC for Optimal Performance

Woman checking her ac
How to Clean the Inside of Your AC for Optimal Performance

As summer approaches and the temperature rises, many of us rely on our air conditioner to keep our homes cool and comfortable. However, just like any other appliance, air conditioners require regular maintenance to function efficiently and effectively.

Regular cleaning of your air conditioner not only ensures optimal performance but also brings a host of benefits. These include improved efficiency, reduced energy costs, and enhanced air quality. Moreover, the good news is that cleaning an air conditioner is a manageable task that can be easily performed by most people without professional help.

In this article, we will provide you with practical, step-by-step instructions on how to clean your air conditioning unit effectively. So let’s get started and ensure your AC is in top-notch condition for the summer season ahead!

Why Cleaning Your Air Conditioner is Important

Proper maintenance and cleaning of your air conditioner is crucial for its performance, energy efficiency, and overall health benefits. A dirty air conditioner can cause a range of problems that not only affect the unit’s functionality but also have potential health risks and financial consequences. Let’s explore why cleaning your air conditioner is important and how it can benefit you in the long run.

Effects of a Dirty Air Conditioner on Performance and Energy Consumption

A dirty air conditioner can lead to various performance issues such as reduced airflow, overheating, and uneven cooling. This is because dirt, debris, and dust build up on the filters, coils, and other internal components restricting airflow and forcing the unit to work harder to achieve the desired temperature.

Moreover, as clogged filters or other obstructions block the airflow, the system’s components have to work harder to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in increased energy consumption.

This not only drives up your utility bills but also puts a strain on the system, potentially causing permanent damage and expensive repairs. By cleaning your AC filter, you can reduce energy consumption from 5% to 15%, resulting in cost savings and improved performance.

Health Benefits of Maintaining a Clean Air Conditioner

A clean air conditioner can have significant health benefits for you and your family. A dirty unit can harbor allergens, bacteria, and mold that can worsen respiratory conditions or trigger allergies. Keeping your air conditioner clean can filter out allergens, dust, and other particles, and reduce the risk of allergies, respiratory issues, and asthma flare-ups.

Moreover, a clean and well-maintained AC also prevents mold growth by maintaining optimal humidity levels in your home. Mold and mildew can cause serious health problems, and regular cleaning of your air conditioner can help protect your family’s health.

Potential Cost Savings from Regular Maintenance

By cleaning and maintaining your air conditioner regularly, you can save on potential costs in the long run. Not only does a clean unit consume less energy, but it also extends its lifespan and reduces the need for costly repairs or replacements. Additionally, regular maintenance can help detect and fix any issues before they escalate, saving you from unexpected expenses.

Gathering Your Tools and Supplies

Cleaning supplies
The right tools you’ll need

Before you start cleaning your air conditioner, make sure you have all the necessary tools and supplies on hand. These include:

  • Vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment
  • A soft brush (such as a toothbrush or paintbrush)
  • Mild detergent
  • Water
  • Screwdriver
  • Fin comb

Having these tools will make the cleaning process easier and more efficient.

Safety Precautions

Before you begin cleaning, it’s important to take some safety precautions to prevent any accidents or injuries. These include:

  • Turning off power to the unit: Before cleaning your air conditioner, make sure you turn off the power at the main circuit breaker. This will prevent any electric shocks while handling the unit.
  • Wearing protective gear: As you clean, dust and debris may become airborne, so it’s important to wear gloves and safety goggles to protect your skin and eyes from any potential irritants.
  • Following manufacturer’s instructions: Before starting, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific air conditioner model. This will ensure safe and proper cleaning procedures.

Preparing Your Air Conditioner for Cleaning

Before you can start cleaning your air conditioner, it’s important to properly prepare the unit. This involves a few key steps that are given below.

Turn off and Unplug the Air Conditioner

First and foremost, as mentioned before make sure to turn off the power at the main circuit breaker and unplug the air conditioner. This will ensure your safety while cleaning and prevent any damage to the unit.

Remove the Outer Casing or Front Panel

The next step is to remove the outer casing or front panel of your air conditioner. This may involve unscrewing a few screws or pressing a few buttons, depending on your unit’s design. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions if you’re unsure how to remove it.

Locate Key Components to Clean

Once the outer casing or front panel is removed, you can access the internal components of the air conditioner that need cleaning. These include filters, coils, fins, and drain pan. Make sure you identify these components before proceeding to clean them. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for their specific locations in your unit.

Cleaning the Air Conditioner Filter

Cleaning the Air Filter
Some units can have multiple filters, so be sure you check all vents.


Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean your air filter.

1. Remove the Filter

Once the unit is safely turned off, locate and remove the air filter from your AC unit. Some units may have multiple filters, so be sure to check all vents.

2. Vacuum the Filter

Using a hand vacuum or brush attachment, gently remove any dust and debris from the filter. This will make it easier to clean and prolong its lifespan.

3. Wash the Filter

For washable/reusable filters, rinse the filter in a deep sink or outdoors using a garden hose. For a deep clean, you can soak the filter in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water for an hour before rinsing it off.

Note: Never use a high-pressure hose or pressure washer on your air filter as they can cause damage to the delicate filter material.

4. Let the Filter Dry Completely

After washing, let the filter air dry completely before reinstalling it. Make sure to check for any signs of damage or tears in the filter material.

5. Reinstall the Filter

Once the filter is dry, reinsert it back into your AC unit. To do this, align the filter with the arrows indicating airflow direction and slide it back into place.

Tips For Different Types of Filters

There are basically two types of air filters – disposable and washable/reusable. Here are some tips for maintaining each type:

  • For disposable filters, it’s best to replace them every 1-3 months depending on usage and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • For washable/reusable filters, make sure to clean them. However, they should be replaced every 3-5 years.
  • It’s always a good idea to keep track of when you last cleaned or replaced your air filter to maintain good indoor air quality.  With proper care and maintenance, your air filter will continue effectively removing pollutants from the air and improving overall air quality in your home.

Frequency of cleaning/replacement for optimal performance

The frequency of cleaning or replacing your air filter depends on various factors such as the type of filter, usage, and air quality in your area. It’s best to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for specific guidelines. However, a general rule of thumb is to clean or replace your filters every 1-3 months.

Cleaning the Evaporator and Condenser Coils

In addition to cleaning your air filter, it’s also important to regularly clean the evaporator and condenser coils of your air conditioner.  Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean them:

Accessing the Coils

  • Locate the evaporator and condenser coils, usually located near each other in the center of your unit.
  • If necessary, remove any additional panels or covers to fully access the coils.

Vacuuming and Brushing

  • Using a vacuum with a soft brush attachment, carefully remove any loose dirt and debris from the coils.
  • Be gentle while cleaning to avoid causing damage to the delicate fins of the coils.
  • For hard-to-reach areas, use a soft-bristled brush to gently dislodge any stubborn dirt or debris.

Deep Cleaning

  • If your coils are particularly dirty, you may need to use a mild detergent and water solution for a deeper clean.
  • Gently scrub the coils with the solution using a soft-bristled brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and make sure all soap residue is removed.

Drying and Reassembly

  • After cleaning, make sure to dry the coils completely before reassembling your unit.
  • You can use a soft cloth or allow the coils to air dry in a well-ventilated area.
  • Once the coils are completely dry, carefully reassemble your unit following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Cleaning the Fins and Drain Pan

Regularly cleaning the fins and drain pan of your air conditioner is also essential for proper functioning and to prevent any potential issues. Here are some simple steps to follow.

Straightening Bent Fins

  • Using a fin comb, carefully straighten any bent fins on the evaporator or condenser coils.
  • Make sure to be gentle while doing this process as the fins are delicate and can easily bend or break.
  • Straightening the fins will allow for better airflow and improve the efficiency of your AC unit.

Cleaning the Drain Pan

  • The drain pan is responsible for collecting excess condensation from your air conditioner.
  • Make sure to clean it regularly to prevent any buildup of mold, algae, or debris which can affect the performance of your AC unit.
  • Use a mild detergent and water solution to scrub the pan and rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Checking and Clearing the Drain Line

  • The drain line is responsible for carrying the excess condensation from the drain pan out of your unit.
  • Check the line for any clogs or blockages that can cause water backup and potential damage to your unit.
  • If you notice any clogs, use a wet/dry vacuum to clear the line or call a professional for assistance.

Reassembling and Testing the Air Conditioner Unit


An AC maintenance gives you better unit efficiency, which results in lower energy costs


After cleaning and maintaining all components of your air conditioner, it’s time to reassemble and test the unit for proper operation.

Reattach the Outer Casing or Front Panel Securely

  • Make sure to securely reattach the outer casing or front panel according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • This will ensure that all components are properly enclosed and protected while the unit is in operation.

Plugin in and Turn on the Air Conditioner

  • Once reassembled, plug in your air conditioner to a power source and turn it on.
  • Make sure to follow any startup procedures recommended by the manufacturer.

Checking for Proper Operation and Improved Performance

  • As your air conditioner runs, pay attention to any unusual noises or smells.
  • Check that the airflow is consistent and cool.
  • If you notice any issues, consult the manufacturer’s instructions or seek professional assistance. Otherwise, enjoy your cool and clean air knowing that your unit is running efficiently thanks to regular maintenance and cleaning. 

Regular Maintenance Tips

In addition to regular cleaning, there are some other maintenance tips you can follow to ensure your air conditioner is running smoothly.

Recommended Schedule for Cleaning and Servicing Your Air Conditioner

Regular maintenance is key to keeping your air conditioner running efficiently. Here are some suggested intervals for cleaning and servicing:

  • Clean or replace air filters every 1-3 months, depending on usage.
  • Clean evaporator coils at least once a year.
  • Clean condenser coils at least twice a year (or more if your unit is located in a heavily polluted area).
  • Clear out any debris from the fins and drain pan monthly.

Additional Tips for Maintaining Efficiency

  • Use a cover during the off-season to protect the unit from outdoor elements.
  • Keep the area around the unit clear of any debris, plants, or other obstructions to ensure proper airflow.

Signs that it Might be Time to Call a Professional

While regular maintenance can prevent most issues with your air conditioner, some signs may indicate it’s time to call in a professional for repairs:

  • Unusual noises coming from the unit.
  • Uneven cooling throughout your home.
  • Higher electricity bills than usual.


Regular cleaning and maintenance of your air conditioner’s coils, fins, and drain pan can provide numerous benefits. Not only does it improve the efficiency of your AC unit, but it also ensures clean and cool air for you and your family. By following the simple steps outlined in this guide, you can easily maintain a clean and well-functioning air conditioner.

For a visual guide and additional tips, check out the video tutorial linked below. Make sure to also share your experiences, tips, or questions in the comments section to continue learning and improving the maintenance of your AC unit. Don’t wait until it’s too late – take action now and ensure that your air conditioner is running efficiently for years to come.

Video Tutorial: How to Clean the Inside of Your AC for Optimal Performance   

English video:

French video:

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