How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner without Removing It

Window air conditioners are vital for people who live in poorly aerated spaces. However, air quality may become poor if your window AC is not well maintained, more so if it is dirty. It would be pointless to have an AC that makes you sneeze when it starts running.

A dirty AC is also more expensive to run due to high energy bills, not to forget regular maintenance costs, or worse, if you need to replace the entire system. This is why the AC must remain clean at all times.

Cleaning window ACs is not as complicated as it sounds. However, window ACs are not fun to set up. Hence, you need to learn how to clean the AC without removing it.

What do you need to clean your window AC?

To clean window AC, you need:

  • A mild dishwashing soap- If you are unsure which kind of soap to use, check the manual or contact your HVAC specialist for suggestions.
  • Spray bottle- You will need to get the soapy solution or the mold and mildew remover to the interior AC components.
  • Mold and mildew remover- This is your best bet to get rid of the mold if you spot any.
  • Screwdriver- You will use this to remove screws and access the interior AC components
  • Fin Combs- This is vital to clean and straighten the fins
  • Safety items- These include a face mask (you don’t want to inhale all pollutants), latex gloves, and safety goggles
  • A camera- You may need this to take pictures or videos that you can use for reference when reassembling the unit

Guide on how to clean a window air conditioner without removing it

1. Start by unplugging the air conditioner

Before you start removing the AC components, you MUST unplug the air conditioner to avoid potential shock. Although you do not need to remove the air conditioner, the cleaning process involves touching interior components of the AC.

2. Detach the filter from the AC and clean it

A dirty filter is the most common cause of malfunctions in an AC. This is because the filter catches air contaminants such as dust particles hence gets dirty faster. You may even be grossed by how much dirt is trapped in the filter. As such, you need to inspect and clean the air filter regularly. And if entirely faulty, it should be replaced.

The filter is found behind the ACs grille. Since removing the filter differs in every AC, be sure to check the AC manual and follow the removal guidelines. While some filters can only be removed using screws, others can be removed by easily sliding them out of the AC.

To clean the filter, spray it with a soapy solution and hold it under clean running water until clean.

3. Detach the AC front panel

The interior components of the AC harbor dirt and even mold. To clean this, you need to remove the AC front panel. Since it is part of the internal components of the AC, it is held in place with screws. Use a screwdriver to remove all the screws.

It is common to forget how the front panel was assembled when reattaching it. To avoid this, take a video or picture and use it as a reference after you are done cleaning the AC.

4. Now you can clean the interior components of the AC

Do not be surprised by how much dirt or mold is on the interior AC components. Now you understand why the quality of air has changed compared to when you purchased your unit. Not to worry. Cleaning the interior components is relatively easy.

Warm water and mild dishwashing soap are recommended to clean the components. Use your spray bottle to spray the surfaces inside the unit. However, you should avoid getting into contact with any electrical components. Gentle wash and scrub the components until clean. To remove mold and mildew, use a recommended mold remover and wipe off. If you notice an extensive amount of mold, you need to replace the unit.

5. Clean and straighten the coil fins.

Window air conditioners have vital components that ensure smooth air supply in a space, commonly referred to as fins. These are found in the back and front parts of the AC. These fins can get dirty due to debris and dirt. Also, they may bend and make the AC less sufficient, hence why they need to be straightened. Since you are cleaning the AC without removing it, you need to focus on the front fins. Fins are delicate; hence you need to clean them gently.

6. Let the AC dry completely.

As you can see, the process of cleaning your AC without removing it is rather straightforward. However, you need to be patient before reassembling and reinstalling the AC, lest you will be dealing with more mold and mildew. Give the unit a few hours and be on the lookout for wet spots in the interior, the filter, and the front panel.

Why should you clean your window air conditioner?

  • Enjoy cleaner air- This means no more sneezing or teary eyes due to the allergens that may be present in your AC unit. Also, if you have respiratory illnesses such as asthma, cleaner air significantly eliminates possible attacks.
  • A fresh house- If you live in a poorly aerated space, cleaning the AC can significantly improve the quality of air in your house.
  • Yaaay to fewer energy bills- A dirty AC strains the unit, leading to higher energy consumption. With a clean AC, you might notice a significant reduction in your energy bills.
  • Fewer repairs and maintenance bills- If your AC is dirty, you will experience all AC issues. The constant calls to your HVAC technician due to the regular and inconveniencing breakdowns can get tiring. And, of course, the repair costs can drain your funds. All these can be prevented by regular cleaning and replacing the filter when need be.
  • A quieter home- A dirty machine works harder just to produce cold air. It is difficult to get some quiet time if a dirty and clogged AC is running. Cleaning the unit reduces the workload, making it more efficient and quieter.
  • Enjoy a longer lifespan out of your AC unit– Regular cleaning means you get to enjoy a longer lifespan out of your AC unit save on what you would spend replacing the unit.


Cleaning your window AC may seem like a complicated process. The thought of removing the unit and installing it back may deter most people from cleaning it. Luckily, you can clean your unit using this simple guide and get to enjoy clean and fresh air once again!

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