How often should you clean and replace a bathroom extractor fan?

Prevent your bathroom from becoming too humid with our step-by-step guide on how to clean and replace your bathroom extractor fan.

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Bathroom extractor fans play an important role in maintaining the health and cleanliness of your bathroom environment, so their upkeep is essential. Over time, dust, moisture, and debris can accumulate in the fan blades and housing, reducing efficiency and potentially causing malfunctions.

Regular bathroom cleaning helps prevent the build-up of condensation, mold, and mildew, which can adversely affect indoor air quality. However, the frequency may vary based on factors such as the size of the bathroom, the amount of use, and the climate of the region. 

In high-humidity areas, you may find that your bathroom extractor fan requires more frequent cleaning or replacement to prevent moisture-related issues. Below, our experts offer their advice on how often you should clean and replace these essential bathroom appliances. 

Cleaning your bathroom extractor fan 

When it comes to cleaning and replacing bathroom extractor fans, the frequency at which these tasks should be performed will come down to factors such as usage, maintenance, and the fan's condition. 

Bathroom extractor fans typically fall into the category of bathroom items we forget to clean. But it is generally recommended you give these appliances a good dust and a wipe down at least once or twice a year to ensure they continue to function effectively.  

Below are the four steps experts recommend you follow when cleaning your fan: 

Cleaning Steps

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(Image credit: Future/Jonathan Gooch)

1. Turn off the power

Begin the cleaning process by turning off the circuit breaker or switch that controls the power to your bathroom extractor fan.  

2. Remove the cover or grille

‘Inspect your extractor fan for the specific mechanism holding the cover or grille in place,’ says Josh Mitchell, appliance expert and owner of Air Conditioner Lab. ‘This might involve unscrewing screws, releasing clips, or following detailed instructions provided by the manufacturer.’

Gently remove the cover, taking care not to damage any components in the process.

3. Dust and debris removal

Once the cover is off, take a closer look at the fan blades and the surrounding areas. Use a vacuum cleaner equipped with a narrow nozzle or a soft brush to remove any dust or debris. Pay special attention to corners, edges, and any crevices where dirt tends to accumulate over time. 

4. Wipe down

Dampen a cloth with a mild cleaning solution and wipe down the fan blades and the housing, addressing any stubborn spots or residue. You want to ensure your cloth is damp, not wet, to prevent water from entering the fan motor. 

If the cover or grille is removable, take extra care to clean it separately using the same process. Thoroughly clean the cover, ensuring that all parts are free from dirt and grime. Allow it to dry completely before reattaching.

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5. Reassemble 

Carefully position the cover or grille back in its original place. Reattach it using the screws, clips, or any other fastening mechanism in the reverse order of removal. Ensure a secure fit to prevent any potential rattling or instability during operation. 

Josh Mitchell ACLAB
Josh Mitchell

Josh is an appliance expert and the owner of the Air Conditioner Lab with years of experience tackling the challenge of home cooling. Josh has explored various innovative methods to cool down living spaces during hot weather. 

When to replace your bathroom extractor fan

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(Image credit: Cortney Bishop)

The average lifespan of a bathroom extractor fan is about ten years. However, according to Parveen Garg, manager at Ola Clean, this can vary based on the quality of the fan and the frequency of use. If you notice your fan is no longer effectively removing moisture, or if it becomes excessively noisy, it may be time to consider a replacement.

If your fan is over ten years old, even if it's still working, you might consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient model with additional features like a humidity sensor or a timer.

Signs that indicate you may need to replace your extractor fan include: 

Excessive Noise: If your fan becomes loud or starts making unusual noises, it could indicate motor wear or other mechanical issues.

Decreased Efficiency: If your bathroom remains humid or develops mold despite the fan running, this could indicate the fan is no longer effective..

Visible Wear and Tear: Any signs of rust, mold, or deterioration in the fan components can be a good indicator that it's time for a replacement. 

Parveen Garg
Parveen Garg

Parveen Garg is a dedicated and experienced Manager in the cleaning business, specializing in leveraging my extensive knowledge of cleaning practices and products to ensure exceptional cleanliness solutions. With 4 years of experience, he possesses a deep understanding of the industry and excels at leading teams to deliver outstanding results. 

How to replace a bathroom extractor fan

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(Image credit: Christopher Horwood)

If you are comfortable with basic electrical tasks and don't mind spending a bit of time on a ladder, it is possible to replace a bathroom extractor fan by yourself. Since you are replacing an existing fan, you'll find that connecting the wiring to your new fan is pretty straightforward.

Before you start, make sure to turn off the power at the circuit breaker to avoid any electrical hazards, and don't forget your safety gear like goggles and gloves.

1. Remove the Old Fan: Carefully unscrew and lower the old fan. Use the voltage tester to double-check that there are no active wires. Disconnect the fan from the duct and wiring. 

2. Check the Wiring: Inspect the existing wiring to ensure it's in good condition. If it looks worn or frayed, it may need replacing - this might be a good time to call a professional. 

3. Fit the New Fan: This part is easiest if you are replacing your fan with a like-for-like model. Connect the fan to the duct and then to the wiring, typically matching the wire colors (black to black, white to white, and green to ground). 

4. Secure the Fan: Once connected, secure the fan in place according to the manufacturer's instructions. This often involves screwing the fan into the ceiling joists. 

5. Test Your Work: Turn the power back on and test the fan to ensure it operates correctly. 

6. Finishing Touches: Add the cover or grille to the fan. This usually snaps or screws into place. 

Remember, it is important to follow the specific instructions provided with your bathroom fan, as models can vary. If at any point you feel unsure, it is always advisable to consult with or hire a professional electrician. Do not attempt a DIY project involving electrics if you have no prior experience or an expert on hand to walk you through the process. 


How much does it cost to replace a bathroom extractor fan?

Replacing a bathroom exhaust fan will cost between $50 to $150. The price range varies based on noise level – lower-priced fans are usually a bit louder (around 1 sone or higher), while the higher-priced options run more quietly. Other than the fan itself, there aren't many additional costs involved in this project.

What's the quickest way to replace a bathroom fan?

The simplest way to replace a bathroom fan is to opt for a replacement kit. These kits usually come with a new motor/blower unit, so you can skip the hassle of removing the entire fan housing. 

Throughout any cleaning or replacement process, prioritize safety. Double-check that the power is off, adhere to recommended safety guidelines, and if any step seems unclear or challenging, consider seeking professional advice or assistance.

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.