How to clean a window AC unit – 5 simple steps

Experts share their top tips for cleaning your air conditioning unit

living room with window ac and armchair
(Image credit: Getty images / Cavan Images)

In the hot weather, we look for ways to keep the home cool. One of the best ways to cool down the internal temperature is with AC units. 

There are a number of air conditioning types on the market. Window air conditioners are great as they can be either wall-mounted or attached to the window itself. The added bonus is that these units can help you save valuable floor space.

In order to keep your AC unit fully functioning for longer, it is important to clean it effectively. We have asked the experts about their best methods for cleaning your air conditioner to allow you to keep your home cool for longer.

Here are the top tips to clean your AC unit

This is the best way to clean a window air conditioning unit step-by-step, according to experts.

window ac unit

(Image credit: Getty images / Jupiterimages)

1. Unplug and remove from the window

When working with any type of appliance, it is important that you prioritize safety. ‘Always start by turning off and unplugging the unit,’ says HVAC specialist David Roebel from Northeast Mechanical Services. ‘You may then remove the unit from the window according to the manufacturer's instructions.’

Dave Roebel
Dave Roebel

Dave Roebel is the Owner of Northeast Mechanical Services, a provider of mechanical solutions catering to a wide range of industries. Their products and services include expert installation, maintenance, and repair of HVAC equipment.

2. Remove and clean the front panel

The next step is to remove and clean the front panel. Most window AC units have a front cover or grill that can be removed. Once you've taken off the cover, soak it in warm, soapy water. 

Scrub with a soft sponge or cloth to remove dust and grime, then rinse and dry thoroughly. You can use a mild detergent if necessary.’ 

It is important to use the right tools when cleaning your AC unit as you do not want to damage the internal mechanisms, gentle non abrasive tools work best. 

We recommend microfiber sponges available from Amazonand soft microfiber cloths also available from Amazon to get the best cleaning results. 

3. Clean the filter and coils

Most window AC units have a removable filter behind the front cover. This filter should be cleaned every month during the cooling season. Vacuum it gently to remove loose dust and dirt, then rinse it under warm running water. Allow it to air dry completely before reinserting it. If the filter is damaged or extremely dirty, consider replacing it.

‘The coils can be a bit trickier to clean,’ says Josh Mitchell from Air Conditioner Lab. ‘They are typically located under the filter and can be cleaned using the brush attachment on your vacuum.’ If this attachment is not small enough you can buy fit for purpose air conditioner condenser combs from Amazon which are great for getting into tight spaces. 

Be gentle to avoid bending the delicate fins. If the coils are very dirty, you may need to use a commercial coil cleaner , which should be used according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Josh Mitchell ACLAB
Josh Mitchell

Josh Mitchell is an HVAC 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.

4. Clean and dry the unit

After cleaning the coils, wipe down the rest of the unit with a damp cloth, making sure to remove any dust or dirt buildup. Be sure to dry the unit thoroughly to prevent mold and mildew growth. If you've removed the AC unit from the window, now would be the time to reinstall it.

5. Reassemble and turn on

Once everything is clean and dry, reassemble your AC unit in the reverse sequence to how you disassembled. Make sure the filter and front cover are securely in place before plugging the unit back in.

For optimal performance, repeat this cleaning process every 1-2 months during the cooling season or as needed based on your usage and environmental factors.

Can you clean a window AC unit without removing it?

Yes. To clean the window air conditioner without removing it, use the vacuum with the soft brush attachment, and carefully vacuum out any dust balls or other stuff you see in the unit. Then, mix together your water and two drops of dish detergent. Next, spray this inside the machine and wipe the areas down.

By following these steps, you can keep your window AC unit running efficiently, prolong its lifespan, and ensure it delivers clean, fresh air. Occasionally you can opt for a deeper clean by using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water into the unit. This helps eliminate mold and bacteria that might be lurking within the system.

Remember, a well-maintained AC unit isn't just about comfort but also health and efficiency.

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.