4 DIY Ways to Clean Your AC Unit

Experts agree that having poor indoor air quality can lead to a number of health concerns, including irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, heart disease, or even cancer. One of the best ways to keep the air in your home safe is to make sure your AC unit is clean. While it might sound daunting, there are plenty of ways to keep the unit spotless without calling in a professional.

Check the Exterior Condenser

Your AC unit has an external component that collects and releases air coming in and out of your home. Because it’s constantly being exposed to the elements, this condenser can become quite filthy over time. If the dirt buildup gets too bad, you might even experience blocked air flow, reducing the unit’s ability to produce cool air.

Prevent this from happening by using a wet/dry vacuum to suck away debris blocking the airways. You can get a deeper clean by using a comb or brush to scrub inside the grille. Finally, remove the top grille entirely and lift the fan out of the unit. Give it a spray with your garden hose to remove lingering particles, then put it back inside. It’s important to make sure the power is off before you attempt any of these steps.

Spray the Evaporator Coil

Image via Flickr by jblevine2004

Moving inside, you’ll come across the evaporator coil inside the AC blower. To access it, you might have to do a bit of unscrewing. When you reach it, grab a soft brush and gently dust off any particles to get the surface clean. Follow up with no-rinse coil cleaner, and let it drip off into the drain pan to give that a nice cleanse as well. To prevent algae from growing in this pan, drop in a drain pan tablet.

Troubleshoot Plugged Evaporator Drains

If you noticed that the drain pan was slow to empty in the last step, you might have to do a little more work. There could be a clog somewhere in the line. Find where the line empties outside, and use your wet/dry vacuum to suck out whatever is hiding inside.

Change Your Filters

Generally, your blower filter does a great job of keeping particles and other debris out of the air you breathe. However, it does get clogged up after a few months, meaning that it becomes less effective over time. To keep your air dust- and allergen-free, change your filter at least twice a year. All you have to do is find the enclosure where the large fresh air return duct is, open the door, remove the filter, and install the new one.

Even if you follow these tips, you should still consider getting a professional AC cleaning at least once a year, preferably in the spring. An HVAC technician can get a little more in depth with the cleaning by inspecting all of the vents, belts, and ducts in your system. With both your efforts and regular maintenance from a technician, your home will have much better overall air quality, reducing your risk of pollution-related health problems.


  1. Great tips. The only thing I do differently is I change out my ac filters more often. I go for every 2 months. This way I won’t have clean my air ducts as often.

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