10 Simple Steps to Clean Your Window AC Unit Without Removing It

Window air conditioners are great for cooling down your home. However, they can also get dirty over time as dust and debris accumulate. To some, taking the time to clean their AC units can seem like a hassle, but it’s an important task to ensure efficient functioning.

To clean your AC unit, you don’t actually have to remove it from where it’s been placed. Knowing properly how to clean window AC units without removing them can save time while helping to maintain performance and prolong the unit’s lifespan.

Of course, some parts of the AC unit are better left handled by a professional, so you may want an HVAC technician to help you with unit cleaning and maintenance.

Nevertheless, let’s go over what you need to know about ensuring that your AC unit remains clean and properly functioning for years to come.

Steps for cleaning a window AC without removing it


Here’s a step-by-step on how to clean a window AC without removing it.

1. Turn off the power

The first step is to make sure the power is off.

This is done by either unplugging the unit or turning off the circuit breaker that powers the unit. This will prevent any dangerous electrical shocks or damage to the unit.

2. Remove the filter

As the function of these filters is to trap dust and many other particles from the air, they’re prone to getting clogged and dirty over time.

The filter is usually located at the front of the AC unit. Some filters are positioned behind the front cover of the unit, requiring the cover to be removed to access the filter.

Many filters can be easily removed simply by pulling them out from the unit. After removing it, vacuum or wipe it off before washing it with warm soapy water, rinsing thoroughly to get rid of any debris.

Before putting it back in, allow it to dry. Installing a wet filter will lead to mold growing in your AC unit, which can cause health issues over time.

3. Clean the grill

The next step in how to clean a window AC without removing it is cleaning the grill. 

The grill of the AC unit covers the fan and the coils, and it can collect dust and debris from the air over time.

Clean the grill with a brush or a vacuum cleaner. Sometimes a simple spray with a can of compressed air will also do just fine.

4. Clean the condenser and evaporator coils

Condenser and evaporator coils are metal tubes that transfer heat and cool the air. They’re located behind the grill and can be seen through the fins. Just like any other part of the unit, the coils can get dirty and corrode over time, which can reduce how efficiently your AC runs.

To clean the coils, use a brush (or vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment) to gently remove any debris.

An important step when learning how to clean a window air conditioner without removing it is to take extra care not to bend or damage the coils. Damaging them can cause major performance issues, which is why many prefer a professional HVAC technician to do this job.

5. Clean the fins

The fins are thin metal plates that cover the AC unit’s coils and help with heat transfer. They are very delicate and can get bent and damaged easily. 

To clean them, use a spray bottle with water and some dish soap to lightly mist the fins. You can also use a cloth to wipe away any dirt or dust. If you notice any bent fins, use a fin comb to gently straighten them. An HVAC professional will usually have this tool on hand.

6. Clean the drip tray


The drip tray collects condensation from the unit and drains it outside. It’s usually located at the bottom of the unit and can be accessed by removing a few screws or clips. 

The drip tray can get moldy and dirty over time, which can lead to bad odors and health issues, so it’s important to clean this component on a regular basis.

To clean it, use a cloth and dip it in a mixture of warm water and dish soap, scrubbing away any dirt or mold from the tray. Rinse it, and be sure to dry it before re-installing.

Much like the filter, any wet pieces of your unit must be allowed to dry before reinstallation to help keep mold away. If waiting is an issue, a towel or paper towels can be used to dry them thoroughly.

7. Clean the fan

When it comes to how to clean a window AC without removing it, cleaning the fan is a crucial step.

The fan is located behind the grill and helps move air through the unit. It can get dusty and dirty over time, which can affect its efficiency and noise volume.

To clean it, use a vacuum cleaner or a brush to remove any dust or debris from the fan blades and motor.

8. Clean the cover

The cover is the outer shell of the unit that protects it from weather and damage. It can get dirty and stained over time, especially if it’s exposed to sunlight or rain.

To clean the cover, use a cloth with warm soapy water or an all-purpose cleaner to wipe down the case. Vinegar can also be used to remove any stubborn stains or marks from the case for a more eco-friendly option.

9. Ensure that all parts are dry

After cleaning all the parts of the window AC unit, making sure they’ve been rinsed well with clean water to remove any soap residue or dirt, ensure that nothing has been left wet.

10. Reassemble and test your unit

Then, after confirming that all the parts are clean and dry, reassemble the window AC unit by following the steps above in reverse order. Plug in the unit or turn on the circuit breaker, and test the unit to ensure it’s working properly.

You now know how to clean window AC units without removing them from the window. Regular cleaning will help keep your unit in good shape and keep you enjoying cool air.

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of cleaning your unit and are worried about damaging it, it’s best to get in touch with an HVAC professional who can help.

How often to clean your window AC unit


Cleaning your window AC unit is not only important for its performance and efficiency, but also for your health and comfort. A dirty AC unit can be home to dust, bacteria, mold, and allergens, which can affect the quality of the air you breathe.

We recommend that your window AC unit be cleaned at least once per year, preferably before its first use of the warm season.

In addition to an annual whole unit cleaning, you should also clean the filter monthly if possible, and replace it with a new one every 3 months. After all, the filter is the first line of defense against dust and debris, and a dirty filter will reduce the airflow and cooling capability of your unit, as well as increase your energy bill.

Keeping your window AC unit clean for longer

Cleaning your window AC unit can be time-consuming, so you may want to extend the time between cleaning periods.

Now that you’ve learned how to clean window AC units without removing them, here are some tips you can follow to keep your unit clean longer.

  • Cover up your AC unit when it is not in use – This keeps dust from accumulating on the case and the grill
  • Avoid turning your unit on and off unless necessary – This will reduce the likelihood of condensation forming inside the unit, which can produce mold. Use a thermostat or a timer to regulate the temperature and save energy
  • Use hydrogen peroxide to spray your unit once in a while – Hydrogen peroxide has antifungal properties that will kill any mold that may be in your unit. Just make sure to spray lightly and let it dry before turning on your unit
  • Use a coil cleaner to deep clean your coils once or twice a year – These cleaners can dissolve any dirt or grease that may be stuck on your coils, improving their efficiency
  • Keep your windows closed when your unit is running – This will prevent any dust, pollen, or insects from entering your unit and clogging your coils and filter

Need help with your AC? Trust Autumn Air

We hope this guide has answered any questions you’ve had about how to clean a window AC without removing it

It’s important to note that cleaning your window air conditioner unit becomes much easier when you have the necessary tools and know-how. In this regard, it’s best to have an HVAC professional help, as they’ll be familiar with all parts of your unit. They can also answer any questions you may have.

Our experts at Autumn Air are always happy to help. Autumn Air has been serving Avondale and its surrounding areas for nearly 20 years. We have all the experience, tools, and expertise necessary for any HVAC job.

Contact us today to get started!