How To Clean Your Air Conditioner

Get to it.

Your air conditioning unit needs your attention. I know this because mine did too, until fairly recently.

As a 20-something who is still learning the ins-and-outs of NYC apartment living, I didn’t think I’d have to do much to my AC except turn it on and off as I needed. But a few days ago, I realized my room wasn’t getting as cold as it should have been considering that my unit was on the coldest setting.

After diving down an internet rabbit hole and consulting a few professionals, I learned that there was one reason my AC was not working as well as it did at the start of the summer. I needed to clean the filter.

These things don't clean themselves.
Jupiterimages via Getty Images
These things don't clean themselves.

When it comes to those noisy window boxes, I learned I needed to clean the AC unit filter every three weeks to get the most bang for my buck and avoid unnecessary germs. A dirty AC filter could result in dirty air spewing in your home. Gross.

Window units look so much more charming when illustrated.
CSA Images/Printstock Collection via Getty Images
Window units look so much more charming when illustrated.

Here’s how you should clean it.

1. Safety is always first, so before you begin, unplug your AC unit.

2. Next, remove the front cover of the unit. Usually, you can simply remove the cover with your hands by squeezing it and pulling it towards your body. If your front cover is bolted, you might need to use a screw driver.

3. Once the font screen has been taken off, simply remove the filter that is sitting right behind where the front screen used to be. Be careful of potentially sharp objects that might be behind the filter as you reach for it!

A very dusty filter.
NatchaS via Getty Images
A very dusty filter.

4. Take the dirty filter to the kitchen sink. Depending on the amount of filth it has acquired, a simple rinse under warm water might do the trick. If not, you can use soap or laundry detergent to really tackle the grime. If you need to scrub, consider using a toothbrush.

5. Lastly, make sure that the filter is completely dry before you put it back behind the front screen. Fit the cover back into place (you might need to push a little bit until you hear that satisfying “click” that means it’s been locked into position), and voila! You are on your way to a nicer, cooler summer.

This post has been updated with new photos of air conditioner window units.

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