Skip to main content

How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

By January 25, 2021May 27th, 2021Home Maintenance
How to clean a window air conditioner without removing it

Window air conditioning units can be a lifesaver for those who live in high-rise buildings or in homes that don’t have a good flow of air from a central HVAC unit.  You also may need the extra cool air to keep the home comfortable.  However, just like with anything, it needs cleaning.

The unit is easier to clean and maintain than the standard HVAC unit in a home.  It is a heavy unit so can you clean a window air conditioner without removing it?  YES! 

Let’s take a look at why this is important, finding the manual, supplies you will need, the steps to clean the unit without removing it from the window, benefits of cleaning it, when to repair or replace, and other things to consider.  Lastly, when to contact a professional for help.  

Why This is Important

As with all appliances, window air conditioners need cleaning and maintenance.  Now, if you live in a cold place, this is not something you want to do in the middle of the winter.  Adding it to your spring-cleaning is a good idea so it can be ready come winter.

Consult the manual

Consult the Manual

If you can find the manual for your window air conditioner, that is great! If not, Google the name and model of the unit and add in “manual” and you should be able to find it as a pdf online.  It will be important to have a manual to refer to, as each unit is different.

Supplies Needed to Clean a Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

  1. A bucket or sink that is nearby you can fill with warm soapy water
  2. A vacuum that has a soft brush attachment
  3. Soft brush or comb that you don’t use
  4. Spray bottle with warm water and 2 drops of dish detergent
  5. Cloths that can get dirty
  6. Newspaper to go underneath the air conditioner unit
  7. A screwdriver
  8. A place to put screws/small parts in so you don’t lose them
  9. Gloves to protect hands from the sharp fins
  10. Fin comb in case the coils need straightening
Steps to clean the window air conditioner without removing it

Steps to Clean the Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

1. Unplug the Unit From the Wall to Clean the Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

You will be touching different parts of the air conditioner and using a spray bottle and don’t want to get electrocuted.

2. Take Off the Grill of the Air Conditioner Unit and Take Out the Filter 

Filters should be changed every 1 to 3 months in a large HVAC unit if there is a smoker in the home.  In a small unit, you want to check it every 30 days to make sure it is not jammed or full of dirt. 

You may be able to let it soak in the bucket of soapy water and then let it air dry.  On the other hand, it may be time for a replacement.  If you need to replace it, refer to the manual for the correct size and be sure you have the model number.  There are various sizes and types out there and you need to get the correct one.

Also, remember the air filter keeps the air clean so you want it as clean as possible.  It may not need to be changed that much in a small window unit but always a good idea to check. Some air conditioner units have a filter rest button that will let you know when it is time to replace the filter as well.

3. Take the Case Off the Air Conditioning Unit

You can use a screwdriver to take the case off.  This will allow you to see the condensation drain and other removable parts like the drain pan.  You can soak them in warm soapy water to get them clean. It is important to clean the drain pan so mold does not start growing from the water sitting in the pan.

Vacuum and Spray the Inside Parts to Clean the Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

4. Vacuum and Spray the Inside Parts to Clean the Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

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. Make sure to pay attention to the fins too.  Also, you can use a fin comb to clean the fins area and make sure they are straight. 

5. Clean the Condenser Coils

The backside of the unit has a covering that you can take off as well.  This covering protects the unit from weather elements but does need cleaning. Underneath the covering is the condenser coils. 

Spraying the concoction of water and detergent can clean them.  This will allow the grime to run off.  Some people use a hose to spray it but it is better to use detergent to clean it more effectively. Once you do that, let this area dry.

6. Reassemble the Air Conditioner Unit

When everything is dry on the inside, put the parts back on. If you are unsure of how it goes together, consult the owner’s manual. Making sure everything is dry inside is important so you don’t have mold growing.  

Benefits of Cleaning the Window Air Conditioner Unit

1. Air Filter is Clean and Does its Job

A dirty air filter causes breathing issues and can also clog and cause a lack of airflow.  Thus, resulting in the coils freezing A clean air filter will allow the machine to last longer, provide cleaner air in the home and the unit will be quieter as it is not having to work so hard.

Also, consider buying an air filter that catches airborne particles and fits into most window units.

2. Fins Allow Air to Flow Through

After any cleanings, use the fin comb mentioned above and keep the cooling fins as straight as you can.

Find mold issues early

3. Find Mold Issues Early

Is water leaking out of the unit onto the carpet and causing mold to form?  You will want to take care of this right away!  Check the manual to see why it is leaking and then call a professional if you need help. Water leaking will cause health issues as the mold forms.

When to Repair or Replace?

If you are on a first-name basis with the HVAC professional, or the air conditioning unit is aging (8 to 10 years), it may be time to consider purchasing a new one.  They cost $150 up to $1000 depending on the model and the size.

Other Things to Consider

1. If possible, have the window unit in the shade so it does not rust faster

2. Take the unit out of the window if there is a long span of time in which you won’t be using it.  Then, this will allow it to get out of the weather elements and also last longer.

Other things to consider

3. Would the room be cool enough with a fan you plugin or pay an electrician to add in a ceiling fan?  Ceiling fans or fans that plugin that are energy-efficient can run longer and save you money!

You can set a ceiling fan for its blades to run in the opposite direction in the winter and push the warm air from the ceiling back to the floor.  This will also allow you to see if there is a draft in the home .

4. If you decide that it is too cumbersome to clean while it is in the window and want to take the whole unit out to clean it, you can!  Just take a look here to see how to do just that or call a professional.  

When to Call a Professional

You can always call a professional if you are having issues with the window air conditioner.  Just keep in mind that the service call will cost you a little less than a new unit, depending on the model and size you have.  However, servicing it regularly may help you prolong the life of your unit.


Window air conditioners are nice to have to keep a room cooler that may be located in a warmer part of the home.  However, just like with all appliances, maintenance is important. 

The good news is you can clean the window air conditioner unit without removing it from the window as outlined above.  If you are having issues with your window air conditioner, or have questions and need assistance, please reach out to us or leave a reply below.