How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner without Removing It (Step by Step Guide)

Window air conditioners are a necessary part of keeping yourself cool during summer. However, many people feel quite challenged when it comes to providing maintenance, as they have to remove it often. With that in mind, can you find ways on how to clean a window air conditioner unit without removing it?

It turns out you can! You’ll have to follow specific steps, and if you do everything by the book, you should not have any further issues with the air quality delivered by your AC. This article on how to clean a window air conditioner without removing it should guide you precisely through that process.

Window Air Conditioner Parts

When you clean your air conditioner, you may want to become acquainted with the parts inside-out. You don’t want to end up using a wet rag on pieces that should stay dry at all times. By learning which part does what, you should also determine which one needs to be cleaned.

  • Filters

Every window AC brand will have a filter that will be rather hard to miss. In most cases, you should be able to find it behind the grill. Dust builds up around this area, which is why it needs regular maintenance.

  • Control Panel

When cleaning your portable air conditioners casement windows, you also need to consider the control panel. Along with the other front panel areas, this part of your window AC also gathers dust and needs constant cleaning.

  • Cabinet

The cabinet is the part of the window AC that will take most of Mother Nature’s beating. For that reason, it requires you to pull some maintenance on it from time to time.

  • Plugs and Pans

Window air conditioners all have plugs and pans at the back of the unit, which is why you need to give them a good clean now and again. Water collects in those areas, and if you do not give it the proper maintenance, you risk allowing for mold to form.

  • Grill and Louvers

Once the filters are out of the way and completely dry, you need to provide some cleaning to the grill and louvers. Not only will this keep the air conditioner filter cleaner for longer, but since this is the most visible part of the window AC, you will ensure it stays in top shape.

  • Condenser Coils

The condenser coils are found on the outside of the air conditioning system, along with the fins. The service for maintaining or repairing this part is relatively expensive, which is why you need to be very careful. Every user manual recommends that you call in an expert if you’re in doubt.

What You’ll Need to Clean a Window Air Conditioner

Spray bottle for cleaning window air conditioner

In order to clean your window air conditioner without removing it, you need to gather some specific tools. Here’s what you’ll need to gather:

  • Materials

Certain materials will be necessary to give your unit a good clean. Here is what you must have around:

  • Foaming cleanser
  • Nylon brush
  • Bucket of water (tap water is good)
  • Fin comb
  • Spray bottle
  • Dry towels
  • Soap solution or detergent
  • Hydrogen peroxide (optional)

Some materials may change, depending on the person. For example, if you have a strong enough solution to kill mold and clean everything, you might not need hydrogen peroxide.

  • Protective Equipment

Since you’ll be dealing with mold spores, dirt, and possibly some harsh chemicals, you’ll need to make sure you protect yourself. The protective equipment includes:

  • Protective Gloves
  • Face mask

When you clean a window air conditioner, you should have a screwdriver around as well. After all, while you will not remove the AC altogether, you’ll still have to take off the grill.

Step-By-Step Instructions on (How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner without Removing It )

To perform proper air conditioner cleaning, you need to be thorough – all the way from the front panel to the back. To be sure that you do not miss anything or take a lot of time, here are the steps  you’ll want to follow:

Step 1: Turn the Window AC Off

Safety comes first; that is why you should turn off the electricity. This way, you’ll be sure that no electricity passes through the unit.

Step 2: Remove the Front Grill

You should either pull the grill down and out or use a screwdriver to remove all the screws. This way, you will receive the required access for cleaning the filter and coils.

Step 3: Remove the Filter

Once the front panel is down, remove the filter. If you are using disposable filters, then dispose of the old one and place a new one. You should instead clean a reusable filter.

Step 4: Soak the Filter

In case you are using a reusable filter, soak it in warm water with soap. Keep it there for at least 15 minutes, rinse and leave it to dry.

Step 5: Clean the Debris Bulk

Over time, a lot of debris and dirt gather in the unit, so use a vacuum hose to clean everything up.

Step 6: Brush the Unit

For dirt that the vacuum cleaner could not remove, use a brush to get the dirt off. If your air conditioner is filled with mold, you may also want to scrub it at this point.

Step 7: Spray with Hot Water

Warm water is good, but the hotter it is, the better it will be at killing bacteria. Spray it all over the unit interior and allow it to soak.

Step 8: Brush the Fins

When you are cleaning the interior, put your focus on the fins. Use a soft brush so that you don’t make any damage.

Step 9: Wipe with a Wet Towel

After everything was brushed thoroughly, use a wet cloth to clean the debris’s unit released by the brush. Wipe the exterior as well.

Step 10: Wipe with a Dry Towel

Now that everything is no longer dirty use a dry towel to dry the unit off. Depending on the case, you might also want to leave it to dry on its own.

Step 11: Reassemble

Your window unit is nice and dry, so at this point, you should reassemble it. Check up with the user manual to ensure that everything is propped together correctly.

How Often Should I Clean a Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It?

Outdoor window AC

A window air conditioner should be cleaned when summer comes, and you take the air conditioner out of storage. At that point, it will have lots of mold, dirt, and grime built up. Once you’ve given it a deep cleaning, you should further clean your window air conditioner regularly – about every month or two should be fine.

The frequency will depend on how much you plan on using it. If you use it every day for a longer time, you’ll clean it differently compared to using it once every few days. Taking that into account, here is how you should go about cleaning, depending on the frequency:

  • Regular Cleaning

To work correctly, you need to clean it regularly – at least once every few days. Switch the AC off, use a duster to remove any potential dirt from the air conditioning system, spray some hydrogen peroxide, and let it dry.

  • Monthly Cleaning

When you are cleaning it monthly, you may want to take a spray bottle with either hydrogen peroxide or your usual cleaner. Remove the filter, wash it/change and allow the air conditioner to dry.

  • Seasonal Cleaning

At this point, a lot of grime and dirt has probably formed on your air conditioner, which is why you may want to pull out the soft brush. A deeper clean will be required since you’ll either be storing or taking it out from storage.

Benefits of Cleaning Window Air Conditioner Regularly

Cleaning your window air conditioner now and then comes with several benefits, including:

  • It Cleans the Air

There are different ways to clean the air, but when you clean your air conditioner often, you won’t be driving as many irritants and allergens in the air. Proper maintenance will kill the bacteria, helping you handle respiratory issues. The air will also smell fresh.

  • It Saves on Cash

A dirty air conditioner tends to use more energy, as it struggles more to cool the air. When you clean your AC regularly, the clean air will come out cooler, without you having to spend too much on utilities.

  • It Lengthens the Life of Your AC

Since your air conditioner will be cleaner, there will no longer be as much stress on it. This means that your unit will last longer.

Window Air Conditioner Best Practices

There are some best practices that you should follow frequently. Here are the most important ones:

  • Clean the Filter Regularly

The filter of your unit needs to be cleaned as often as possible. Make sure to give it your time at least once every week or twice every month, depending on how much you use it.

  • Run It as Often as Possible

When you don’t run your air conditioner for longer times, everything can get moldy – even the filter. For this reason, you should make sure that you run it as often as you can – even if it’s for a few minutes during winter.

  • Make Sure Fins Are Straight

When you deep clean the unit, you should make sure that the fins are always straight. After all, they are responsible for cooling the air, so they should be going straight up and down.

  • Use a Service When Needed

Now and again, you should get your AC into service. It might be for a refrigerant top-up or due maintenance, but when needed, keep it serviced once every one or two years.

  • Store It Properly

Sometimes, you might want to ensure that you store your unit in a dry place when winter comes. If you plan on leaving it there, you should make sure the window is in a shaded area and protect it from the elements. Invest in a good cover.


  1. Is it OK if you spray water on your air conditioner?

Air conditioners were made to be sturdy appliances with waterproof capabilities. However, you may want to refrain from soaking it thoroughly.

  1. Can I use vinegar to clean the coils of my window air conditioner?

Yes, you can use one part vinegar and three parts water to clean the coils. White vinegar is the recommended choice, as it kills the bacteria and removes clogs.

  1. Is a dirty window air conditioner bad?

If your air conditioner is dirty, not only can it affect your bills, but your health as well. This is why removing the dirt and grime is essential.

Hopefully, this tutorial made it easy for you to understand how to clean a window air conditioner without removing it. To maintain your health, you should always make sure that your AC stays clean as well. Leave a comment to tell us what you think and if our tutorial was helpful for you.

If you liked it, share it with your friends as well. They should also have a clean air conditioner without the hassle of removing it. You are more than welcome to check our related posts as well.

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Ronald Watford, the owner of Quality Home Air Care, is a qualified HVACR technician and manages the team of expert writers on this site. He believes that educating homeowners about HVAC systems is one of the most impactful aspects of his job.