How to Clean Window AC Filters In 5 Easy Steps

Cleaning your window air conditioner filters can improve the unit’s cooling efficiency and make it save more energy. This can mean good news to your wallet.

I clean my window AC filters once every two to three weeks in summer to maintain my unit’s cooling performance. And while this is a simple cleaning exercise, it goes a long way in keeping my energy bill constantly low.

If your Air Conditioner is no longer sufficiently cooling your home, it probably has a dirty filter. Read along to learn how to clean window AC filters and restore your unit’s cooling efficiency.

What You Need to Clean Window AC Filters

Here are some of the items you will require for this simple cleaning exercise.

  1. A garden hose
  2. Mild dish soap or laundry detergent (optional) 
  3. Soft-bristled brush
  4. Vacuum

How to Clean Window AC Filters  (Step-by-Step Procedure)

With everything you need to clean your window air conditioner filter ready, it is time to get to work. Here is the step-by-step procedure to follow.

Step 1: Power off the unit

You don’t want to begin cleaning your window air conditioner while it is plugged into a power source.

Be sure to turn it off before opening it to extract the filter for cleaning; otherwise, you could run the risk of electric shock.

Leaving the AC on while taking out the filter for cleaning can also cause unfiltered air to circulate through your home.

This might allow disease-causing dust mites, mold spores, and other health-associated risks to contaminate the air inside your home.

Step 2: Remove the front cover and filter

Each window air conditioning unit will have its own clips or a unique way the front grille is attached.

In most of these units, you will either pop out the front cover, and the filter will slide out, or open the front panel to expose the filter, which you can then take out.

In others, you will need to pull the front grille toward the upward position and then hold it with one hand while using the other hand to inspect the filter’s condition and remove it.

Carefully take out the filer from the locking area, ensuring the sharp edges behind the unit do not harm you. 

Step 3: Remove excess dirt and debris from the filter

If the filter has stayed without cleaning for a long time, it will likely have a substantial layer of debris on its surface. To remove this dirt, scrape it off with the brush to clear away as much of it as you can.

If there is only a small amount of dirt and debris, you can go straight to vacuuming it out.

Step 4: Hose it down.

Once you have removed all the excess dirt on your window air conditioner filter, it is time to give it a thorough wash. First, clean the dirty air filter with a soft-bristled brush under running water to remove the dirt particles.

You may also rinse the dirty filter with a mild laundry detergent to remove stubborn stains and grime.

Alternatively, you could fill a sink with one part water and one part white vinegar to give the air filter a deeper cleaning. In this case, you will need to let the filter soak in the solution for about an hour before washing it.

Soaking should loosen the dirt and make it easy to dislodge with a soft-bristled brush or sponge. Then, thoroughly rinse off the filter with fresh, clean water to remove the cleaning solution and any remaining dirt particles.

After wash, let the filter dry under a shaded area before returning it into your AC unit.

Step 5: Replace the window AC filter.

When the filter is completely dry, make sure you put it back inside the air conditioning unit in the same position as before. 

Ideally, you want to make sure you align it correctly so that no debris gets past it while the AC is operating.

Close the front grille, and push it down in both the locking areas to seat it back properly. How you do this may vary from one window air conditioner to another.

In some units, you will just pop it back into place. In others, you may have to press specific spots with clips that lock it into place.

Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Window AC Filter

Now, we have mentioned how to clean window AC filters. Here, let us take a quick peek at the specific dos and don’ts to keep in mind with regards to cleaning the air filter.

The dos

  • Do clean your window air conditioner filter more than once a month if you live in a dusty climate or environment with a lot of debris in the air.
  • Do clean your window AC filters as soon as you notice a decline in their cooling efficiency. This proactive approach will guarantee cleaner air with fewer irritants and allergens that could cause respiratory issues.

The don’ts

  • Do not run a window air conditioner without the filter. Doing so can damage your unit by letting dirt and debris through into the fins that air flows through, clogging them as a result.
  • Do not return the air filter into the AC unit before it is completely dry. A damp air filter might encourage the growth of molds inside your air conditioner.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals to clean your window AC filter. Such chemicals might damage the filter or contaminate the indoor air since the AC will pass air through the filter.

Final Thoughts

As you may have noticed, cleaning the filter inside your air conditioner is easier than you might have thought. Yet, a clean filter brings numerous benefits.

For this reason, ensure you use this guide of how to clean window AC filters to help you keep your window AC filter functional, clean, and energy-efficient.

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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.