How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It? (6-Step Guide)

Are you looking to keep your window air conditioner in top shape, but don’t have time to remove it from window?

We’ve got you covered!

Window air conditioners are a popular and inexpensive option to efficiently cool a room during summer.

However, they can get dirty during ordinary use very easily.

Since uninstalling a window AC is cumbersome, it’s essential to know how to maintain it without removing it.

In this proHVACinfo guide, we’ll walk you through:

  1. The importance of cleaning your window air conditioner (surprising benefits)
  2. Supplies you need to clean your window AC without removing it (don’t start working without checking this list!)
  3. How to clean your window air conditioner without removing it (step-by-step guide)

Let’s dive in!

What You Need to Know About Cleaning Your Window Air Conditioner Without Removing It

Like many home appliances, window air conditioners run constantly, so they get dirty over time.

Dirt and mold accumulate, filters clog, and as a result the unit’s efficiency and effectiveness drop.

The good news is that dirty AC isn’t necessarily a problem as long as you clean it regularly.

The bad news is that, without regular tune-ups, mold can build up in the unit, which can be a problem.

Fortunately, most critical maintenance steps can be performed without removing the AC from the window.

If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your AC, or you’re noticing mold accumulate, check out our article on How to Get Rid of Mold in a Window AC!

Having a clean window AC isn’t just a nice-to-have; there are real benefits including:

1. Cleaner, healthier air Cleaning your window air conditioner will keep the air you breathe cleaner. This is important because air pollutants can trigger allergies, asthma, and other respiratory issues.

2. The AC will run quietly and use less energy In simple terms, a dirty window air conditioner needs to work harder to be effective.

This leads to higher energy consumption, which in turn means a bigger energy bill for you!

Cleaning the unit will help reduce its workload and make it much more efficient, thus using less energy.

See also: How Much Does it Cost to Run a Window Air Conditioner?

3. Your air conditioner will last longer Keeping your window AC clean extends its useful life by minimizing the chance of mechanical issues. By cleaning your machine regularly, you’ll enjoy a longer lifespan (and save money as a result!)

Supplies You Need to Clean your Window Air Conditioner Without Removing it

Below are the essential supplies you need to effectively clean your window AC!

Dishwashing Soap – A convenient, inexpensive cleaning agent for your AC

Mold and mildew remover – For particularly tough dirt spots (or in case you do spot mold in your AC), a mold / mildew remover is your best friend

Spray Bottles (at least two) – You’ll need two, one for water and one for your mold / mildew solution. You’ll use your spray bottles for spot cleaning certain areas on the exterior or behind the front panel of your AC

Fin comb – Chances are, until you thought about cleaning your window AC, you’ve never heard of a fin comb. This handy tool is used to straighten and clean the fins in your AC – more on that below!

Screwdriver – In order to get behind the front panel of your AC (moe on that below), you’ll likely need a screwdriver. Don’t worry, we’ll show you how!

Safety goggles – To prevent dust, dirt, and mold spores from entering your eyes.

Latex Gloves – To help you avoid touching mold spores, dish soap, or detergent.

Face Mask – To avoid inhaling the dust, mold spores or chemicals while cleaning your AC.

Once you have everything on the list, you’re ready to get started!

How to Clean a Window Air Conditioner (6-Step Guide)

1.    Unplug the Air Conditioner

Before you start cleaning your AC, it’s important to unplug it to avoid a potential shock!

Several of the steps we outline below involve touching the interior components of the AC, so unplugging is a crucial first step.

2.    Remove and Clean the Filter

The most common cause of reduced AC effectiveness is a dirty filter.

The filter is effective in catching large air contaminants, but because of this, it gets dirty quickly as part of normal use.

The filter is always found right behind the front panel of the AC, and the process of removing it is different for different AC models.

proHVACinfo | Window AC Filter

Some filters easily slide out by pulling a tab, while others are held in place with screws.

If you aren’t sure how to remove your AC’s filter, check your user’s manual or simply Google the process for your AC brand.

A filter that’s been in use for any length of time will have a thin layer of debris or dust build up. To clean your filter, use your spray bottle full of soapy solution and then hold it under running water until you can clearly see the filter again (i.e. no dirt is present).

3.    Remove the AC Front Panel

The next step in your cleaning your window AC without removing it is to remove the front panel.

The front panel usually houses the interior components of the AC, which is where dirt and mold can really accumulate.

The front panel is part of the main external casing of the window AC, so it’s always held in place with screws.

Grab your screwdriver and locate the screws that hold the panel in place (there are usually a number of them – usually around 10 that run along the AC’s exterior) and remove them all.

Tip: We recommend taking a picture or a video prior removing the front panel and during the removal process so you have a handy reference for reassembly.

4.    Clean the AC Interior

After removing the filter and front panel, you can see the extent of dirt inside your AC.

Using your warm water and dishwashing soap solution, spray the hard surfaces inside the unit (taking care to avoid contact with any electrical components).

Wash and scrub as needed throughout the interior of the unit to remove any dirt.

If you notice mold buildup, apply your mold remover per the product instructions and clean.

Note: When it comes to mold, minor spots and buildup can be effectively cleaned with mold remover. However, if there is extensive mold growth throughout the unit, you may need to replace it altogether.

5.    Straighten and Clean the Coil Fins

Window air conditioners have “fins” (thin aluminum sheets) that provide smooth airflow through the AC.

These fins are found in two places: on the front (behind the front panel and filter, facing the room) and in back (facing outside, when installed).

If you’re cleaning your window AC without removing it, you’ll be focused on the front fins.

These fins are a necessary component of the AC, but they also attract dirt particles and debris.

They can also bend during normal use, which makes the AC unit less efficient overall.

To fix this problem, use your fin comb to straighten and clean them.

To clean, place your fin comb at the top fins, carefully weaving the comb’s teeth between the fins.

Guide the comb carefully down from top to bottom. This will straighten the AC fins and remove any foreign particles in the process

6.    Let your window AC dry before reassembling and reinstalling it.

Once you’re finished cleaning, there will inevitably be wet spots left in the interior of your AC. Before reassembling, let it dry for a few hours.

Then, reassemble the unit per the pictures / video you took before.


Dirty window ACs are just a fact of life. As part of their normal operation, dirt and even mold can build up.

This article showed how to deep clean your AC like a pro, what tools you’ll need to do it, and talked about the benefits of cleaning as a regular part of maintenance.

By following our guide, you’ll get great use from your window AC for years to come!

Stephen Marks

Stephen Marks

Stephen is an HVAC and home-repair enthusiast. He's here to answer any of your questions about HVAC!

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Stephen Marks

Stephen Marks

Stephen is an HVAC and home-repair enthusiast. He's here to answer any of your questions about HVAC!

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