The No-Stress Way To Clean Your AC Unit

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.

Summertime is finally nigh, and all we want to do is lounge in an air-conditioned room and enjoy that easy livin'. Flipping on the switch when it's hot out may be second nature to many of us, but it's crucial to get your unit back in top shape before you get the cold air blasting.

Your AC unit has accumulated a considerable amount of dust and grime when it was not in use, so giving your filters a proper cleaning will ensure that you're breathing in the freshest air possible. Plus, keeping a well-maintained filter system can prolong the life cycle of your appliance and help conserve electricity.

The process is easier than it looks, but you should be prepared to put in an hour or two, according to Randy Smith, a franchise consultant at Aire Serv, a national air conditioning and heating company. We've laid out all the easy-to-follow steps you need to know to get your chilling device at full throttle.

How To Clean Your AC Filter

1. Before beginning the cleaning process, the system should be booted, ran, and cycled off to make sure that it is operating correctly.

2. Turn off the main switch to your AC and unplug the unit. Using a screwdriver, detach the front grill — the part that resembles plastic slats and acts as a cover for your unit. Your filter can typically be found behind the grill.

3. Remove the filter. If you see any tears or obvious damage, don't continue with the cleaning: You'll be better off with a replacement filter that will work efficiently.

4. Use a vacuum cleaner to gently clean any dirt on the surface of the filters. Be very careful with this step, since you wouldn't want to accidentally rip the filter.

5. If your filter still looks filthy, wash off the lingering dirt gently with a mild detergent and rinse with warm water. Keep in mind the filter isn't something you can put in a dishwasher.

6. A DIY sanitizing alternative to the detergent is a mixture of water and vinegar: Fill a large container with equal parts of both and submerge the filter into the mixture.

7. Allow the filter to dry off before reinstalling it into the unit.