How To Properly Clean Your Air Conditioner- Outdoor unit

It’s officially spring, and you know what that means. Spring cleaning season is among us and your air conditioner should be no exception. Your outdoor unit has been through quite a bit over the winter with a year’s supply of dirt and debris to clean out. With out proper cleaning and maintenance your air conditioner will not run at peak performance and can cause premature equipment failure.

Outdoor Condenser

Problems Caused By A Dirty Condenser

Dirty Condenser

The compressor and condenser primarily make up the outdoor unit. The job of the condenser is to expel any heat that is picked up from inside the air conditioned space through the refrigeration cycle. The condenser fan pulls air through the fins and across the coil allowing a transfer of heat. The heat picked up from inside is allowed to be expelled to the outside ambient air.

System Problems Caused From A Plugged Condenser

  • Compressor failure
  • Condenser fan motor failure
  • Over heating
  • System runs constantly
  • Premature equipment Failure

How To Properly Clean Your Unit

What you will need

  • Coil Cleaner ( Amazon )
  • Garden hose
  • Spraying nozzle
  • Work gloves
  • Shop vac

Taking these steps will not only ensure your own personal safety but will ensure that you will do a good job in cleaning your outdoor condenser properly.


  1. Power– Making sure the power is off will be the first step. First find the breaker for your air conditioner located in your main panel usually. This will be what we call a double pole breaker. If you feel comfortable, there is also a disconnect outside usually located behind the unit. You can either flip the breaker off or pull out the disconnect, depending on what style of disconnect is in place.
  2. Removing Motor– Removing the condenser fan motor may or may not be necessary depending on the condition of your unit. If there is any large debris inside and around the compressor you may need to remove the condenser motor and clean the inside. Sometimes you will need to spray from the inside out when cleaning the actual coil. The motor can be flipped up by removing the screws around the air conditioner at the top, leaving the motor mounted to the top piece. Be careful during this part as damage can occur to the coil, it is also a good idea to put the screws in a safe place as you will need to install them again.
  3. Cleaning– Once again, depending on the condition of the coil you may want to get a good coil cleaner, normally HVAC suppliers will not sell products to homeowners, a good coil cleaner can be found on ( coil cleaner ). Follow the directions found with the cleaner. Typically a pump sprayer is used along with water to dilute the cleaner, spray evenly all over the surface of the coil allowing the cleaner to do its job. Wash condenser with a garden hose and a good nozzle until all of the dirt and debris is out. Try to avoid using a pressure washer, damage can occur to the fins.
  4. Putting it back together– Once the condenser has been cleaned, allow the condenser to dry up. Using a shop vac clean up any remaining dirt and debris inside and out. Once you are satisfied with the job, put everything back together starting with the condenser fan motor( if removed). Turn power back on when finished.
Cleaning from the inside out

Typical disconnect

Image source- DIY.COM
How To Properly Clean Your Air Conditioner- Outdoor Unit

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