How to Clean a Bathroom Exhaust Vent Fan

Bathroom exhaust vent fan on ceiling.
Bathroom exhaust vent fans need to be cleaned regularly.

It’s very important to have an exhaust fan that’s vented to the outside in every bathroom in your home, and to run it whenever you shower or bathe and for 15-20 minutes afterward to remove excess moisture that can cause mold and mildew to form.

An average sized bathroom vent fan that’s used one hour a day will exhaust over 2,000,000 cubic feet of air a year, or the equivalent of the air inside 1,000 homes.

As air is drawn through the fan, dust builds up on the grill cover and the fan motor over time. Cleaning the cover and motor housing every six months to one year will remove most of the accumulated dust. Here’s how to clean your vent fan.

To clean a bathroom vent fan:

  1. Turn the fan off at the switch or circuit breaker.
Pressing the spring clips together to remove vent fan cover.
Press spring clips together to remove vent fan cover.
  1. Remove the cover by pulling down until the cover is several inches from the ceiling. Press the spring-loaded wire clips, found on two sides of the cover, together then remove the clips from the slots in the fan housing.
Using a dusting brush on a vacuum to clean vent fan cover.
Use a dusting brush on a vacuum to clean vent fan cover.
  1. Place the fan cover on a towel and use a vacuum cleaner equipped with a bristle brush dusting attachment to clean the cover and grille thoroughly both inside and out.
Cleaning the vent fan motor with vacuum attachment.
Cleaning the vent fan motor with vacuum attachment.
    1. Use the dusting attachment on the vacuum to clean inside the fan housing and around the motor. For hard to reach spots, use a crevice tool on the vacuum.
    2. Reinstall the fan cover by press the clips on the fan cover together, and slip them over the slots in the fan housing. Finally, push the fan cover up until it seats against the ceiling.

Further Information

14 COMMENTS

  1. My bathroom fan has a metal housing and I can see inside that the blades have caked on layers of dust and grime but I can’t fit any attachment in there nor my hands (I have pretty small hands too.)to clean it. Even if I could I would need something to either dissolve the grime or scrape it of. I put the fan cover in the dishwasher and it looks brand new but I have no idea how to clean the actual fan blades. I guess I will search the internet on how to remove the fan to clean it.

  2. We live in a condo…our bathroom vent is downstairs….how do we clean the entire duct…its blowing down black dust!!!

  3. Danny, my vent that is in serious need of cleaning will not detach as it has wiring to one side. Is there anything I can use to spray and drip the crud off with out harming the wiring???? Please I have a gorgeous home with one vent fan that looks like I got it from the local landfill!

    • Hi, Allison,
      Great question! We have forwarded it to the Today’s Homeowner Radio Show’s producer.
      He will contact you soon to discuss featuring it during an upcoming show.
      Take care!

    • Hi, Renee,
      A compressed-air can may work to loosen the dust; however, it likely won’t have enough power to remove all that caked-on dust.
      Further, it will just blow the dust, and you’ll want it to suck in the dust so you can discard it.
      We recommend using the plan outlined in this article.
      Let us know how it goes!

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