You likely already change your air conditioner’s filter regularly, but are you also cleaning the coils? Dirt and debris could be affecting your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system’s efficiency. Air conditioner coil cleaners are specialized solutions designed to clean air conditioner coils. Here’s what you need to know about them, why they’re essential, and how you can use cleaning solutions in your AC unit.

What is an Air Conditioning Coil Cleaner?

Over time, air conditioner coils, including the evaporator and condenser coils, can accumulate dirt, dust, and other debris. These parts are essential to the air conditioner’s cooling process, but debris can impact the unit’s performance. Specialized solutions, known as air conditioning coil cleaners, can remove any dirt or debris to enhance the HVAC system’s efficiency.

Why Should You Clean Air Conditioning Coils?

If your air conditioner is no longer cooling, you’re facing higher than usual energy bills, the unit is making odd noises, or an AC coil is frozen, your coils may need cleaning. Here are a few ways dirty AC coils can affect your system:

  • Efficiency: Dirty AC coils can have trouble transferring heat effectively, affecting the cooling process and making the system work harder. This consumes more energy and increases energy bills. Cleaning the coils optimizes performance and efficiency.
  • Longevity: Dirty coils can shorten the lifespan of an air conditioning unit and various parts, including the compressor and fan. Inefficient operation causes more wear and tear on the HVAC system, but cleaning them regularly can extend the lifespan of the appliance.
  • Air quality: If your AC coils are covered in dirt, dust, or other allergens, it means that dust and dirt is circulating through the system. Cleaning the coils can improve the indoor air quality and airflow throughout the unit.

In some cases, a lack of cleaning can result in the compressor overheating and shutting down. In turn, this can seriously damage the HVAC system and require expensive repairs or even replacement.

How To Use Air Conditioning Coil Cleaner

If it’s time to clean your air conditioning coils, you have a few different options for cleaning solutions, such as:

  • Liquid cleaners can be sprayed directly onto the AC coils to dissolve and loosen grime, dirt, and other debris.
  • Foaming coil cleaners expand into a foam when sprayed on the coils. A similar option is aerosol cleaners. These cling to the coils and break down dirt and debris. It can then be rinsed off.
  • No-rinse cleaners can be applied and left on the coils. Eventually, the cleaning solution will evaporate or drip off the coils with the dissolved dirt.
  • Specialized brushes and tools can be used to manually clean AC coils.
  • Condensed air can be used if there is only a light buildup of debris or dirt.

Homeowners can follow these general steps to clean the condenser and evaporator coils:

  1. Wear safety gear. You should put on gloves and safety goggles to protect yourself from chemicals or removed debris.
  2. Turn off the AC Unit. Always turn off the HVAC system and disconnect power before cleaning the coils or any other part of the unit.
  3. Remove the covers. You will likely have to remove covers or panels to access the coils. The location of the evaporator and condenser coils can vary depending on the unit.
  4. Apply the cleaner to the coils. Follow the instructions on the specialized cleaning product. If you’re using a liquid or foam cleaner, you’ll want to spray the solution evenly over the coils. If you’re using brushes or tools, gently scrub the coils to remove any dirt or debris.
  5. Rinse if necessary. Some cleaners require rinsing. You can use a hose or water sprayer on gentle settings to rinse off the cleaning solution and dissolved dirt. You don’t want any residue left on the coils. Don’t use a pressure washer to rinse off cleaners, as it can damage the fragile parts of the HVAC units.
  6. Test the AC. Put the panels or covers back on the HVAC system, reconnect the power, and turn on the unit. It should be working normally.

Maintaining your air conditioning system is more than changing the air filter once every few months. It’s important to clean the AC coils to make sure the system is operating at optimal efficiency and performance. Always use specialized cleaners to get off any dirt, as using some household options could lead to poor cleaning or damage to the AC unit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Air Conditioning Coil Cleaners

How often should I clean my AC coils?

AC coils should be cleaned once a year. If your unit is exposed to excessive dirt, allergens, or debris, you may need to clean it once every three months. You can cut down on the need to clean AC coils by replacing your air filter often and moving dirt and debris away from the condenser unit.

Can I clean AC coils myself or should I hire a professional?

You can perform AC coil cleaning yourself if you can safely and easily access the coils on your unit. If the coils are hard to access, are extremely dirty, or appear damaged, it’s not a DIY project and you should call a professional.

Can dirty coils affect AC efficiency?

Yes, dirty coils can affect AC efficiency. The dirt and debris can impact the heat transfer needed to properly cool a space. The AC unit with dirty coils will have to work harder to provide the same cooling compared to an AC system with clean coils.

Is it safe to use household cleaners on AC coils?

Generally, you shouldn’t use household cleaners on AC evaporator coils and condenser coils. They usually won’t be able to get the dirt or grime off the coils, especially if it’s caked on. Some household cleaners can also leave residue on the coils that interfere with the cooling process.

In cases where the dirt is light, a vacuum cleaner or mild detergent/water mixture can be used. You should never use a pressure washer, as it will likely damage delicate parts of the HVAC.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Hilary Cairns

Hilary Cairns

Hilary Cairns is a writer with 12 years of professional writing experience. She has covered a diverse set of topics such as custom home building, plumbing, HVAC, energy efficiency, and others. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz with a bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing, she discovered her passion for helping businesses and organizations deliver impactful content that changed lives. Originally from New York, Hilary now calls Florida home (along with 2 cats). When not immersed in her writing work, she enjoys playing video games, reading Stephen King, and researching her (and her friends') genealogy.

Learn More

Find Our Top Picks for HVAC Pros in Major Cities