Weekend Projects

This Weekend: Prepare to Cool Off & Cool Down

updated Oct 13, 2022
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(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

Summer will be here soon and temps are already rising all over the country. Judging by the number of people I saw in the fan and air conditioner aisle at Home Depot this past weekend, keeping your home (and yourself) cool is high on everyone’s priority list right now. If you don’t have an adequate number of cooling devices — get thee to the hardware store. If you do, it’s time to make sure they’re clean and ready to go.

This Weekend’s Assignment: Clean and Prep your Fans and Air Conditioners

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

I’ll admit that for many (many, many) years I did not take proper care of my air conditioner or fans. They collected dust and dirt and I just plugged them in at the beginning of the season and unplugged them at the end. It was part laziness and part being unaware of the importance of cleaning them. Since developing dust allergies as an adult, my fan and AC cleaning consciousness has been raised! Keeping fans and ACs clean and dust-free also adds to their efficiency and lifespan, if that is more of a motivator for you.

Note: If you live in a part of the country or the world where you use your fans and/or air conditioning year-round, consider this a reminder to do some cleaning and maintenance of them!

Box, Tower and Oscillating Fans

You saved the instructions that came with each of your fans, right??? Me neither. But if you did, see what the manufacturer recommends for cleaning and maintenance. Or search for the instructions online. At the very least, (after unplugging your fan, natch) do an exterior wipe-down and vacuum with a brush attachment. You can also use a can of compressed air to blow dust off (I recommend doing this outside!) For really dirty units, you may consider opening them up for a more in-depth clean (details in the links below).

→ How to Clean a Fan tutorial on Apartment Therapy
→ How To Clean Your Cheap Box Fan on YouTube

Ceiling Fans

I really miss the ceiling fan in the bedroom of my last apartment, but boy did it get dusty! Especially if you have more than one fan, you may consider buying an extendable duster (like this one which extends to 54″ →or, for really high ceilings, this one which extends to 14 feet!). Or, if you can get up on a ladder safely to reach your ceiling fan, many people find using a pillowcase to clean both sides of the blades without dropping dust onto the floor to be an efficient method (details below).

→ How to Clean Your Ceiling Fan The Easy Way on Apartment Therapy (or watch our video for this and other dusting tricks)
→ How To Make Your Ceiling Fans Work Better on Apartment Therapy

Window Unit Air Conditioners

Cleaning a window AC can be intimidating because they are so heavy to begin with, but they are also a heavy investment so it’s worth it to keep them in good shape. At the very least, give the exterior a wipe-down and clean or replace the filter (some can be reused, others should be replaced – check your manual. What? You didn’t save this manual either?). Also, make sure the side panels are in good shape without tears or holes. If not, consider repairing or reinforcing (with foam panels like these). Finally, check that the batteries in the remote work!

→ How To Clean a Window Air Conditioner on YouTube (somewhat lengthy but thorough video)

Central Air Conditioners

If you live in a corporate-owned building you likely don’t have access to any part of the central air conditioning so you can just relax and enjoy all your cool, cool air. If you own your home, you might consider hiring a professional to clean your ducts and vents. According to Home Advisor, the average cost in the U.S. for cleaning ducts and vents is $348. The EPA, however, says there is “continuing uncertainty about the benefits of duct cleaning under most circumstances” so it’s possible you don’t need to service your AC if you’re not having problems. However, pretty much everyone agrees that you should change your air filters often (the general rule of thumb is every 3 months or so for the average home).

Remember, as with all of our Weekend Projects, just do what you have the time and energy to do. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

  • Help motivate others by letting the rest of us know how things are going! Share your tips and photos of your Weekend Project work on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #ATweekendproject.
  • Check out 2017’s entire Plan for a Healthy & Happy Home to access all Weekend Project ideas, so you can pick and choose what to do this weekend.