How To Clean The Outside Of An AC Unit & Why It Is Important

Keeping the outside of your air conditioner (AC) unit or the condenser unit clean is vital to its overall performance. This portion of an AC is responsible for releasing the heat absorbed from inside your home outside and keeping the space cool.

While the cleaning process is simple, it requires proper inspection, removal of foreign elements, and cleaning with a foamy chemical and hose. In other words, it is not just about spraying this portion of an AC outside with a hose. 

Moving forward, I will teach you how to manually clean the outside of an AC unit, why it is important, and the role of a filter.

How To Clean The Outside of an AC Unit


Cleaning outside an AC unit requires a preliminary (debris removal) stage and the actual washing. While both processes are straightforward, they contain a variety of minor steps.

Let’s go through the entire process together:

1. Removing debris from the AC unit

The outside portion of an AC is no stranger to debris like leaves or large clumps of cobwebs. You can gently remove the leaves and brush off the cobwebs. Aside from this, you can also perform other operations like:

  • Remove or trim landscaping growing near the unit, especially if your AC is in a bushy or an environment with many trees. 
  • To be safer, ensure this landscaping is at least 3 ft away from the AC unit.
  • Check the air conditioner for structures or fencing that can disrupt airflow or cause congestion.
  • The closest any structure should be to the outside of an AC is 3 to 6 ft.

2. Washing the AC Unit

After ensuring all debris or structures, washing the outside or condenser is next. To do this, carefully follow the steps below:

Turn off the power to the AC unit. 

Safety first. Turning off the AC is the first step before you commence any cleaning. You can do this by switching off the power next to the outdoor box or turning off your home’s circuit breaker. 

Either way, you are sure of eliminating the risks of electrocution. 

Dislodge the dirt in the unit using a hose

This is where you turn to your garden hose and gently spray the outside of an AC unit with water to dislodge the debris. Maintain a pattern (maybe from top to bottom) and go back and forth a couple of times to completely remove all the dirt.

If the outside of your AC unit is very dirty, apply a foaming coil cleaner and wait about 5 to 10 minutes before washing the foam off with a hose. While the process of hose washing must be thorough to remove all debris, the force or pressure behind the water must not be too strong. 

Too much pressure or a very forceful washing may damage the coils of the AC unit. Just go gently until you can no longer spot any dirt or foams.

Turn on the AC

Before turning on your AC, allow it to dry. Depending on the weather, this may take about 30 to 60 minutes. Once the unit is completely dried, turn it on using the power box (designed for the AC) or the circuit breaker in your home.

The outcome of this process is faster cooling without the AC working extra hard. In fact, you may not need to clean the condenser for another 6 months or even a year.

3. Using a filter

A filter is designed for people who don’t have the time for manual cleaning or industries with thousands of air conditioners. However, this less stressful option is relatively expensive.

All you need to do for filters is replace them every 3 months (the non-reusable type). If it is reusable, you still have to clean it once every 3 months. 

To do this, you must vacuum the filter first to remove any heavy particle and soak it in a mixture of citric acid (30 grams) and water (1 liter) for 15 minutes. Rinse it off with water before returning it to the unit.

What Happens When You Don’t Clean the Outside of An AC Unit?

Now that you know what it takes to clean the outside of an AC unit manually, let’s take a look at why it is essential:


A working AC is susceptible to accumulating dirt, pollen, and other foreign materials in its condenser coil (outside the AC). If such an air conditioner is not cleaned, it may fail to cool your home, resulting in discomfort effectively. 

Avoidable spending

A clogged AC (if not cleaned) has to work harder to satisfy the thermostat setting. You have to spend money to reset the device—something you can avoid by practicing proper maintenance.


Sometimes, resetting the AC might be too late. In this case, such AC might have broken down due to the failure of one or more components. This repair of a spoiled AC is more expensive than resetting it.


How long should the air conditioner dry after cleaning?

30 to 60 minutes is enough time for an air conditioner to dry. Do not switch on your AC if it is not completely dried. 

Can you pressure wash my air conditioner?

Pressure washing your AC will always be a risky choice. This is because they can damage the coil of the air conditioner and result in an overall breakdown.

How do you know if your AC coils need to be cleaned?

The major symptom to watch out for is a reduction in cooling capacity. In some cases, the AC’s coil may also appear frosty when in action.


Air conditioners are no strangers to dirt and debris. This is why regular cleaning and maintenance are the only ways to keep them healthy and make them last for a very long time. 

Nevertheless, how we clean them matters. There are cleaning methods for the outside of an AC unit that can expose the device’s wiring to water or other costly damages.

If your AC unit is filthy, or you are not confident about carrying out the process, you can always schedule an appointment with an HVAC expert. For more interesting articles, check out Biotrux.

I hope you found this guide helpful. Thanks for reading.