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Mold in the air conditioner? How to find and fix it

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q: There has been a mysterious, slightly musty smell in my house all summer, and this morning when our window air conditioner turned on, I noticed that the smell was definitely coming from the unit. I know it’s unhealthy to breathe air with mold spores on it, but I’d rather not buy a new air conditioner if I can fix it on my own. Is there a way to remove mold from an air conditioner?

A: Mold Is tend to grow inside air conditioners that go unused for some time. It is likely that mold has grown in the unit over the winter and you did not notice it until you turned on your air conditioning unit this summer. And you are right to worry about the health problems it can cause: Mold spores produce allergens that can lead to sore throats, headaches, and various respiratory symptoms. Although there is a good chance that the mold in your AC unit is not the scary black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) that you have heard of, inhaling mold spores of any type can cause breathing problems.

RELATED: 14 ​​Surprising Places Mold Hides In Your Home

Successful mold banishment from an air conditioner depends on where it is located. If the mold is accessible, you may be able to remove it; but if it grows in an area that is difficult to access, you will likely need to replace the unit. Read on for the sleuth tips and cleaning steps you need to bring clean, safe, and fresh air to your home.

Turn off your air conditioner to prevent other mold spores from entering your home.

If you suspect that there is mold in your air conditioner, the United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends turning it off so that mold spores can no longer circulate and contaminate your home.

Inspect the unit to determine the extent of the problem.

Unplug the unit, remove the front grill cover (most come off but some are held in place by screws), then remove the filter under the grill. Take a flashlight and inspect the inside of the device for signs of mold growth, which may appear as streaks or clumps of brown, black, or greenish spots, some of which may appear blurry. Mold, a common type of mold, produces gray or white powdery spots. If you find only a few traces of mold on the hard surfaces inside the device, proceed with cleaning. If it is filled with a strong mold growth, indicated by mold and mildew deposits that cover a third or more of the case surface and internal workings, it is probably time to replace the unit (see below. below for problems associated with heavy mold growth).

Clean mold in the air conditioner

Photo: istockphoto.com

Clean small amounts of mold from the inside of the housing and / or grille.

AC units vary in the way they are assembled, so consult your owner’s manual to determine how to identify and disassemble the outdoor cabinet so you can access the interior. Before you begin, assemble your tools and equipment, then don a dust mask, goggles, and gloves.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– screwdriver
– Wet / dry vacuum cleaner with nozzle tip
– Commercial AC coil cleaner
– Garden hose
– Dish soap
– Bleach
– Large plastic bucket
– Scouring sponge

  1. Remove the window unit, using a screwdriver to remove the frame that holds it. AC units are heavy, so recruit someone to help bring it to your yard or driveway and place it on a concrete surface or a large piece of plywood.
  2. Remove the grill and filter from the front of the appliance. Soak the filter in a sink with hot, soapy water to which you have added about 1/2 cup of bleach.
  3. Remove the top and back of the cabinet, following the instructions in your owner’s manual.
  4. Vacuum dust and debris from inside the air conditioner. Use a nozzle attachment to get out as much as possible.
  5. Spray the coils (U-shaped metal tubes near the front and back of the unit) with a commercial coil cleaner and allow the product to work as directed by the manufacturer to dissolve any that builds up. on AC coils. Cleaning the grime off the coils is crucial as it provides a breeding ground for mold.
  6. Spray the coils with a garden hose to remove the cleaning solution from the coils. It will have dissolved the gunk and it should spray right away. Although window air conditioning units are fairly waterproof, avoid spraying the controls and where the electrical cord is connected.
  7. Fill a plastic bucket with a few gallons of hot water and about 1/2 cup of bleach.
  8. Soak a scouring sponge in the bleach solution and use it to wipe down the interior surfaces of the AC unit, removing any visible mold. Bleach will kill residual mold spores.
  9. Spray the filter that soaked in the sink with the hose to remove any debris.
  10. Allow the unit to air dry completely, which can take up to 24 hours, before reassembling the unit and reinstalling it in your window.

Take precautions to prevent future mold growth.

Once you have had mold in the air conditioner, there is an increased risk that it will grow again despite your cleaning efforts. This is because the mold spores could remain in the inner workings of the unit that you weren’t able to reach. The presence of dust in the unit helps mold spores to adhere and grow, so make it a habit to remove the grille and filter every few weeks and vacuum the inside of the unit to prevent dust from building up. to drop off.

RELATED: The Dark and Dirty Truth About Household Mold (& How to Get Rid of It)

Also, do not turn off your air conditioner if you do not use it for a few days or more in hot weather. It’s a common practice when people go on vacation, but when the weather is hot and humid, mold is more likely to take hold in the air conditioning unit. The movement of air that occurs when the unit is in operation helps prevent mold growth. If you want to save on cooling costs when you are away, set your air conditioner thermostat to a higher temperature than normal. For example, if you usually set the temperature to 75 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re at home, set it 10 degrees higher at 85 degrees Fahrenheit before you leave. This way, the air conditioner will not run as often, but it will still run from time to time when the temperature in the house increases. This will allow air to circulate through the unit and reduce the risk of mold growing while you are away.

Replace a window air conditioning unit filled with thick mold.

If, during your initial inspection, you discover endemic mold and mildew in the air conditioner, do not attempt to clean it. Visible thick mold indicates that more mold is growing in places that you cannot easily see or reach, such as inside the fan motor housing. Alternatively, you can call a mold removal specialist to inspect the unit to see if it can be professionally cleaned, but the consultation could cost as much as purchasing a new air conditioner. Bottom Line: Breathing air contaminated with mold spores is unhealthy, so if you cannot effectively clean the device, it should be replaced.

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