How to Clean a Portable Air Conditioner

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Updated September 22, 2022

After using your appliance for a while, you probably want to know how to clean a portable air conditioner. The process for portable units is like the best air conditioner units in terms of the parts you should clean. To learn more, check out our info article on how portable air coolers work.


  • You will need a vacuum, a brush attachment for a vacuum hose, your portable air conditioning system, some mild soap, and water.
  • This process should take about 20 minutes, though dirtier ACs may take longer.
  • You should check your manufacturer and model to see whether you have a replaceable or washable portable air filter.

If you find your A/C is not cooling your house, you definitely want to try and take the time to clean it first. Use a vacuum or wet towel to clean each part of the system, including the vents, filters, hose, and condenser coils. The process isn’t too different from learning how to clean a central air conditioner. You’ll want to keep it clean, otherwise, your A/C will stink when you turn it on.

Cleaning a Portable AC

Before attempting to clean your PAC (portable air conditioner,) unplug your device and ensure it has fully turned off before you clean. You should also wear a protective face covering if you intend to deal with filthy air filters. Finally, you should not use liquid cleaners or abrasives while wiping or washing your unit, especially if your A/C is compatible with Alexa. This may damage the smart control features.

Insider Tip

Some units automatically issue the E1 error code so that owners are reminded to clean the air filter.

Read on to learn how to wash and dust your AC system, vents, hose, and coils. You can also change your air filter or potentially wash it if it is reusable. You can also save more money on bills if you learn how AC misters work and how you can mist your unit yourself.

Cleaning Process


Unplug your portable air conditioning unit and let the power drain from the system. Never try to perform any maintenance, service, or repair while the electronic device is plugged into a power socket. If you do so, you may end up shocking or harming yourself.


Clean the outside of the machine. You can vacuum the outside with the vacuum hose or use a damp cloth with mild soap to wipe the entire exterior. You should perform this maintenance twice a month. If your PAC is in a dusty room, it will require more frequent cleaning.


Clean your vents. To do so, you may need to wipe the outside and inside of the vents. You should use compressed air or a vacuum to eliminate all dust.


Remove the filters and shake them out. Each air filter may be replaceable or washable, but you should check which ones you have. Most PACs have washable filters, so you just need to run water through the filters or use the vacuum hose on them. If you choose water, you will need to shake the filters to remove excess water.


Take off the venting hose, keeping it straight while doing so. Then, run water through the exhaust hose to remove dust and debris. Finally, let all the water out before reattaching your AC appliance.


If you have access to the condenser coils, use compressed air or a vacuum hose to remove loose dust. Be careful while you do so because you may bend or damage the aluminum fins. You may need a fin comb to straighten the fins if they are bent. Most manufacturers recommend only cleaning the coils if you can easily access them. However, if you are struggling with warm air emissions, you can take the unit apart to gain access.


Finally, reassemble your AC system with all of its removed attachments to clean it out. Ensure each piece is dry before you reassemble the unit.


It is a good idea to check the filter even if the code doesn’t appear because a clean air filter is crucial to maintaining unit efficiency and low energy costs.


How often should you clean your air conditioner?

You should clean your PAC twice a month.

How do you know your portable air conditioner needs cleaning?

If you can see visible dust on the outside surfaces of the unit or through the vents, ‌clean your AC system. You may also see decreased efficiency.

What causes musty smells from a portable air conditioner?

Mold, mildew, or bacteria growth may cause musty odors in your PAC.

STAT: If you can’t use a vacuum to remove dirt inside your condenser coils, you can use a garden hose without garden sprayer attachments. (source)

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