Informational Guide

How To Clean Car Vents

Learn how to quickly and effectively clean your car’s AC vents. Keep your unit running cool all summer long.

by Josh M

The car vents are responsible for pumping air out of the automotive HVAC system into the cabin of the vehicle. So while you might get regular air conditioning servicing, it’s equally as important you learn how to clean the car air vents. In this guide, we will cover how to clean the air vents in your car and help you find the right products for the job.

Vehicle Car AC Ventilation

The automotive ventilation system consists of the air conditioning and heating units all in one. Air gets pulled into the large duct located at the front of the vehicle while the car is moving. When the air enters, it gets heated or cooled, depending on the fan setting you have chosen.

Heating vs. cooling isn’t much different. When the heat setting is chosen, the air moves through the water-heated radiator while the fans push the air into the car. However, for cooling to occur, the refrigerant must be present in the AC system. This refrigerant gas gets compressed and converted to a liquid that moves through the condenser to remove heat. This process creates the cold air that gets pumped into the cabin.

Car Interior Air Conditioning

Why Do You Need To Clean Your Car Vents?

Is there a benefit to having clean car AC vents? After all, it doesn’t make sense to learn how to clean out the car air vents if there is no benefit. In reality, there are a lot of reasons to consider cleaning AC vents in a car. For starters, you remove allergens and dust from the system. It can also help reduce the growth of bacteria and mildew.

You also want to know how to clean smelly air vents in a car if odors are present. In general, a car AC vent cleaning can dramatically improve the health and well-being of those inside the cabin while also prolonging the life of the air conditioning parts.

How To Tell That Your Car Vent Needs To Be Cleaned

Unpleasant Or Musty Smells Inside The Car

It’s important to clean out the air vents if you begin to smell anything undesirable or musty, similar to dirty gym socks in the car. These smells could indicate the beginning of mold or bacteria growth, which is why you want to take action immediately.

Visible Debris In The Car Vents

You probably aren’t easy on your vehicle, putting it through a lot of stress on a regular basis. Because of all that you use your vehicle for, debris can build up in the car vents, leading you to search out the best way to clean air vents in a car.

Dust, Pollution Or Pollen In Your Area

Even if you aren’t hard on the interior of your vehicle, it’s only natural for pollen, pollution, and other dust to start building up on the vents. Occasionally, you want to clean out the air vents in a car just to remove this build-up and prevent respiratory ailments.

Car Automotive Vehicle Air Conditioning

How To Clean Car Vents (Easy Step-by-Step Guide)

Before we examine how to clean car AC vents, you want to gather some supplies. Here are a few to consider having with you for the cleaning project.

  • Fine brush
  • Car vacuum
  • Cleaner of your choice
  • Steam cleaner
  • New cabin air filter
  • Air compressor

From here, you can follow these steps if you want the best way to clean car air vents. Our guide takes you through cleaning the interior and exterior.

  1. Use a fine brush made with microfiber to dust each air vent individually. You don’t need to know how to remove car AC vents to accomplish this cleaning project.
  2. While brushing, dust is going to break loose. Hold a car vacuum close to your work to suck out the dust as it is removed.
  3. You will want to spray a clean air car vent cleaner onto the dusted area to completely clean it. You can also use a steam cleaner for deeper disinfection. Just make sure the vents are dry when you are finished, or you encourage the growth of mold.
  4. Change the cabin air filter because it can become blocked and dirty causing further musty smells.
  5. From outside of the car, you want to spray compressed air into the intake vents. Do this while you have the ventilation running in the vehicle, so all of the air can escape.

If the smells persist after this cleaning, you might need to visit a professional for help getting rid of bacteria or mold overgrowth.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

What happens if you don’t clean your car vents?

Dust and debris will continue building up on the vents. This contamination could lead to the growth of bacteria or mold. Plus, it can reduce the amount of air coming out of the system.

How often should car AC vents be cleaned?

In normal conditions, you want to clean the vents every month or every other. However, if you are spending a lot of time in the vehicle or driving in dusty conditions, you may want to clean them more frequently.

Can you steam clean car vents?

You can use your steam cleaner on the car vents. The biggest trick to remember is that the vents must be completely dried when you are finished. Otherwise, your cleaning only encourages the growth of mold.

How do you remove car vents?

You shouldn’t need to remove the car vents to clean them. However, if removal is required, it’s important to read the directions in the service manual, ensuring that nothing gets broken in the process.


If you are hoping to find the answers to clean the car air vents and mold growth, our guide should have pointed you in the right direction. With a few minutes, you can ensure the air you breathe is fresh and clean.

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.