How To Clean a Portable Air Conditioner (AC Maintenance)

On hot summer days, there are few devices as useful as a portable air conditioner. To keep your unit functioning well, learning how to clean a portable air conditioner is essential. This guide will take you through the steps and tools you might need to give it a good deep clean.

How to Clean a Portable Air Conditioner: (7 Easy Steps)

These simple steps should help most users learn how to deep clean their portable air conditioners. Refer to your user manual for specific instructions on cleaning your AC model. An ideal time to clean your air conditioner is at the start of summer and then again at the end as the weather becomes cooler and the unit is no longer needed. Filters that need to be replaced may need changing every month or every couple of weeks, depending on the specific filters used.

You will need:

  • Warm water with a mild detergent
  • A non-abrasive cloth
  • Acidic cleaner, such as coil cleaner
  • Vacuum cleaner and hose attachments, or handheld vacuum
  • Replacement filters, if needed
  • Screwdriver, if needed to open portable air conditioner.
1. Drain the Water

As air conditioners dehumidify, they will collect condensate water which must be drained before you can clean. Some models may have drainage systems or be capable of evaporating some of this water, but others will collect the water in a tank. Before you drain the water, make sure your unit is unplugged.

2. Dry Out the Unit

To ensure any residue moisture is removed, run your AC unit on fan mode. This may take around 2 hours. Before continuing cleaning, unplug the unit again. To access all parts, it may be necessary to remove the exhaust hose to access all inside features that need cleaning.

3. Remove and Clean the Filters

If your filters cannot be cleaned and need replacing, make sure you have the correct make of replacement filters for your unit. Refer to your manual to work out how often the filters need to be replaced.

If the filters can be cleaned, access your portable air conditioner’s filters and remove them from their frame. With many types, including HEPA and carbon filters, you will be able to shake loose any dust build-up.

Clean the filter well with a solution of detergent and warm water to remove any additional residue, and leave to dry completely before returning to the unit. Some units also have a pre-filter to prevent dust from entering the unit. This should be cleaned every other week, but do not use any detergents or cleaners on the pre-filter as they may cause residue, which prevents it from working properly.

Vacuum Dust Build Up
4. Vacuum Dust Build-Up

Next, open up your unit to clean the intake valves and fins on the evaporator and condenser.

Be careful not to touch any sharp or moving components inside the unit while doing this.

Use the hose attachments on a vacuum cleaner or a handheld vacuum to remove dust build-up from the inside components.

5. Clean Coils
Clean Coils

It’s essential to keep the cooling coils clean, too, as they are far more complex and more expensive to replace than the air filters.

Grease and other dirt can build up on the coils and affect how well they are working.

If needed, clean the cooling coils with an acidic cleaner – a dedicated coil cleaner is available to buy.

If you need a homemade cleaning option, lime and lemon juice make an effective acidic cleaner or use a vinegar and water solution.

You may need to run your AC unit a short while to remove the vinegar smell after cleaning.

6. Clean Outside of Unit

It’s just as vital to keep your portable air conditioner clean on the outside. Regularly wipe down the housing with a damp cloth. Use non-abrasive material and water with mild detergents to clean the outside as strong chemicals and abrasive materials may harm it.

7. Reassemble AC and Test

Replace all parts as you found them once you have finished cleaning and the filters have dried. When it is reassembled, test your unit before reattaching it to the window. If the unit blows cold air, it is working as it should. If your AC unit will not be used after cleaning, store it properly in a cool and dry place such as a storage cupboard.

Draining A Portable AC (4 Easy Ways)

Not only do air conditioners filter contaminants from the air and cool it, but they will also remove moisture from the air. This is condensed and collected in a tank inside your unit and will need to be removed.

How often drainage will be necessary will depend on your air conditioner model, location, and how often it is used. If you live in a particularly humid area, your portable air conditioner may collect more condensed water than expected and need to be emptied more often. If the water is not emptied, your AC may shut down and display an error message or alarm.

1. Drain with a condensate pump

This handy pump can save you the effort of regularly emptying excess water. A condensate pump is connected to your portable air conditioner and drains the water for you. A hose connects to the AC and pump; then, a second hose runs from the pump. The end of this can be put out of a window.

When needed, the pump will drain the water and prevent the level from becoming too high. Make sure your model is designed to use a condensate pump before installing.

2. Drain with a hose

Like the condensate pump, this method also requires a hose. However, it drains water with a much more natural force – gravity! The hose is attached to the AC unit and placed running downhill, so the water flows out. A good location for this kind of drainage would be near a floor drain.

3. Drain into a sink, bathtub or outside

If your unit model doesn’t allow you to install a drainage hose, a more manual effort may be needed. Unplug your portable air conditioner and take it to a bath, sink, or outdoors. Carry with care as it may be heavy when full of water, and make sure it remains level.

Place it down on a flat surface and take out the drain plug. The water will drain, and your portable air conditioner can be put back where needed.

4. Drain into a pan

If removing the AC from its location isn’t possible, drainage into a pan is another option. Unplug your air conditioner and put a pan beneath the drain port. Remove the drain plug and allow the water to collect in the pan.

Cleaning A Portable Air Conditioning Unit: By Brand

Follow the guide provided by your model’s manufacturer before cleaning or removing any part of your portable air conditioner. Make sure the steps you are following are applicable to the model and will not damage it.

LG Portable AC

It’s possible to clean the filter on several models of the LG portable air conditioner range. They often have two filters. If lightly dirty, use the vacuum cleaner to remove dust. If very dirty, clean with water and mild detergent. Avoid strong chemicals and too hot water.

The aluminum fins found just behind the filters may also need to be cleaned. Use the brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner to gently remove dust build-up. The manufacturer recommends cleaning the filters every two weeks.

Delonghi Portable AC

For the DeLonghi Portable air conditioner, it is recommended that the filters are cleaned every week if the unit is in constant use. The anti-dust filter can be removed and cleaned with a vacuum cleaner or lukewarm water. Allow the filter to dry completely before replacing it.

Danby Portable AC

Danby Portable AC offers a great range of portable air conditioners, many with filters that are easy to remove and clean. Some models have three filters located on the back and sides of the unit. You may need to remove screws to deep clean other parts of a Danby portable air conditioner.

Frigidaire AC

To clean the filter on a Frigidaire portable air conditioner, you must first remove the filters from the back of the unit. Using a tab, the panel containing the filter can be carefully removed. The filter can be cleaned in warm soapy water or with a vacuum cleaner. The unit has a check filter light to remind you when it is time to clean the filter.

Hisense AC

The manufacturer of the Hisense portable air conditioners recommends turning off the unit before cleaning, whether you want to clean the inside or outside. To remove and clean the filter, you will need to open the filter panel door and then remove the tapping screw to detach the filter. It is not recommended that you put the filter in the dishwasher.

Honeywell Portable AC

If you need to clean the filter on a Honeywell portable air conditioner, it is recommended that you do so every two weeks. The filter should be rinsed in lukewarm water and allowed to dry completely in a shaded and cool location.

Why Is Cleaning Your Portable AC Unit Important?

Improves running costs

We’re all looking for ways to save ourselves some money. An easy way to slim down your energy bill is by taking care of energy-consuming equipment such as air conditioner units. When they aren’t taken care of or cleaned, AC units are less efficient with their energy use and cost more money to run.

Prolongs the life of the AC unit

Another cost spared by cleaning your AC is that of needing to replace your unit prematurely due to damage or malfunction. Depending on the portable air conditioner model, your unit should last for several years, with estimates ranging between 5 – 10 years for well-cared-for units. When their parts are cleaned and checked to ensure they are functioning well, you shouldn’t need to replace your unit for a long time.

Helps protect against microorganisms

Certain units contain filters designed to remove harmful microorganisms from the air we’re breathing in. However, the collection of moisture from the air along with dust and bacteria make air conditioners great places for mold and mildew to grow. This is preventable with regular cleaning.

Removes contaminants

The build-up of contaminants like dirt and dust in air conditioners, particularly in fans and coils, will cause a portable AC unit to not operate at its full capacity. Removing the contaminants will help amend this, also ensuring your unit lasts longer and doesn’t use more energy than it should. By unblocking built-up dust and dirt from the air conditioner unit, you’re also increasing the unit’s airflow, allowing it to work better and ensuring it will last longer.

Prevents unpleasant smells

A lack of proper maintenance and cleaning could lead to your air conditioner giving off an unpleasant smell. This may be caused by mold and other bacteria growing inside, a clogged filter, or leaking fluids. Regular cleaning will allow you to combat these potentially smelly issues.

Prevent Unpleasant Smell

HVAC Expert Tips: Storing A Portable AC Correctly

When your unit is not in use, it is recommended that it is placed in storage. It should not be left in front of a window as this may cause it to become discolored. Also, storage in an area that will be susceptible to temperature change, such as a living area in your house, could cause damage. It should also not be left in a humid or very dusty environment as this may also damage it.

Proper storage will ensure your portable air conditioner continues to operate as it should for a long time. Your air conditioner unit should be stored indoors in a cool and dry place, such as a storage cupboard. It should not be left somewhere too cold, as leftover water inside it could cause damage if it freezes. It’s best to protect your AC unit by storing it in the box it came in or by covering it with a sheet or tarp. This is easier if the unit is on the small side.

When preparing to store your portable air conditioner, drain any water and run the air conditioner on the fan mode to completely dry it out. Give your unit a deep clean, then remove the exhaust pipe and window bracket to store with your unit.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Can you refill a portable air conditioner?

You should not need to refill a portable air conditioner, but you will need to empty the water it collects.

Do portable air conditioners use a lot of electricity?

Portable air conditioners use less electricity than window AC units, but they do still use a fair bit. Regular cleaning will make them more efficient and ensure they waste less energy.

What are some causes of smelly portable AC units?

A smelly portable air conditioner may be a sign that you need to clean it! Smells can be caused by a build-up of mold, mildew, or dust in the unit. If you smell gas, it may be leaking refrigerant fluid and should be checked out by a professional technician.

Do all portable air conditioners have to be vented out a window?

Most portable air conditioner units will need an exhaust pipe to expel warm air as part of the cooling process.

Is a portable AC better than a window unit?

Depending on your home, a portable AC may be a better option for you over a window unit. Portable ACs can be moved where they are needed and cost less to purchase and run.

Can you leave a portable air conditioner on all day?

It’s not a good idea to leave your portable air conditioner on all day. If it runs for a long time, it may strain the unit and stop it from working as efficiently as it can.


Learning how to clean your portable air conditioner is essential if you wish to save money and energy and lengthen your unit’s lifespan. Professional cleaning services are also available for air conditioner units should you want to ensure your portable AC is in the best condition possible.

Related Article How Does a Portable AC Work?

Josh Mitchell

Josh Mitchell

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with DIY and improving my family home. HVAC topics can be tricky for homeowners so I decided to share my knowledge on the subject. When I am not working on DIY projects, you can find me at the beach or my local coffee shop.