How Do I Get Rid of the Smell in my Air Conditioner? [Easy Cleaning]

If you notice a foul smell coming from your air conditioner, it’s vital you fix the issue.

Some molds produce toxins that cause persistent headaches, allergic reactions, and chronic fatigue.  

To get rid of the smell in your air conditioner, you have to identify the odor’s source first, then clean your drain pan and condenser coils. Next, you have to flush your clogged condensate drain line before finally replacing your air filters.

Below are some tips HVAC experts recommend on how you can get rid of the smell in your air conditioner.

3 Causes of Mildew Smell Coming From Your AC

Air conditioning odors may be a result of the following: 

  1. Mold can build up from condensation on your refrigerator coils. Mold might also accumulate from a leak in the ac system or clogged drain pans.
  1. Mildew growth inside of your air conditioner
  1. Animals that might have accessed the unit, only for them to get trapped and die in there. These later decompose, creating an awful stench. 

How to Get Rid of the Smell from Your AC

1. Find the Source of the Smell

Check whether or not the smell is coming from a specific point.

The model and style of your air conditioner will determine if you should open its cover, the access panels, or the top to allow you to look inside and determine the cause of the odor.

To do this effectively, you’ll need a flashlight.

Look for any signs of mold, mildew, decaying vegetation, or dead animals, including snakes, mice, bats, rats, or squirrels. You may observe signs of discoloration.

If yours is a window unit, remove it from the window and place it on a flat surface outdoors for easier inspection. 

It’s not easy to remove the access panels from window air conditioners as there are many screws.

Be mindful of where each screw you take out goes. You can make a diagram that ensures you place the screw back where it belongs.

2. Clean Your Draining Pan and Condenser Coils

Upon removing your air conditioner’s access panel, start cleaning.

Use a vacuum cleaner to clean the metal fins just before the condenser coils. This removes any debris and dirt that’s accumulated over the years.

Locate the drain pan and remove it.

Wash it with hot soapy water until you’re sure it’s clean before rinsing it with undiluted white distilled vinegar solution.

Remember to wipe down the evaporator coils and drain pan.

3. Flush Your Clogged Condensate Drain Line

The condensate drain line traps condensed water from your air conditioning unit and disposes of it outdoors.

If you notice that no water is dripping out of the small pipe near your outdoor unit, it might indicate that your drain line has a clog somewhere.

If that’s the case, the runoff has to go somewhere. Instead, it goes back to the drain pan and may form a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

Use a wet-dry vacuum cleaner to clear the drain line. Alternatively, pour vinegar solution down the condensate line to kill any mold, mildew, or fungi that might be clogging it. 

For the window unit, it’s easy to unclog the built-in drain pan and drainage hole. If need be, use a toothbrush to help clear these components.

4. Replace Your Filters

Air filters trap dirt, dust, allergens, mold spores, and any other contaminants that might interfere with air quality indoors.

Some air conditioners use reusable air filters that you can wash.

If it’s a reusable filter, clean it with hot soapy water and rinse with a bleach solution (10 parts water to 1 part bleach). You can also check your old filters for any mold or mildew.

If you’re using irreplaceable filters, it’s recommended that you replace them every 30 to 90 days, depending on whether or not your home has allergic occupants or pets.

5. Call In an HVAC Technician

Calling an HVAC technician is the last resort after all other efforts bear no fruits.

That means you’ve cleaned your air conditioner, turned it on, and upon testing with a few sniffs, and the musty odor is still there. 

This may indicate the problem is in the duct-work. That’s where an HVAC technician comes in.

They’ll assess your air conditioner keenly, clean if necessary, and replace any component that needs replacing, what’s called a system tune-up. 

In fact, you should schedule regular system tune-ups with a professional to prevent issues such as odors before they occur.

How to Prevent Smells Coming From Your AC

  1. Clean your condenser coils and draining pan regularly to get rid of any mold, mildew, fungi, dust, and debris that may accumulate. Also, clear your drain line every other month.
  2. Clean your filter often (if it’s washable) and ensure that the disposable filters are replaced every 2-3 months.
  3. Call an HVAC technician for regular maintance.

Final Thoughts

No homeowner wants to live in a home with a musty odor coming from the air conditioner.

If you find yourself in that situation, you want to eliminate the cause of the odor immediately for the sake of your health. 

Whether it’s due to mold, mildew, or dead animals, the tips mentioned above will help you eliminate the odor. If the problem persists, feel free to contact a licensed and reputable HVAC technician.

If you find that your AC is frozen or leaking, those are also issues you should address.

If your AC smells like vinegar, that’s an entirely different issue you’ll need to address.

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About Roy Cohen

Roy Cohen has a burning passion for heating, cooling, and ventilation. He aims to help you save money on expensive repairs and bring you the best HVAC products. He has years of experience behind him in HVAC repair and garage maintenance.

You can find Roy at his LinkedIn or his email: [email protected]

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