How to Clean All Types of Fans?

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Last Updated on June 3, 2021

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling,

passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

how to clean fan

Fans are a ubiquitous part of most homes, even if you don’t consciously think about them. Ceiling fans, standalone fans, exhaust fans…chances are you have SOME kind of fan running in or around your home 24/7, and the thing about fans is they still get dirty even while moving; a rolling stone may gather no moss, but a spinning fan sure does collect a surprising (and disgusting) array of gunk that floats around in the air.

Cleaning them is often dirt simple, but can be a bit of a chore for some of these fans. However, there are some simple tips that can make cleaning up a whole lot easier for any kind of fan.

1. Common Tools You’ll Need

green cloth and a fan

All of your fan cleaning needs can be taken care of with a few simple cleaning tools.

The first you’ll want is a vacuum cleaner, one with a long hose attachment so you can reach up high if you need to. The suction helps get up in there in places that are otherwise too difficult to reach with hand tools, or even impossible (if the problem is the interior of the fan).

Basic cleaning supplies will do you well here. That includes clothes, easy access to water, and cleaning supplies; fans are typically made of some pretty robust materials, so you don’t need to worry about your cleaner damaging the fan too much unless you happen to have something around the house that melts metal, in which case…don’t use that.

Some kind of long handled brush, duster, or fan cleaner will do you well. You can even find some nice U shaped ones specifically for cleaning fan blades, though that’s a little bit of a waste of space in my opinion; a good duster will serve you just as well in cleaning the fan, but is also great for cleaning a whole ton of other things in your house.

Finally, you can never go wrong with a can of compressed air. This is great for cleaning smaller fans, and particularly for the cooling fan in your computer and other electronics. Just spray some air in there, watch it whirr, and try not to breathe in the flying dust! The compressed air is also great for cleaning out other tight spots in electronics, like your computer’s keyboard as well. It’s quite versatile.


2. Ceiling Fans

Ceiling Fan

These are probably the most common type of fan you would think about cleaning, because they’re so obtrusive, often just sitting there on the ceiling of your living room and mocking you with their dustiness.

If you live in a house with low ceilings, it’s as easy as taking your long handled brush, duster, or ceiling fan cleaner and wiping it off. With sufficiently low ceilings you don’t even need to worry about that; just take a cloth (dry, to start) and wipe down the blades thoroughly by hand.

If you have higher ceilings, well, you’d better invest in a ladder. I lived in a house with 20 foot ceilings once, and cleaning the fans was a nightmare (literally, I’m afraid of heights), but sometimes it needs to be done. The longer the handle on your brush, the shorter the ladder you can get away with!

After that, take a damp cloth and wipe down the blades and mounting points. Get in there near the motor too, but be careful not to get the motor itself yet. For the motor, the compressed air really comes in handy to blow away the dust that may have ended up in its inner workings.

Remember to dry off the fan afterward, as damp fans will just attract even more dust!


3. Standalone Fans

Standalone Fan

This includes box fans and tower fans; anything that’s not attached to a wall.

These are pretty simple to clean in part because for most of them you can just snap off the face! That means you can just get in there and very easily wipe down all of the blades and other internal components with a dry cloth followed by a damp cloth. Likewise make sure to dry off here as well.

This also means you can get in there with the can of compressed air before you start on everything else, and blow out a lot of that dust as well, though this step is optional.

Keep in mind not to lose any of the bits and bobs that hold the fan together, and make double extra sure everything on the fan is dry before you reassemble it. Also, be very careful with the fan blades here. They’re usually fairly fragile and easy to bend, and once they’re bent they won’t move air properly.


4. Exhaust Fans

Exhaust Fan

If you happen to have one of these (and most people do in their bathroom at least), this is where you’ll want the vacuum cleaner.

If the fan has a removable face, this makes things easier. But many of these fans don’t have any way you can easily remove the grated covering to get at the fan blades and whatnot, so you need to clean with indirect means.

The can of compressed air REALLY helps here, as you can use it to blast out a lot of the dust and if not remove it, LOOSEN it. You can then go back in with your vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, preferably, and start vacuuming everything out. A pinhole attachment also works well (many vacuums that can be reversed to act as a pump come with one, they’re usually fitted to a standard) as it will let you get in there between the cracks in the grates.

If you CAN remove the cover, you know the drill by now; dry cloth then damp cloth, followed by a thorough drying. While you’re in there, see if you can snake your vacuum hose into the duct behind it and suck out some of the dirt that’s bound to be in there; this will (somewhat) improve the air quality in your home as well!