Your Options For Cleaning A Dirty Evaporator Coil

Over time, dust, dirt and debris that somehow make it past your air conditioner's air filter can end up on the evaporator coil. Once the coil is clogged full of debris, your A/C may work poorly or stop working at all. To keep this from happening, you'll want to keep a close eye on your evaporator coil and have it cleaned whenever necessary. There are plenty of options for cleaning your A/C system's evaporator coil.

Compressed Air

If your evaporator coil is simply full of dust and loose debris, you can use compressed air from a nearby air tank or a can of compressed air to dislodge it without coming into direct contact with the coil. To use this cleaning method, carefully aim your compressed air nozzle so that it sprays air straight through the coil fins. Avoid spraying the air at an angle, as the force of the compressed air could bend the coil fins.

To reduce the spread of dust and debris, you can use your shop vacuum to take up airborne dust as you dislodge it from the coil with your compressed air.

Manual Brushing

If you're dealing with stuck-on dirt and debris that can't be dislodged with compressed air, then you'll want to consider cleaning the coil with a soft bristle brush and a solution of plain water and mild dish detergent. Mix the water and detergent in a spray bottle and spray the contents on a small section of the evaporator coil. After letting the contents sit on the coil for a few minutes, use the soft bristle brush to carefully scrub away any dirt or debris on the coil surface. Use another bottle of clean water to rinse the coil afterwards.

Since manual brushing involves direct contact with the delicate coil fins, you'll want to take exceptional care to avoid bending and potentially breaking the fins. Avoid using brushes with overly still bristles and remember to only apply light pressure to the surface as you brush.

Foaming Coil Cleaner

If you want the benefits of touchless cleaning that compressed air offers, but with the cleaning muscle of brush cleaning, then you'll want to take a look at foaming coil cleaners. Available in acid and alkaline-based forms, foaming coil cleaners use their foaming action to dislodge dirt and debris from the coil surface. Many cleaners also feature self-rinsing properties -- as the foaming action abates, the solution and the trapped debris drains off of the coil.

To use a foaming coil cleaner, simply spray the solution onto the coil. Depending on the directions listed, you'll either want to rinse the cleaning solution off after the recommended amount of time or simply allow it to sit until it drains away on its own.

When choosing a foaming coil cleaner, you'll want to make sure the package specifically says it's "A/C Safe," meaning that it's safe to use on residential A/C evaporator coils. Using a foaming cleaner that's too chemically aggressive could corrode the coil surface and even leave behind microscopic holes that allow refrigerant to leak through.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning is another option you can use for cleaning your evaporator coil. As the name implies, this method uses steam to dissolve and dislodge dirt, grime and debris from the coil surface. It's an effective way of removing severe clumps and other debris that can't be removed via the other above cleaning methods.

There are a few limitations, however. For starters, the steam has to be applied at low pressure and applied at a near-parallel angle to the coil to avoid damaging the delicate coil fins. In addition, steam cleaning could cause further deterioration if used on badly-corroded parts of coil.

Contact a company like Comfort Solutions for more information on air conditioning maintenance.