How to Clean Air Conditioner Drain Pan

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Air conditioners have a drain pan that collects the condensation formed through the cooling process. Drain pans are often connected to the condensate drain line, and are susceptible to dirt formation, bacteria growth, mold growth, and more.

If your air conditioning system starts to smell like feet, or starts to leak water everywhere, then there may be a problem with your drain pan. Cleaning this component regularly will help keep your air conditioner in good condition, and will prevent mold and bacterial growth from entering the air conditioner through the AC drain line as well.

Effects of an Unmaintained AC Drain Pan

  • Air conditioner may smell like feet as bacteria grows;
  • Air conditioner may get a moldy smell;
  • Air conditioner causes water damage;
  • Clogged AC drain line;
  • Freezing evaporator coil due to excess water;
  • Frozen indoor air handler;
  • Rusted metal drain pan.

How to Clean AC Drain Pan: A Step-by-step Guide

Step 1: Remove the Drain Pan

The first step is to remove the drain pan. Do this only when the air conditioner is shut off to prevent water leaking out of the drain lines while in use. You can also opt to clean your AC drain line at the same time, but you won't need to disconnect the drain line from your air conditioning system.

Step 2: Drain the Water

If your air conditioner has an overflowing drain pan, it is a good idea to drain the water before you remove the drain pan from its position. To do this, you can use a wet and dry vacuum cleaner, or some towels to drain the water from the condensate drain pan.

Otherwise, you can simply drain the water after removing the drain pan by dumping it out over the sink. Rinse the drain pan with plain tap water, which helps remove any loosened grime, flush out bacteria, and flood mold. It may also help lessen the smell.

Step 3: Wash with Soap and Water

Use regular detergent or dish soap, and create a warm soapy water mixture in your sink. Submerge the drain pan into the cleaning solution, and use a scrub brush or scouring pad to scrub the drain pan clean.

Take precautions when cleaning a plastic air conditioner drain pan as these can easily get scratches. Use a soft sponge or brush to scrub out the grime from plastic drain pans instead, and avoid using abrasive tools.

Step 4: Scrub with Baking Soda and Vinegar

To remove deep-seated stains, rust spots, and even smells from the drain pan, Use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. Lemon juice also works in place of vinegar. Spray the pan with vinegar, or squeeze the juice of half a lemon onto it before sprinkling a generous amount of baking soda over the pan.

Let the ingredients react and bubble, then allow them to sit on the pan for at least 10 minutes. Use a scrubbing tool to scrub the mixture into the drain pan, focusing on the stained areas. You should notice that the baking soda acts as a scrubber to remove the dirt without scratching the surface. Vinegar helps to soften and lift stains.

You can also use vinegar to deodorize and kill mold from inside the AC drain line. Simply place distilled vinegar in a spray bottle, and use this to spray the inside of the air conditioner drain line. If you have a clogged drain line, remove the clog first, drain the water, then deodorize the condensate drain line with vinegar.

Step 5: Rinse and Dry

Rinse off the cleaning solution, and let the drain pan dry. If you are cleaning your condensate drain line, then use a bottle brush to scrub out any grime, then wipe the condensate drain line clean before applying a deodorizer. Let everything dry before assembling the components back together.

Helpful Tip: If you have frozen evaporator coils, dripping AC unit, or leaking condensate line, then have these cleaned and fixed by a professional HVAC system technician from Luce Aircon to prevent further damage to your air conditioner.

Preventing a Clogged Condensate Drain Line

Cleaning the condensate pan helps upkeep your AC unit, and prevents water from leaking out of the AC system. It also prevents clogs forming in the AC condensate drain line as cleaning the drain pan will prevent mold from growing in your air conditioner's drain line. Cleaning your air filters will also prevent a clogged AC drain line.

Maintain your AC unit with general cleaning and maintenance every 4-6 months. Our technicians at Luce Aircon have the experience and knowledge to clean, maintain, and repair every air conditioner component, so you can be confident you're giving your air handler the best care!

Need help cleaning your condensate drain line? Check out our comprehensive guide on cleaning this specific component!

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