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How To Clean Your Box Fan

Updated on June 29, 2014

Dusty Box Fan

A dusty box fan awaiting cleaning.
A dusty box fan awaiting cleaning. | Source

Its Gonna Be A Hot One!

Summer heat is ramping up, its time to break out the air conditioners, fans and sweet iced tea. Are you ready for the heat? Its always a good idea to make sure your air conditioner(s) are up to snuff and ready to go and its never a bad idea to clean things like ceiling and box fans. Read on for instructions on how to clean your box fans in a matter of minutes so they'll run like new!

Dirty (Somewhat) Box Fan


Don't Neglect Your Box Fan

Each year, thousands of box fans are thrown away because they don't push as much air as they used to, throw dust bunnies in their owner's faces when set to high speed or the motor burns out due to being clogged with dust and overheated as a result. Don't neglect your box fan!

And now that the Sarah McLachlan moment is over lets continue. With just a little quick maintenance and tender loving care you can make your box fan last longer and not blow dust bunnies into the air every time you turn it on.

Box fans themselves are very simple appliances: a cord, motor, switch, fan blades, two plastic grills and a metal/plastic frame that holds everything together. There isn't much that could go wrong so long as its taken care of. Laziness and neglect is what happens when dust builds up to the point that it severely restricts air flow through the fan, coats the fan motor, all causing it to work harder than it has to reaching the point where the motor overheats and burns itself out. Not only is this a fire hazard but a stupid waste of money.

Front of box fan with grills removed.
Front of box fan with grills removed. | Source
Backside with grills removed.
Backside with grills removed. | Source
Spraying off the grills in a bathtub.
Spraying off the grills in a bathtub. | Source
Wiping the fan blades to remove collected dirt/dust.
Wiping the fan blades to remove collected dirt/dust. | Source

How Do You Clean A Box Fan?

Tools needed:

  • Phillips 4-way screwdriver

  • Garden hose with sprayer

    • or... detachable shower head with high speed spray setting

  • Clean damp cloth/rag

  • Vacuum cleaner

  • (Optional: hard bristle pipe cleaner)

  • (Optional: can of compressed air or gas duster)

The first thing you should do is to disconnect the power plug from the electrical outlet if you haven't done that already...we're not trying to kill ourselves here! Next, get a 4-way Phillips screwdriver. Most box fans will have twelve (12) screws that secure the front and back grills to the case, six in the front and six in the back. Remove all of the screws holding the grills on, put them someplace where they won't be lost and let's take the fan grills and either spray them off with a garden hose sprayer or take them to a tub or shower and use a detachable shower head set to its highest pressure setting and rinse the grills off.

Depending on how dirty your box fan was starting out here, you might see that the fan grills turn a few shades whiter. Unless you have long hair or dogs then this should be good enough to get most of the dirt or dust out of the fan grills. With any hair your fan may have collected, it has probably wrapped around the grill slots, if so, pull them and any clumps of dust attached as well. Once you're finished, give them a shake to remove most of the water on them and let them sit to dry.

For cleaning the fan blades and motor, start with removing the dust from the motor itself. There are slots on the backside of the motor where a good amount of dust has probably accumulated. Take a vacuum cleaner hose with a crevice attachment and suck the dust out of the motor. Even if your crevice tool is small enough to fit inside the slots, DON'T push it inside the motor, we don't want to damage the copper winding inside the motor and cause it to short out and catch fire when we plug it back in and turn it on.

Once the fan motor is as clean as you can get it, take a damp, not dripping, cloth and wipe down the front and back sides and edges of the individual fan blades to remove any clumps or coating of dust from them. Then wipe down the inside of the fan case, dust may have collected there as well. Now, leave the fan case to dry out before putting it back together. Once it is dry go ahead and screw the fans back onto the case and plug in the fan and test it out. It should work and you might notice the airflow has improved especially if it was very dirty before you cleaned it.

Final Thoughts

If you found this helpful, check out my article on cleaning window air conditioners. With fully working and clean air conditioners and fans, you'll be ready to beat the summer heat! Something that will help keep your box fans cleaner for longer are filters sold on Amazon designed to attach to the back of the box fan (where the air is drawn in from) that will catch dust particles and hair and keep them from getting inside the fan to begin with. Just keep in mind that like HVAC or air conditioner filters these should be replaced every so often or when they become very dirty.


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