How to Clean Your Box Fan

Updated on July 24, 2018
A box fan is a fairly simple appliance that doesn't require much expertise to learn how to clean.
A box fan is a fairly simple appliance that doesn't require much expertise to learn how to clean. | Source

When the summer heat ramps up, you know it's time to break out the air conditioners, fans, and sweet iced tea. Are you ready for the heat? It's always a good idea to make sure your air conditioners are up to snuff and ready to go, and it's 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!

A Somewhat Dirty Box Fan

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Though it might not appear filthy, this fan is still dirty enough to warrant a thorough cleaning to improve its performance.Cleaning a fan, even if it's still working fine, can help keep it running well for years on end.
Though it might not appear filthy, this fan is still dirty enough to warrant a thorough cleaning to improve its performance.
Though it might not appear filthy, this fan is still dirty enough to warrant a thorough cleaning to improve its performance. | Source
Cleaning a fan, even if it's still working fine, can help keep it running well for years on end.
Cleaning a fan, even if it's still working fine, can help keep it running well for years on end. | Source

Why Should You Clean 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 owners' faces when set to high speed, or have a burned out motor due to being clogged with dust and overheating as a result. Don't neglect your box fan!

With just a little quick maintenance and tender loving care though, 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: 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 it's 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, and causes 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 it's also a stupid waste of money.

What Tools Will You Need?

Cleaning a box fan only requires fairly simple tools that can be found in most households:

  • Phillips four-way screwdriver
  • Garden hose with sprayer (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

How to Clean Your Box Fan

These simple steps will guide you through the process:

1. Disconnect the fan from its power source.

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!

2. Remove the grills.

Next, get a four-way Phillips screwdriver. Most box fans will have 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, and put the screws someplace where they won't be lost. Take off the fan grills.

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Front of box fan with grills removed.Backside with grills removed.
Front of box fan with grills removed.
Front of box fan with grills removed. | Source
Backside with grills removed.
Backside with grills removed. | Source

3. Clean the grills.

You can clean the grills either by spraying them off with a garden hose sprayer, or by taking them to a tub or shower and using a detachable shower head set to its highest pressure setting to rinse the grills off.

Depending on how initially dirty your box fan was, 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 and dust out of the fan grills. If your fan collected any hairs, they have probably wrapped themselves around the grill slots. If so, pull them off, as well as any clumps of dust attached. Once you're finished, give them a shake to remove most of the water, and let them sit to dry.

Spraying off the grills in a bathtub.
Spraying off the grills in a bathtub. | Source

4. Clean the fan blades and motor.

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, however, 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—but not dripping—cloth and wipe down the front, back, and edges of the individual fan blades to remove any clumps or coatings of dust from them. Then wipe down the inside of the fan case, as dust may have collected there as well. Now, leave the fan case to dry out.

Wiping the fan blades to remove collected dirt/dust.
Wiping the fan blades to remove collected dirt/dust. | Source

5. Put it all 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. You might notice the airflow has improved, especially if it was very dirty before you cleaned it.

Consider Buying a Filter

Something that will help keep your box fans cleaner for longer are filters designed to attach to the back of the box fan (where the air is drawn in from). They 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.

And 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!

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