How to clean a fan: easy tips to try and a few things to avoid  

Dust and dirt making your fan less effective? Here’s what the experts recommend.

Even though the recent heatwave may have seen you reaching for your trusty fan, it’s one of the biggest dust and debris culprits in your home, which means knowing how to clean it properly is essential.  

Whether you’re getting your breeze hit from a desk, oscillating or even a bladeless fan, cleaning it is a chore you can’t afford to skip. Household dust can be nasty, causing or exacerbating problems like rhinitis and asthma attacks, according to the NHS. It’s also the natural habitat of dust mites and with these tiny critters causing some people to wheeze and struggle to breathe, the last thing you want is a fan blowing them around your house. 

Man loving fanCredit: Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov

If you’d prefer not to take apart a fiddly-shaped fan, we’ve sourced some handy tips for mild and straightforward cleaning strategies that don’t involve much more than casually blasting air and wiping down. 

But if you’ve neglected your fan for some time, we’ve also asked the experts when you should consider doing this and how to go about it safely. 

Cleaning a fan won’t ever top anyone’s list of favourite things to do, but, on days when the mercury rises, you’ll thank yourself for sparing 15 minutes now and again to tick this chore off your to-do list.  

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After all, as well as making your house cleaner and reducing health risks, according to Nigel Bearman, CEO & owner of Daily Poppins: “The effectiveness of fans can diminish over time due to accumulated dust and debris. It is a commonly overlooked fact that maintaining the cleanliness of your fans can significantly enhance their performance, energy efficiency and longevity. 

Dirty fanCredit: Shutterstock / Smile Fight

Before you start, this is what you’ll need

Head to your kitchen cupboard

All it takes is some basic household items to give your fan a regular clean.  

“It’s a quick 15-minute job,” says Bearman, and all you need to keep your fan in good shape is already sitting around in your home.” 

You’ll need: 

Equipment / Tools 

  • Vacuum cleaner with brush attachment 
  • Hairdryer 
  • Microfiber cloth 
  • Screwdrivers (flat head and Phillips) 
  • Spray bottle

Materials 

  • Compressed air (optional)
  • Dishwashing liquid 

How often to clean a fan

It all depends on where you use it and the type of fan

Blue fanCredit: Shutterstock / New Africa

Whether it’s lurking behind radiators, under beds or on top of bookcases, dust has a sneaky way of gathering in our homes.  

If your house gets a good clean at least once or twice a week, your fan –is less likely to gather dust excellent motivation to have a regular whip around with the best vacuum cleaner. 

It’s even more important to keep your home dust-free if your fan is keeping you cool in your kitchen, where cooking fumes hang in the air. It’s the same for anywhere else where you use airborne products like hairspray. These particles settle on the fan’s surfaces and attract dust. 

Have a tower fan? Daily Poppins recommends that it’s cleaned every three to four weeks, depending on how often you use it. If you actually don’t use it that often, you can get away with cleaning it every six to eight weeks – so, at the beginning and end of the summer season. 

For fans with blades, like desk fans, Daily Poppins recommends that you turn them off at least once a week and check the housing and blades for accumulated dust.  

If the fan is being used heavily, it will need a deep-clean at least once every quarter. 

Stay safe 

It’s easy to forget to unplug your fan before diving in. Never attempt to clean a fan that’s plugged into an electrical socket and switch off any battery-operated fans before starting to clean. Keep an eye on where your trailing wires are and keep your plug well clear of any liquids while you clean.  

Just like descaling a coffee machine, a quick look at the manufacturer’s instructions can flag up any brand-specific FYIs.

How to clean your bladed fan without taking it apart

Tackle it weekly

Once a week the blades and casing of your fans should be cleaned without attempting to disassemble it. This is particularly helpful for pedestal or desk fans.  

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1. Grab a hairdryer or a can of compressed air

When it comes to keeping fans clean, it makes sense that air is your friend. Grab a hair dryer or a can of compressed air (purchase online from retailers like Amazon or in a local hardware store) and give the fan a good blast of air, back and front. 

If using a hairdryer, make sure it is set at the lowest setting and hold around six to ten inches from the blades.  

To avoid spreading the dust inside, complete this task close to an open window, or if using compressed air, why not do this  in your garden? 

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2. Use your vacuum’s dusting brush

It’s time to put to good use at least one of the mysterious vacuum attachments that come along with your vacuum cleaner. Dust the surface of your fan using either the smaller upholstery tool or the dusting brush. 

If your fan is bladeless, vacuum the inside of the ring or the wire mesh protective housing. Start from the top and work your way down. Pay special attention to the motor exhaust vents and the electrical cord to make sure they are free of dust accumulation. 

3. Dampen a microfibre cloth

If after following the previous steps you notice that your hands leave smudges on your fan’s housing, remove these with a slightly dampened microfibre cloth. Give the pole and base of your fan a good wipe, too. 

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4. Extra cleaning tricks

If anyone in your home is particularly affected by dust, it’s worth knowing about a few additional tools to help keep your fans as dust free as possible without disassembling them.  

If you have a standing fan, you might find a fan and gap cleaner scrub useful. This simple handheld device helps you to clean hard to reach crevices in the grilles. You can also try an anti-dust fan cover. 

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How to clean your tower fan without disassembling it

The good news is you shouldn’t need to

Tower fans don’t call for a lot of maintenance and should never be disassembled.  

Gently vacuum the exterior of the fan with a brush attachment. Vents are where the dust really builds up, so focus your attention here. 

If your vents are clogged with dust, take a can of compressed air and blow it into the vents to remove the internal dirt. Once finished, wipe the casing down gently with a microfibre cloth. 

Doing this every three or four weeks will avoid dust build up. If your fan is used more heavily, do this simple cleaning task a little more often. 

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How to clean a bladeless fan without disassembling it

Like tower fans, they are lower maintenance

Have a bladeless fan? That’s good news from a cleaning perspective as they certainly make this task easier. Keep an eye on when dust starts gathering on the rim and wipe down at least every few weeks. 

Simply grab a dry or damp cloth to wipe the loop clean and avoid using any detergents or polishes.  

Be sure never to spray any liquids directly into the fan’s grills as that could break it and if there is dirt lodged in your motor? Use a vacuum on a gentle setting to suck out any dust from the ventilation pores. 

How to disassemble and deep-clean a desk or standing fan

Use these tips to keep your fan in tiptop shape

Credit: Shutterstock / Parkin Srihawong

Before deep cleaning your fan, we recommend you check your user manual or manufacturer’s website for instructions on how to disassemble your fan. Also, check whether disassembling your fan voids the warranty.  

If you were the one that assembled the fan, you might find taking it apart straightforward, but if it came assembled make sure you are confident you know what you are doing.  

The two halves of your grilles will likely be secured by screws. If so, make sure to set them aside somewhere safely so you dwon’t lose them.  

  1. Put your fan face down on a flat surface and carefully remove screws to access the blades. Remove the metal grilles carefully. Some fans have buttons to press and release to separate the two halves 
  2. Wipe down the metal grilles with a solution of mild dish soap and warm water or immerse in soapy water and wash gently with a sponge 
  3. Remove the blades from the motor. Blades have a safety nut on the front. Unscrew by hand. Once the blades are detached soak them in a bucket of soapy water for a few minutes 
  4. Detach the blades and soak them in a bucket of soapy water (or a water and vinegar mixture) for a few minutes 
  5. Be gentle when handling the blades to avoid damaging them. To take off any excess dust and debris, you can use your vacuum on a gentle setting to suck some up. Afterwards, either wipe the blades gentle with a damp cloth or rinse the blades off in soapy water in a bucket. Use a soft brush in any heard to reach areas.  
  6. Make sure everything is bone dry before reassembling the fan. Make sure to reassemble the fixtures tightly before switching the fan back on 
  7. Once re-assembled wipe your fan down with a microfibre cloth 
  8. Let your fan air dry for some time before plugging it back in 
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Written by Joy Archer she/her

Updated: