How to Clean a Bathroom Fan—Because It's Probably Covered in Dust

A clean bathroom fan means less mold and mildew.

With just the flip of a switch, a bathroom fan goes to work to remove odors and the excess moisture in the air that can help feed the growth of mold and mildew. Most bathroom fans are mounted in the wall or ceiling and connected to a standard 120-volt electrical current. The fan draws moisture-laden air into the unit and expels it through a vent to the outside. Some models are combination units that include a light fixture, heat lamp, or music speaker as well as the fan.

When was the last time you checked on this hidden, yet hardworking unit? A dusty, dirty fan can't do its job and all that dust may make it sound like a jet engine taking off. Here's how to clean a bathroom fan so it can do its job quietly and efficiently.

What You'll Need:

  • Sturdy step ladder
  • Flashlight
  • Screwdriver
  • All-purpose household cleaner
  • Sink or bucket
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Old towel
  • Vacuum with hose and crevice attachment
  • Electrostatic duster

How to Clean a Bathroom Fan:

  1. Safety first: Since bathroom fans are powered by an electrical current, you should turn off the breaker for the bathroom and be sure the power switch for the fan is in the off position. This may leave the bathroom pretty dark, so have a flashlight handy. Use a sturdy step ladder, and since the fan is usually located over the tub or shower, make sure the floor is dry to prevent slipping.
  2. Dust the outside: If dust is collected on the outside of the bathroom fan, remove it using the crevice attachment on your vacuum or an electrostatic duster. This way, dust won't fall to the ground when you remove the cover.
  3. Disassemble the fan: Most fan covers can be removed by gently pulling them away from the ceiling or wall. For some models, you may need to use a screwdriver or depress latches on the sides to remove the cover. Once the cover is removed, you'll see the motor and blades of the unit. Most fans are plugged into an outlet, so unplug it before cleaning the bathroom fan and the surrounding recessed housing.
  4. Wash the vent cover: Fill a bucket or sink with very warm water and add some all-purpose household cleaner. Submerge the vent cover and let it soak to remove the buildup of dust, hairspray, and grime while you clean the rest of the unit. After soaking, use a microfiber cloth to wipe it clean and rinse in warm water. Place on an absorbent towel and allow the vent cover to air-dry completely before reinstalling.
  5. Clean the fan blades and motor: If possible, remove the fan unit from the housing. Most models will come out with just a few twists. Lightly dampen a microfiber cloth with water and wipe away dust from each of the blades and the motor. You can also use a vacuum with a crevice tool to suction away dust. Use a light touch to make sure you don't bend the blades. If the fan cannot be removed from the housing, use a damp cloth, vacuum, or an electrostatic duster to remove as much dust as possible.
  6. Clean the housing: The recessed housing and brackets that hold the fan in place can trap dust and insects in the corners. Use the crevice tool of the vacuum or the duster to remove as much debris as possible.
  7. Reassemble the fan: Once everything is clean, dry, and dust-free, place the fan back into the housing by screwing it in or reconnecting it to the brackets. If needed, plug the fan into the outlet. Turn the blades with your fingers a few times to be sure they are not hitting any part of the housing. Making sure the cover is completely dry, snap or screw it in place.
  8. Do a test run: Turn the bathroom breaker back on and give your clean fan a test run. If you hear some clicking or a new noise, the fan may need to be repositioned slightly.

Now that the fan is sparkling clean, it's a good idea to use an electrostatic duster with an extendable handle to remove visible dust from the exterior cover every few weeks. Do a thorough cleaning every six months. Cleaning a bathroom fan may be a bit of a hassle, but it's so much easier than constantly battling bathroom mold and mildew if the fan isn't working properly.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles