How to Clean Ceiling Fans Without Getting Dust Everywhere

Learn how to clean your ceiling fan and keep those dust bunnies at bay.

white ceiling fan
Photo: Doc Ever/Getty Images

Cleaning your ceiling fans can be an easily overlooked chore, despite the fact that they're serious dust magnets. (If you ever wondered why your ceiling fan blades attract dust, rather than flinging it around the room every time you start them up, you can blame static electricity for those layers of gray fuzz along the edge of the blades.)

But cleaning ceiling fans can feel like a bit of a pain to do, since it usually involves dragging out a step stool—and generating a whole lot of dirt. Here's how to clean a ceiling fan without spreading the dust everywhere. (The best part? You probably have everything you need to get them clean at home.)

How Often to Clean a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans can gather dust very quickly, so dusting them weekly and giving them a deeper clean monthly is a good idea, especially during the hot (or cold) months when you're running it more often to help keep the air more comfortable.

Considerations Before You Get Started

Start by turning the fan off. Always use a sturdy step stool or ladder placed under the fan—no wobbly chairs! It's a good idea to have a spotter, just in case you fall. Open window coverings or add additional light sources so you have plenty of light while you work.

Pick a day that you also have time to dust and vacuum the room. Even if you spread a bed sheet or tarp on the floor, some dust will escape. Pro tip: Consider taking on the ceiling fans on a day when you're also changing your sheets. You can lay the dirty top sheet on your working area, and then shake it out outdoors and launder it as usual.

When cleaning up, follow the laws of gravity and start from the top and work down—clean the fan, dust furniture and shelves, then vacuum the floor.

What You Need

Gather the cleaning tools you need, depending on your approach—and how dirty your ceiling fan has become.

• Step stool or ladder

• Pillowcase

• Drop cloth or sheet

• Microfiber cloths

• Ceiling fan duster

• Vinegar solution or all-purpose cleaner

• Warm soapy water

How to Clean a Ceiling Fan With a Pillowcase

A pillowcase makes a perfect dust cloth for a ceiling fan, as you can trap most of the dust inside and avoid getting dust everywhere. Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Prep the area around the ceiling fan

Lay down your drop cloth and break out your step stool, so you can minimize the mess.

Step 2: Slide each ceiling fan blade into the pillowcase

lip a clean pillowcase over the end of a fan blade and use your fingers to hold the pillowcase opening tightly around the blade. Slide the pillowcase along the blade, trapping the dust inside. Repeat along each blade.

Pro tip: You can spray the inside of the pillowcase with a mixture of half vinegar, half water or all-purpose cleaner to help you get a deeper clean when you do it.

Step 3: Clean the motor housing

Use a dry microfiber cloth or duster to remove dust from the motor housing.

Step 4: Shake out the pillowcase

Take the pillowcase outside, turn it inside out, and shake out the ceiling fan dust. Then you can wash your pillowcase as usual.

How to Clean a Ceiling Fan With a Duster (and Without a Ladder)

If your ceiling fan is out of reach of your step stool or you're more of a duster fan, try this technique for cleaning your ceiling fan. Note: Ceiling fan dust is more likely to drop into your room with this method, so definitely grab the drop cloth and prepare to do a thorough dust and vacuum after you're done.

Step 1: Prep the ceiling fan for cleaning

Put down a tarp or sheet—and consider wearing a hat or kerchief to keep dust out of your hair.

Step 2: Use your duster

While any duster with a microfiber head and an extendable wand will be ideal for grabbing the dust bunnies that live on your ceiling fan blades, there are ones designed specifically for ceiling fans, with a tightly curved end and microfiber shag to clean both the top and bottom of each blade as you swipe.

Slide it over the dirty areas and watch out for falling dust!

Step 3: Clean the housing and light fixture

A regular extendable duster is great for reaching into the dusty areas of the motor housing.

How to Clean a Grimy Ceiling Fan

Fans located in kitchens, bathrooms, and outside patios are usually more heavily soiled due to grease, hairspray, or other particulates in the air and require more cleaning. This is where you definitely need to break out the cleaning products.

Step 1: Spray your cleaning solution onto a microfiber cloth

You can use an all-purpose cleaner or a vinegar solution—but either way, never spray any solution directly on the fan.

Step 2: Wipe the ceiling fan blades

Apply gentle pressure as you wipe along each side of the blades and wipe down the motor housing. Rinse the cloth often in clean water and wring it out until it is not dripping.

Step 3: Allow the blades to dry

Wet blades attract more dust, so don't turn on your ceiling fan until the blades are fully dry.

How to Clean a Ceiling Fan Light Fixture

The ceiling fan light fixture glass can get just as dusty as the rest of it—so clean this when you can see the buildup.

Step 1: Remove the globes

Now might be a time to have a partner on the ground to carefully take the glass globes from you as you unfasten them from the ceiling fan.

Step 2: Give the light fixture a good wash

Glass globes can be placed in a dishwasher or hand-washed in warm, soapy water. Be sure the globes are completely dry before replacing them on the fan.

Step 3: Replace burned-out bulbs

Since you're already on the stepladder, now's the time to swap out the burned out bulbs.

Step 4: Reattach the light fixture

Make sure the bolts or other fasteners are secure before you restart the ceiling fan.

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