Best AC Coil Cleaners – 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: June 21, 2021

The air conditioner is one of the top modern developments. With a rise in temperatures all over the world, it has become a staple in many homes with many people choosing this as their preferred method of regulating the temperature in the summer.Unfortunately, the air conditioner does have some maintenance that goes along with it and you will need to keep it in the best possible condition to have it working smoothly and effectively.

While there are many parts to an air conditioner, the AC coils are essential to the cooling process and need to be cleaned and maintained effectively.

Comparison of the Best AC Coil Cleaners 

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • One gallon
  • Non-acidic alkaline based
  • Biodegradable
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  • No rinse
  • 18 ounce aerosol
  • Heavy duty detergent
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  • No rinse
  • 18 ounce aerosol
  • Heavy duty detergent
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  • Scrubbing cap
  • Eco-friendly
  • Lemon fragrance
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  • Low odor
  • No rinsing
  • Industrial strength
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The Main Purpose of the AC Coils

AC coils are broken into 2 different types. The evaporator coil is the main part responsible for giving you cool air. Air also goes through the condenser coils which is the second part of the cooling process. Despite what many people believe, the air-conditioner does not cool the air. It actually just removes the heat from the air.

The evaporator coil will extract the heat as it passes through and then, through the help of a refrigerant, enable you to have cold air. The heat is extracted and released outdoors while your home is kept cooler. The fan that is included on top will blow the hot air over the condenser coils and this releases some of the heat from the refrigerant before it is passed outside. These two coils need to remain in optimal condition for your air conditioner to have an effective cooling process.

Operating Your AC Unit with Dirty Coils

One of the biggest mistakes you could make is using your AC unit with dirty coils. One of the first problems that you will have is a lack of cooling in the home and the coils will not be able to effectively extract all of the heat. The only way to have your air conditioner work effectively is to make sure the coils are kept clean and free of contaminants.

The dirt or contaminants will eventually act as a barrier to the coils and this keeps the heat from escaping. It might also lead to drainage problems but fortunately, it can be fixed quite easily. After the coils have been cleaned thoroughly, your AC unit will be working as if brand new. Cleaning should be done often to ensure that the dirt does not build up.

Characteristics of a Good AC Coil Cleaner

When searching for a good AC coil cleaner, there are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind. With so many options available, it can be a daunting prospect to find the right one. Here are a couple of things that you should look for in a great coil cleaner:

Alkaline-Based

Acid based products are commonly found in many cleaning products. The acid will clean your coils, but dirt on coils can be rather stubborn and the acid could damage the coils. Most AC manufacturers will recommend using only water, but a gentle alkaline-based substance can also work.

Usability

The product should be easy to apply and you should not need to have to put in too much effort. If an additional sprayer is included, this will make the application process much easier and you need not worry about applying too much of it.

USDA Authorized

If a product is U.S.D.A. Authorized, it means that it will be safe to be used near food. This also means that you need not worry about any poisonous substances that could cause problems for your health either.

Price

Some cleaners specifically designed for cleaning AC coils can be more expensive than the general-purpose cleaners you are used to. Fortunately a little can go a long way.

Versatility

While you might only be using this cleaner once every now and again for your coils, you should seek something that can be used elsewhere as well. This gives you more versatility and makes it that much easier for you to use the product on removing dirt and grime elsewhere.

AC-Safe Foam Coil Cleaner

No Harmful Additives

Chlorinated solvents are quite harmful to the environment and while they do the job of cleaning a little faster and better, it does not bode well for your health. While it can be hard to find something completely green, you should consider something ozone-friendly.

When it comes to cleaning substances, it can be hard to specifically say that certain ingredients are better than others are. 

One of the main things you need to keep in mind is the safety. You should check the labels for safety information and whether the product can be damaging to your health as well.

Is This a DIY Job?

Cleaning your condenser and evaporator is a job you can do yourself, but it requires a lot of care. Be careful not to bend the fins of the coils or to break, move or bend any of the tubes around. Of course, it’s always important to shut off your air conditioner first to avoid the danger of electrocution!

However, if you’re not comfortable with this, or fear damaging your system, make an appointment with an HVAC contractor. It would be great to get a maintenance contractor that includes this service as well!

Review of the Best Air Conditioner Coil Cleaners on the Market Today

The top AC coil cleaners can be something of a tough prospect to find. With so many different cleaners on the market, you might get lost in your search for the right one. Fortunately, we have done some research to help you find the ideal coil cleaners to make your life a little easier. Here are the top coil cleaners on the market today.

Best Overall

Nu-Calgon 4291-08 Nu-Brite

Nu-Calgon 4291-08 Nu-Brite, 1-Gallon by Nu-Calgon Inc

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The Nu-Calgon 4291-08 Nu-Brite is first on our list and this is an alkaline-based product. It also creates foam that will melt away all of the dirt and grime and leave your coils looking fresh and spotless. With a 4:1 mixing process, the bottle should last you a couple of cleaning processes and this does add up to you saving money.

Using this will require a plastic sprayer and you will need to rinse down the coils thoroughly after applying it. The product is corrosive and this does mean that when it is used for too long, you might have some troubles. It is also versatile and can be used for cleaning radiators as well. For the price, this is a real bargain.

Pros

Alkaline-based

Really affordable

Easy to use and apply

Foamy reaction to dirt

Cons

Corrosive

Runner-up

ComStar 90-100 Coil King Coil Cleaner

Comstar 90-099 Coil King Professional Grade Concentrated Alkaline External Condenser Coil Cleaner, 1 Quart Bottle, Yellow

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The ComStar 90-100 Coil King Coil Cleaner is another alkaline-based cleaner. While it does not foam up as much, it has the ability to remove virtually any dirt and grime on your coils. It can be used for metal air filters and does not corrode the materials as easily. This coil cleaner also claims to strengthen the metal, making it a little more durable.

The coil cleaner can be found in multiple different amounts and it is generally diluted by 3-10 parts of water. This will depend on the amount of dirt on your coils and the concentration needed for thoroughly cleaning the coils. It is also worth noting that this product is really affordable and this does make it a great investment for cleaning.

Pros

Alkaline-based

Really affordable

Strong cleaning action

Decent foaming action

Cons

Removes coating on metal

Best for the Money

Nu-Calgon 4171-75 Coil Cleaner

Nu-Calgon 4171-75 Evap Foam No Rinse Evaporator Coil Cleaner, 18 oz.

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The Nu-Calgon 4171-75 Evap Foam No Rinse Evaporator Coil Cleaner is a heavy-duty detergent that will immediately start foaming once it comes into contact with dirt and grime. It is easy to apply and the sprayer can make this non-hazardous and easy to use. The foam will evaporate once it has done the job. While many companies claim this is sufficient, there are also many HVAC professionals who do feel that it still needs to be rinsed off.

This detergent also includes a fresh lemon scent that will be working perfectly with your AC unit. This enables us you to have a fresh smell whenever guests are invited to your home. This detergent spray is actually quite affordable, but you might not get as much use out of it as with something that can be diluted with water.

Pros

Non-corrosive

Reasonably priced

Extremely easy to apply

Great cleaning properties with foam

No need to rinse as foam evaporates

Cons

Not great at removing pet hairs

AC-Safe Foam Coil Cleaner

Frost King ACF19 Foam Coil Cleaner, 19Oz, 19 Ounce

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The AC-Safe Foam Coil Cleaner is another detergent-based cleaner that is effective at removing stubborn stains and grime from your coils. It can easily be applied with the help of the sprayer can and the company claims you don’t need to worry about rinsing it down as it is non-corrosive as well. The product is also scented and this removes bad scents that you need to deal with from if the coils have been left for prolonged periods.

While this formula does not require you to scrub or brush the coils, it is certainly helpful to do so and this does make life somewhat easier for you as well. It is really affordable and does an excellent job of removing pet hairs and clogged coils. This product is highly recommended if you need something quick and strapped on a budget.

Pros

Easy to use

Really affordable

No rinsing needed

Removes all odors and pet hairs

Cons

Needs to be used quite often for stubborn grime and dirt

CRC Foaming Coil Cleaner

CRC 3196 Foaming Coil Cleaner, 18 oz Aerosol Can, Clear/Yellow

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Lastly, we have the CRC Foaming Coil Cleaner. Much like the previous 2; it is also a detergent that is available for use in an aerosol can. This formula does not require any rinsing and can be applied with real ease as well. It will remove any odors you need to deal with and clean all your coils in a matter of minutes without brushing.

What we like about this detergent is the fact that no harmful chemical are used that could damage the ozone. This does make it as close to a green product as you could possibly find and also friendly for anyone in the home. It is reasonably priced and can be used on all metal blades and coils for a thorough clean.

Pros

Easy to apply

Removes odors

No rinsing needed

Reasonably priced

No harmful chemicals in the solvent

Cons

The foaming is rather inconsistent

How Often Should You Clean AC Coils?

You should aim towards cleaning AC coils at least twice a year. In some situations, you can get away with doing this once a year, but it’s recommended to do it more often for better performance. 

In between cleanings, you should always check that there is no debris or clogging of internal components. If you don’t perform proper maintenance, the cooling performance may drop or parts may start failing.

Photo credit: phys.org

The main reason is the build-up of grime and dirt on the coils, causing the coils to perform less effectively. If left for too long, you may damage your air conditioner that’s irreparable.

Types of AC Coil Cleaners

When you own an air conditioner, one of the top considerations is what type of AC coil cleaner it needs. There may be manufacturer’s specifications for the one you need, while you could get away with trying an alternative. Here are a few examples of which ones you may find available on the market. 

Acidic 

Acidic cleaners are superb for cleaning layers of grime off your coils. While they’re excellent for removing the toughest dirt, they also eat away at the metal. If you overuse it, you may cause long-term damage. 

Alkaline

Alkaline is the better alternative to acidic cleaners or pure water. It’ll also clean away some of the worst dirt layers when applied appropriately. Remember, don’t use these liquids too regularly, as they can still cause caustic damage in the long run.

Solvent-Based

These AC coil cleaners are excellent for dissolving residues, such as from smoke or grease. However, they’ll struggle against massive build-up, so you’ll need to clean more regularly. The only downfall is that these liquids are flammable and release a terrible odor.

Detergent-based

These are soapy cleaners that consist of surfactants and foaming agents to remove some of the toughest stains. You’ll generally find them as sprays rather than in liquid form. They’re environmentally friendly, but you may need to rinse the coils with water and a cloth.

Air Conditioner Coil Cleaner vs Water Only

Most people feel that they can get away with merely cleaning AC coils with water. While it may do the trick now and again, it won’t always be the optimal solution. Here are a few differences between using pure water and air conditioner coil cleaners.

Design

Water doesn’t have a specific design when it comes to cleaning. It can remove dust and some residue, but it caters to most objects you can think of.

AC cleaners are manufacturers to deal with coils, specifically the metal that they’re made of. It has a better chance at aggressively removing grime and dirt than water.

Photo credit: bobvila.com

Specialization

AC coil cleaners work in such a way that they won’t cause any damage to the rest of the air conditioner. It has a specific formula to deal with the grease that appears on the metal without stressing the components. Water merely rinses off as much dirt as possible.

Efficiency

Water may not be as efficient as some AC cleaners. When we speak about efficiency, we mean how long it takes to clear the dirt, the time it takes to dry, how quickly the grime returns, and whether it affects the coil’s performance. 

Safety

The one aspect where water takes the clean win is safety. Some AC coil cleaners have harmful chemicals that either erode the metal if overused or are flammable. You’ll have to take extra care when using them.

Odor

Another downfall of cleaners is that some of them have a foul odor. Water smells clean and won’t leave any lingering scents.

Top-Rated AC Coil Cleaner Brands

There are numerous AC coil cleaner brands on the market, all vying for your financial attention. While they all strive to serve the same function, some have better reputations than others. Let’s look at three of the top cleaners available for you to consider.

Nu-Calgon

If you’re looking for one of the leaders of the HVAC aftermarket, Nu-Calgon has extensive experience of over 70 years. Some of the products it specializes in are coil cleaners, air purifiers, leak sealants, and refrigeration oils.

It currently has 32 factories across the United States and Canada, providing excellent customer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also has specialized distribution centers to ensure the effective delivery of its products.

Frost King

Frost King is a brand that specializes in home insulation, focusing on pipes and ducts, weatherstripping, gutters, window screens, and more. It provides numerous DIY kits so that you can secure your home from the elements.

Of course, it also has a hand in the HVAC industry. Besides AC coil cleaners, it also produces covers, weather seals, foam side panels, drip cushions, and many more air conditioner accessories.

ComStar

ComStar has established itself as a refrigerant giant in several countries worldwide. It has five different brand names depending on where you’re located, such as ComStar in Japan and A.S. TRUST INC. in Hawaii.

Besides specializing in coolants, it also delivers robust AC coil cleaning solutions. You can buy different types in various sizes, and most online retailers sell their products thanks to their excellent reputation.

How to Use AC Coil Cleaner

The procedure needs to be performed with great safety and while following the manufacturer’s safety guidelines. Prior to getting to the cleaning process, make sure you turn off the circuit breaker, so there is no power flowing. You can use the AC coil cleaner of your preference; just make sure it’s self-rinsing and of good quality.

1. In order to clean the indoor service unit, open the front panel over the position where it stops.

2. Remove the air filters.

3. Then, slide the right rotary shaft to the left and release it and similarly rotate the left rotary shaft to the right and release that as well.

4. Afterward, unfasten the left, right, and center shaft to remove the blade.

5. Remove the hooks and screws to take out the grille.

6. Now, shake the cleaner well and remove the cap then spray on the surface that needs to be cleaned.

7. After giving it enough time to soak and noticing that the foam has broken to emulsify the material, you can rinse the product.

8. A similar technique can be employed to clean the outdoor unit. You simply need to unmount the housing of the outdoor unit and then use the cleaner to spray on the surface of the evaporator coil.

9. Repeat the same process of letting it soak and rinse it afterward for a clean surface.

If you feel like you haven’t quite grasped the idea of how to do everything, then simply head over and watch the video to get an even clearer idea of what to do.

Conclusion

Operating any appliance continuously without cleaning and maintaining the internal components is a dangerous practice that could lead to costly repairs or replacement of the entire appliance.

By following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and cleaning your coils regularly, your AC unit should be ready for the extensive use that summer months often require. Air conditioning cleaners are effective at helping you do this and they are highly recommended by AC specialists as well.

People Also Ask

When it comes to buying an AC coil cleaner, people tend to have a lot of queries; thus, we took the liberty of answering your most frequently asked questions so you can get a better understanding of everything. Let’s take a look at them:

What Should I Scrub My Coils With?

To avoid the chemicals touching your hands, you can use specific coil brushes to remove most of the grime with your AC coil cleaner. When it comes to the spray version, the compressed air should be enough to eliminate the dirt, but you can use water to rinse the worst of the grime off afterward.

What Are the Symptoms of Dirty AC Coils?

There are three main symptoms associated with dirty air conditioner coils. Firstly, you may notice that your AC unit starts losing its cooling capacity, or it might run longer than usual to lower the room’s temperature. Finally, another sign is that the coil collects frost.

How Does AC Coil Cleaner Work?

In most cases, the cleaners consist of chemical compounds that eat away at the grime or dirt on the coils. Some merely loosen them for easy rinsing, while others disintegrate the structure of the grease. Each AC coil cleaner type works differently, but overuse can be disastrous to the metal.

What Is Coil Cleaner?

A coil cleaner is a heavy-duty detergent that can remove the dirt, grease, and oil from evaporator coils. 

Is AC Coil Cleaner Safe?

Yes, they are safe to use on your AC coils. They simply are detergent-based cleaner, which can get rid of stains, oil, and grease from your coils. They are non-corrosive and simply need to be sprayed on. 

Can I Use Degreaser to Clean AC Coils?

Yes, it is considered to be a great alternative to clean your AC coils as it is mild and non-corrosive; thus, it won’t shorten the lifespan of your AC coils. 

Can I Use Vinegar to Clean AC Coils?

For sure, vinegar is a great way to clean the AC coils. It needs to be mixed with water in half and half ratio, and it proves to be a very effective coil cleaner without causing any harm.

Can You Pressure Wash AC Coils?

If one is considering washing HVAC coils, then yes, that is possible to pressure wash them.

How Long Does It Take to Clean AC Coils?

It depends on some factors, however cleaning a unit may take 2 hours at max. 

How Do I Clean the AC Coils in my Attic?

Choose the cleaning solution of preference. Turn off the power of the air handler from the main switch. Then, remove the reflective tape from the coil access panel and remove the screws that mount it to the air handler. You will be able to see the evaporator coil.

Check for any residue or dirt on its surface and spray the cleaner on them. Place a drain pan below the air handler and let the cleaner soak on the surface of the coils. After it has completely dripped from the evaporator coils, examine the unit again and check for the need for reapplication.



My name is Bob Wells and I am a retired HVAC tech from Washington state. I am currently retired and no longer do much with HVAC, however, I feel like I have a lot of knowledge in the subject and I wanted to create a website where I could talk about what I've learned and help upcoming HVAC techs. Find more info about me and HVAC Training 101.