How to Clean Your Air Conditioner of Cottonwood and Dirt

By: Brian Schutt  |  July 27, 2021

Overtime, your outdoor air conditioning unit will get covered in dirt and possibly cottonwood. Eastern cottonwood trees grow throughout the eastern US and leave behind small cotton-like balls as they shed. These are of particular interest as you go to clean your AC. However, be aware that dirt, leaves, and other outdoor items can cause problems as well.

What does this mean for you?

It means without cleaning it, your air conditioner is at risk. It means it’s time again to start checking and rechecking the exterior of your AC unit to remove any collected cottonwood balls and other items.

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Why It’s Important to Protect Your AC from Cottonwood

Because it blows around so easily, it can also get entangled very easily. The condenser coils run on the exterior of your air conditioner, and the cottonwood limits air flow across those coils. The primary issue will be a drop in efficiency and cooling capacity of the system. The far worse issue is that it can lead to the mechanical components like the compressor to overheat, and cause the system to fail. You don’t want that to happen, and we don’t want to take that call.

In this brief video, Homesense owner Brian Schutt walks through the steps to clean your air conditioner of cottonwood and dirt.

To Recap

If your system looks anything like this, the process is fairly simple to fix.

1) Shut your system off (either through the indoor thermostat or the outdoor disconnect box).

2) Get regular hose, not a power washer, to clean your condenser.

3) Spray system exterior from top to bottom, washing the cottonwood and other items to the bottom of system.

4) Turn system on to check its performance.


Cleaning your condenser is one quick and simple step to keep your system running smoothly and efficiently throughout the summer and avoid ac repairs. Here at Homesense, our goal is to help homeowners understand their systems and what they can do to maintain them. To learn more, follow us on Instagram for our weekly #tuesdaytip!


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