How to Tell If There’s Mold in Your Air Conditioner, (and What to Do About It)

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Air conditioning makes life much easier in hot weather. But if your AC unit is not well maintained or not working properly or has not been used for a long time, it can Ideal environment for mold growth.

And because mold has the potential to do so cause or worsen various health problems, you don’t want it anywhere in your house – especially in a device that expels air. How to tell if your air conditioner has mold and if so, what to do about it.

Signs that mold might be in your air conditioner

Unless there is visible mold on the outside of your air conditioner (as pictured above), it is not always easy to tell if it is present. Often the first thing people notice is a musty smell, which is only present when the air conditioning is on.

Another possible sign is if someone in your household has new or worsening respiratory symptoms — such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath — or gets frequent headaches or sore throats. (Although that’s less of a tell-tale sign, as there are several different reasons why these symptoms can start or get worse.)

How to identify mold in your air conditioner

Before doing any type of inspection that might involve mold, it’s a good idea to put on a face mask first so you don’t inhale it.

Mold on or in your air conditioner can be black, brown, green, white, pink, yellow, or orange. It can also show up as black dust that has collected around it fans.

Even if mold is not visible from the outside of the air conditioner, it can grow inside. Here is how to check:

Window, wall mounted or freestanding units

Disconnect the AC unit, then remove the front or rear grille to access the filter. Take out the filter and look for spots (especially brown, black and greenish, fuzzy) or white or gray powders (which is mold). If you don’t see any, use a flashlight to examine the inside for signs of mold and mildew.

Central air conditioning

Don’t try to disassemble anything yourself. Instead, shine a flashlight into the unit and look for the signs of mold and mildew on fans, air ducts, and intake vents described above. And be sure to check all outdoor air conditioning—including any tight spots next to your home.

What to do if you find mold in your air conditioner?

The first thing to do if you discover (or suspect) mold in your air conditioner is to stop using it US Environmental Protection Agency (EPO). That means leaving a window unit off or, if you have central air, not running your HVAC system. This is because continued use of your contaminated air conditioner could spread mold throughout your home, the EPA explains.

Unfortunately, if your window, wall-mounted or freestanding unit has a significant amount of mold, the safest thing to do is to remove it. But if the mold or mildew seems confined to the filter and isn’t that bad, you can either replace the filter or try to clean it. That’s how it’s done:

fFirst put on a face mask, gloves and eye protection (if you are not already wearing them) and remove the filter. Then use a soft bristle brush (which you can safely throw away afterwards) to remove any residue and visible mold from the filter. Next, mix a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, completely submerge the filter in it and let it soak for at least 10 minutes. Then rinse the filter with clean water and let it air dry.

If you’ve found mold on your central air conditioner, it’s time to call in the professionals – it’s not something you need to do yourself.

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