The first air conditioner was invented in 1902 by Willis Carrier. Carrier’s goal wasn’t human comfort. The first AC unit was meant to control humidity in an industrial setting.

Today, most homes have air conditioners. These systems carry cold air to the rooms of your home through ducts. Vents cover those ducts so air can come through, but most things can’t enter the system.

Those vents need to be cleaned regularly to work properly. But how do you clean your return air filter grille the right way? Continue reading to learn how.

Why Do You Need to Clean Your Return Air Filter Grille?

The air return grille is a part of your heating and air conditioning system. There are vents around your home that push air out and some that suck air in. Your return air filter grilles are those that suck air in.

It’s essential to keep these clean because dirty ones can increase the severity of indoor allergies. The grilles can become grungy, dusty, and otherwise gross.

If you regularly clean your filters, they’ll never end up being too dirty. Even with routine cleaning, it’s important to deep clean your grilles at least once a year. Homes with pets will want to deep clean at least twice a year.

Routine Air Return Grille Cleaning

You should do a routine quick clean of your return air filter grille every two to three months. If you have pets or environmental allergies, you should do a quick clean every one to two months. There are two options when it comes to routine air return cleaning.

Option 1: Use a Vacuum

If you have a vacuum with attachments, this is the best option. A bristle brush attachment is best, but a thin slanted attachment without bristles also works.

Run the vacuum over the lines in your grille slowly. The vacuum should remove most (if not all) of the dust and grime that has built up over the last few months.

Remember to move the vacuum attachment slowly. Don’t rush, or you won’t get as much dust and grime off the grille. You can follow this up with a quick wipe with a duster if necessary.

Option 2: Use a Sponge

If you don’t have a vacuum with attachments, you can use a damp dish sponge or magic eraser. Run the sponge over the grill lines and then wipe with a microfiber cloth to soak up any moisture.

Be sure the sponge you use is only damp, not wet. A wet sponge will only smear the dirt around on the grille and spread it on the walls. This makes your work more difficult.

Deep Cleaning

Deep cleaning your return air filter grille should be done at least once a year. If you have pets or environmental allergies, you’ll want to deep clean your grille at least twice a year. There are two options on how to do this.

No matter which option you use, you need to turn off your air conditioner before deep cleaning. Remove the grilles from the wall using a screwdriver. Remember to save the screws for when you put the grille back on.

After following your chosen method below, replace the grille to its appropriate place on the wall. Make sure the screws are tightly secured.

Option 1: Hot Soapy Water

Take your grille outside and lean it against an upright surface, like the side of your house. Be sure the grille is on a clean surface and not the grass or dirt. Cleaning your grille on the lawn will only make it dirtier.

Use your garden hose to spray off the grille on both sides. If possible, use a pressured hose nozzle.

After rinsing the air return grille, use a sponge and hot soapy water. Go over each line in the filter with the sponge, working away any stuck-on grime. Rinse again with the water hose.

Don’t use hard-bristled or metal scrubbers on your return air filter grille. Harsh scrubbers will damage the grille’s surface.

You can allow your grille to air-dry before replacing it, or you can dry it yourself with a microfiber towel.

Option 2: Degreaser

Like option one, take your grille outside and lean it against an upright surface. Remember to avoid placing the grille on grass or dirt, as this is counterproductive.

Spray your favorite degreaser liberally on the surface of your grille. Allow the chemical to sit at least five minutes. This gives the chemicals time to break down the dirt and grime build-up.

Using a microfiber cloth, wipe away as much of the degreaser as possible. Rinse with your garden hose until the water runs clear. Make sure you turn your grille to rinse both sides.

You can allow the air return grille to dry naturally. Alternatively, you can wipe it by hand with a microfiber towel.

Extra Tips

There are a few extra things you can do to keep your return air filter grille clean. By keeping up on certain household tasks, you can make cleaning your grille easier.

  • Remember to change your air filter every one to three months
  • Keep the windows closed to reduce pollen build-up on return air grille
  • Regularly brush and bath your pets to reduce dander and hair build-up
  • Quickly dust the surfaces in your home once a week
  • Replace grilles as they become worn

Using these extra tips will make your life a lot easier. If necessary, increase the frequency of routine return grille cleaning.

Want More Home Cleaning Tips?

A return air filter grille is the cover on your air conditioner’s intakes. They should be routinely cleaned every two to three months. These grilles also need deep cleaning at least once a year.

Now that you know how to clean a return air filter grille, learn how to properly clean other parts of your home. Check out our other blogs for more useful tips, tricks, and information.