Have you taken a close look at your bathroom exhaust fan lately? If not, go ahead and stand on that wobbly step stool, crane your neck at an awkward angle, and inspect it. Look at all that dust, grime, and gunk built up over months or even years of daily showers!
Not a pretty sight, is it? Even worse, all that dirt buildup is bogging down your fan motor, blocking air flow, and just making your bathroom a less healthy place to be.
But don’t worry, cleaning an exhaust fan is easier than you might expect. In fact, with some basic tools and supplies, plus these step-by-step instructions, you’ll have that fan looking and working like new again in no time.
In this handy guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to clean a bathroom exhaust fan that has a light attached. From safely cutting power to taking apart the assembly, scrubbing away every speck of dust, and putting it all back together, we’ve got you covered. Time to banish mold, mildew, and years of grime!
Gather Your Materials
Let’s start by collecting everything you’ll need to thoroughly clean your bathroom fan. Having these supplies ready ahead of time will make the process smoother. Here’s a checklist of handy tools and cleaning items:
- Vacuum cleaner – Look for one with a soft brush attachment and crevice tool. This will come in very handy for loosening and removing dust.
- Soft cleaning brushes – Smaller brushes are great for getting into tight spaces around the fan motor and blades.
- Clean cloths – Microfiber cloths or soft rags to wipe down surfaces.
- Dish soap or cleaning spray – For scrubbing stuck-on grime and giving parts a deep clean.
- Bucket – Useful for soaking any removable plastic pieces. Fill with warm water and dish soap.
- Screwdriver – To remove screws holding the fan assembly in place.
- Step stool or ladder – To provide safe access to the exhaust fan.
That covers all the basics you’ll need for a bathroom fan cleaning session. Gather all these supplies and set them in the bathroom before getting started.
Shut Off Power – Safety First!
Now it’s time for the important first step – cutting power to the fan. This is crucial for safely cleaning around electrical connections and wiring.
You have two options for shutting off power:
Flip the Wall Switch
Start by turning off the light switch that controls the fan. However, this does not fully disconnect power in many cases. Use caution and do not assume the wall switch cuts all electric.
Turn Off Circuit Breaker
For full safety, locate the circuit breaker that controls the bathroom fan and turn it to the OFF position. This completely cuts power and eliminates any risk of shock while cleaning.
Once the breaker is off, use a non-contact voltage tester to double-check there is no power present at any wires or connections. Safety first!
Remove the Vent Cover
With the power safely cut, you’re ready to start taking things apart. First, remove the vent cover, which is the decorative outer piece that blends into your ceiling.
Carefully examine the edges for screws or spring clips. Plastic covers usually have squeezable clips that release the cover when pressed. For metal or glass covers attached with screws, use your screwdriver to detach.
Remove the vent cover slowly and carefully. Some styles are spring-loaded or heavy, so support it as you work it loose to avoid accidents. Set the cover aside for cleaning later.
Extract the Light Bulb
Next, unscrew the light bulb from its socket. This will allow you to fully access the fan assembly.
Place the bulb somewhere safe, like in a cup or bowl, to keep it from rolling away and breaking. We’ll come back to clean the bulb later.
Detach Fan Assembly
Now comes the fun part – removing the entire fan assembly from the ceiling. This gives full access for proper cleaning.
Start by disconnecting any electrical connectors or wires running to the fan motor. Make note of where they were attached.
Then, locate the mounting screws, usually around the outer edges of the fan frame. Carefully unscrew and detach the assembly. Support it with one hand as you remove the final screw to avoid it falling.
With the assembly lowered, unplug the wiring to the light fixture. Slowly maneuver the fan out of the ceiling cutout. Set it aside on a clean surface.
Scrub Away Grime
Roll up those sleeves and get ready to scrub! With the fan assembly detached, you can now clean all the individual components.
Use a small brush to loosen built-up dirt around the fan blades. Then vacuum both sides of each blade using the soft brush attachment.
Finish by carefully wiping the blades down with a damp cloth. Avoid excessive water, and protect any motor connections from moisture.
Wipe down the internal housing and other surfaces with a clean damp cloth. For stubborn dirt, apply some dish soap and gently scrub.
Use the vacuum crevice tool to extract dust from tight spaces and air vents. Compressed air also works great for hard-to-reach spots.
Bulb and Cover
Clean the light bulb by wiping down with a cloth sprayed with window cleaner. Avoid wetting any electrical contacts.
For plastic cover pieces, soak them in warm soapy water while you work on other parts. This loosens stuck-on gunk for easier removal.
Rinse, dry, and set aside the cleaned parts. Everything will look good as new!
The fan motor can collect a lot of dust and debris over time. Here are some tips for safely cleaning:
- Use a soft brush and vacuum to extract surface dust. Compressed air also works well.
- Wipe exterior carefully with a lightly dampened cloth. Avoid moisture on internal parts.
- If needed, detach the motor to fully clean the blade cavity and internal spaces.
- Never spray cleaner directly into the motor or use excessive water.
- Protect all wiring connections from moisture or physical damage.
Thorough motor cleaning will remove dirt that can hinder airflow and burn out motors quicker.
Once all the components are scrubbed clean, it’s time to put everything back together.
First, reposition the fan assembly into the ceiling and attach with screws. Reconnect any wiring to the light fixture and test the connections.
Screw in the clean light bulb, verifying it illuminates. Then align the vent cover over the assembly and pop into place. Plastic covers will snap in when the clips are lined up and pressed.
Confirm all parts are dry before restoring power at the circuit breaker. Flick the switch a few times to check normal operation. Enjoy that freshly cleaned fan!
Make This a Regular Routine
To keep your bathroom fan in tip-top shape, add “clean fan” to your housekeeping checklist and do this every 3-6 months.
Here are signs it’s time for a cleaning:
- Noticeable dust/dirt buildup on vent cover
- Decreased airflow or loud noises
- Mold or mildew odor while fan is running
More frequent cleaning may be needed with heavy use or constant operation. Also ensure the exterior vent opening shutters open fully when the fan is on.
While a thorough periodic cleaning is important, don’t overdo cleaning the ducting or exterior vent opening. This can actually push more dust into the system.
Hopefully your fan will run smoothly after a good cleaning session. But issues can pop up. Here’s how to troubleshoot:
Fan doesn’t turn on – Check that all wiring is connected properly. Test the bulb and replace if burned out. Inspect the motor for any visible damage.
Noisy operation – Tighten mounting screws that may have loosened. Check for obstructions interfering with blade movement. Cleaning can help too.
Lingering odors – Scrub fan blades again with disinfectant. Ensure backdraft dampers in the vent ducting open fully. Look for mold in system.
Dealing with any problems right away will get that fan running like normal again.
Breathe Easier with a Clean Fan
Give your exhaust fan some love every few months! Stay on top of cleaning and maintenance to keep air flowing, prevent buildup of dirt and microbes, and make your bathroom a healthier place.
Following this simple process using basic DIY tools will free up years of gunk and restore peak performance. So grab your vacuum, prep those cleaning rags, and let’s get that fan sparkling! Here’s to breathing easier with cleaner air.