How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Window Air Conditioner

It’s very easy to get smoke smell inside your window air conditioner. If you or somebody else smoked close to the unit at least once, the cigarette smell might linger for weeks and even months. 

Getting rid of smoke smell in the AC may seem very problematic, but the problem is quite simple and easy to solve. The odor particles usually accumulate on the air filter inside and the coils, so the trick is to clean them — nothing else.

While regular AC maintenance should do the trick, we’ll also show you certain products that are amazing when it comes to getting eliminating fire, smoke, or any other smell. But first, let’s get the cleaning out of the way.

How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Window Air Conditioner in Three Steps

Getting smoke out of your window air conditioner consists of three simple steps: preparing the AC, cleaning the filter, and cleaning the coils and fins. 

While the process is simple, if you’re unsure you can pull it off, it’s best advised to contact an HVAC professional.


First, you should take your window air conditioner outside. This part of the procedure is best done with two adults since AC units are usually heavy. So, one of you should hold the AC while the other removes the safety latches or screws that keep it static, as well as the plug. After you’ve done that, you should both, together, slowly take the AC outside.

Taking the device outside is not only recommended for practical reasons, such as having a wide space to operate, but also to better ventilate it. Clean and fresh air, as well as sunlight, are great for fighting smells of every type, especially smoke smells. So, stick to open spaces when you can. 

If you don’t have that option and live in an apartment or a flat, for example, go to your biggest room and open all the windows. A good and strong circulation of fresh air may be a good substitute for being outside in the sun.

Cleaning the Filters

The next step is cleaning the filters, which is where the smoke problem lies. Regardless of the fact that many filters are not made to absorb and hold the smoke particles, the smoke from cigarettes or fireplaces sticks to them anyway. 

Cleaning the AC filter, or even replacing it, is and should be a part of the general maintenance of the unit, which is usually done every year. Nevertheless, it’s quite easy and simple, and if you notice some traces of unpleasant smell, you can do it yourself. 

Also, we recommend that you don’t wait for the yearly or twice-a-year regular cleaning of the filters — you can do that more frequently, depending on the severity of the lingering smoke smell. If you smoke or have a smoker regularly near the AC, you should definitely do it once a month.

The filters in AC units are usually easily removed. If you have an HVAC system, removing it can be complicated, but in the case of window air conditioners, the process is not a hassle. After taking out the filters, you can vacuum them before you proceed. It’s best that you do this with a bristled attachment, so you can get rid of all the dust and different particles. 

Finally, you’ve come to the point of actually cleaning the filter. You can do that in two ways, depending on your preferences, and both are just as effective. However, make sure that the filters are washable in water. 

Soapy Water

The one way is to sink the filters in warm, soapy water and keep them there for at least 10 minutes. You can also gently scrub them, but be very gentle so that you don’t do any damage.

After that, leave them out to dry until they’re completely dry.

Vinegar and Water 

The other way is to soak the filters in a bathtub filled with a solution from equal parts of white vinegar and water. Then, you’re supposed to leave them in for half an hour. White vinegar is great for battling different kinds of odors, especially smoke smell. After that, you can leave them out to dry.

Deodorizing the Filters

In the end, you can spray the surfaces with some kind of disinfectant with a nice smell. Eucalyptus, for instance, is especially effective against smoke smell. Just be careful not to spray anything toxic in there because that’s what you, your family, or your pets are going to breathe every day.

If All Else Fails, Replace the Filters

Sometimes, the filters may be just too old or worn out. In that case, you should get new ones. It will save you time and really make a difference. In some cases, new is just better.

Cleaning the Coils

When it comes to eliminating smoke smell in the AC, cleaning the filters is sometimes not enough. They aren’t the only part of the window air conditioner that comes in contact with external influences such as smoke. The coils and the fins also absorb odors, believe it or not. 

The coils are protected by metal fins that can sometimes get clogged with debris or dirt. As with the filters, you should first check the manual and the specifications of your AC and then proceed to clean them. 

The best way to clean them is to spray them with compressed air, which will loosen the particles that stick to them. After that, you can use an AC fin brush to straighten the bent fins (if there are any) so that you guarantee maximum airflow in the unit. In the end, you can use a no-rinse coil cleaner. 

Whatever you do, be careful and follow the instructions clearly, especially if this is your first time taking apart the AC for cleaning. Different models will have different configurations, so always stick to the manual or call a professional.

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