How To Clean A Ceiling or Box Fan (And How Often To Do It)

If a fan-triggered dust storm is in the forecast, skip the umbrella and opt for a deep clean.

Dusting is one of those chores that is easily overlooked, but it’s actually super important. Everything collects dust, from your windows to your television screen. Just run your finger across your dresser or bookshelf, or even the leaves of your plants. It’s not your fault, though. No matter how often you dust, the stuff just keeps regenerating. It may seem harmless enough. After all, what sort of effect could those itsy bitsy tiny little flecks have on you?

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Dust is made up of particles that are swept into your home from the outside—like dirt, soot and pollen—combined with all that deeply personal indoor dirt, such as human skin cells, pet dander, hair, decomposed bugs, lint, tiny pieces of food and various matter produced by smoking or cooking. And you’re breathing all that stuff into your lungs all day, every day. Dust contains tons of allergens that can make you sick. The dust in your home is actually making your indoor air quality worse, which may cause itchy eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing or that awful asthmatic feeling.

And don’t even get us started on dust mites.

Fan blades are one of those places where dust just loves to accumulate. It’s very common to neglect cleaning your fans because you’re busy cleaning your yoga mat or preparing your grill for BBQ season—or doing literally anything else. But have a look up. Yeah, those fan blades are just dripping in dust. And once you turn that thing on, where do you think the dust goes?

If you answered everywhere, you’re right.

We always, always recommend dusting from the top down. And that top starts with your ceiling fan. (But your box fans probably need some love, too.) Cleaning fans is super easy, and you’ll be glad once it’s done. Forest vibes are cool, but when dust bunnies are dripping off your fan blades like Spanish moss, it’s time to check yourself.

Fan cleaning supplies

How to clean a ceiling fan

  • Make sure the fan is unplugged or turned off, so you don’t lose a hand or get a concussion.
  • Using a Swiffer Dusters Heavy Duty Extendable Handle, carefully dust over all the surfaces of the fan, shaking the dust loose. Mind your eyes and shut your mouth because if your fan is as dusty as we think it is, you’re about to take a major dust bath.
  • Hint: You can lay down a sheet beneath the ceiling fan before you dust, so the dust rains down onto that sheet instead of spreading itself across your floor or carpet. Then you can simply shake the sheet off outside and launder it, instead of having to then sweep and vacuum and mop the floor.
  • Use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or slightly dampened microfiber cloth to remove any smudges or stains on the fan’s housing, switch, remote and/or controls.
  • Take that microfiber rag, soak it in a mixture of some gentle dish soap (like Dawn) and warm water, and carefully wipe down each individual blade. Careful not to get any water on the fan’s motor or electrical bits. (Note: Be careful if you’re using a stool or ladder to reach the fan blades. You might even enlist a roommate to spot you.)
  • Wipe off soapy residue with a clean, damp rag.
  • To air dry, simply turn on the fan (once you’re out of the way!).

How to clean a box fan

  • Great news: Did you notice we didn’t include a screwdriver in our cleaning supplies list? That’s right, you can clean your box fan without having to disassemble the entire thing.
  • First, turn off the fan.
  • Vacuum the grill of the fan with the brush attachment.
  • Spray compressed air or use a hair dryer to expel any remaining dust from the fan blades. If possible, you might want to do this task outside so that the dust doesn’t blow into the air and permeate the rest of your house. (If it does, here’s some more advice on how to mop your floors when you’re done cleaning the fan. Trust us, you’ll need it.)
  • Wipe down the exterior of your fan with a damp microfiber cloth. If needed, make a simple mixture of dish soap and warm water for a simple and effective grease-cutting cleaner. Just a drop of a dish soap, like Dawn, will do (it’s super concentrated!), combined with about a cup of water.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser can remove any mysterious scuffs or stains from the exterior of your box fan, too.

How often to clean fans

  • Ceiling fans should be cleaned weekly, or at least dusted weekly. We give you permission to save the soap-and-water blade bath as a monthly chore, if you stay on top of your dusting duties.
  • Tack on a bonus weekly dusting chore to your cleaning checklist—it only adds about 5 minutes! And we mean dusting all the things, from your walls to the artwork to the blinds and the baseboards. If you use a Swiffer Duster, especially the one with an extendable handle to easily reach the fan blades and ceiling corner cobwebs, it’ll trap and lock in the dust. This will save you a lot of wheezing in the long run.

Additionally, air purifiers are sort of having a moment right now (what with the pandemic and wildfires, etc.). If you’re into fans, you might consider investing in an air purifier to further improve the quality of your indoor air and help you and your loved ones breathe better. They come in a million varieties and price ranges, including filters designed specifically for anything from pet dander to odor removal. While dusting is certainly helpful, air purifiers go the extra step to remove dust, smoke and pollen particles.

Need more advice on how to dust the rest of your house? We’ve got you covered.

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