Of all the items to clean in your bathroom, the exhaust fan isn't always top-of-mind. But neglecting it can compromise air quality and encourage mold and mildew. Learn how to clean a bathroom fan—it only takes 20 minutes!—with our expert tips.

By Megan Boettcher and Megan Boettcher

With so many items on your cleaning checklist, it can be easy to forget about the humble but hardworking bathroom exhaust fan. However, because it removes excess moisture and prevents mold and mildew, it is essential to keep clean. Prevent dust buildup on both the exhaust fan cover and motor by cleaning it once or twice each year. This straightforward bathroom cleaning task takes just 20 minutes to complete, plus you only need a few tools to get the job done. Read on to learn how to clean a bathroom exhaust fan.

Prep for Cleaning

To safely clean a bathroom exhaust fan, you first need to turn off the breaker to the bathroom. You might need a flashlight if there are no windows in your bathroom. Before proceeding, turn the fan on at the switch to make sure the power is off.

Next, use a stepladder that allows you to comfortably reach the ceiling. Gently pull off the cover of the bathroom exhaust fan. Some models have pins on the sides that need to be pressed to remove the cover. Keep a screwdriver handy in case there are also screws securing the cover in place.

If your exhaust fan is plugged into an outlet, unplug it and unscrew any brackets holding it in place.

Clean Bathroom Exhaust Fan Parts

A bathroom exhaust fan is made up of three major parts: the cover, fan blades and motor, and the housing. To prevent dangerous buildup, it's important to clean each item thoroughly.

Clean Exhaust Fan Vent Cover: Soak the vent cover in a tub of hot soapy water while you clean the exhaust fan blades. Use a damp microfiber cloth to scrub away caked-on dust and grime. Air-dry the vent cover completely before reassembly.

Clean Exhaust Fan Blades: Twist the fan and motor assembly to remove it from the exhaust vent. Using a damp cloth, wipe the fan blades and motor clean. You can also use a vacuum attachment to reach hard-to-remove dust. If you aren't able to remove the fan from the ceiling, use the vacuum to remove as much debris as possible.

Vacuum Exhaust Fan Housing: Use a crevice attachment and vacuum the inside of the exhaust vent. Clean the brackets that hold the exhaust fan in place, too. If you don't have a crevice attachment, you can use a brush attachment.

Finishing Touches

Return the fan and motor assembly to the housing area and secure with the provided brackets or screws. Use your fingers to move the fan back and forth to make sure it isn’t hitting anything. Plug the fan back into the outlet, if needed.

After the cover is completely dry, return it to the bathroom exhaust fan. Press the cover until the clips click closed. Screw into place if needed.

Return to your breaker and flip the power back on. Give the newly cleaned bathroom exhaust fan a test run before resuming regular use. Now that your exhaust fan is free of dust and grime, air can circulate more efficiently and prevent dreaded mold and mildew.

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