How to Clean a Bathroom Exhaust Fan
How to Clean a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

How to Clean a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

A clean bathroom exhaust fan is essential in fighting mold growth, odors, and moisture in the air. It helps to vent the humid and stale air from the bathroom to the outside, improving the air quality and preventing damage to the walls and ceiling.

However, the fan can get clogged with dust, dirt, and grime over time, reducing its efficiency and creating a fire hazard. That’s why cleaning the fan regularly is important, at least every six months for daily use or once a year for infrequent use.

Signs Bathroom Exhaust Fan Needs Cleaning

Some signs that your bathroom exhaust fan needs to clean are:

Noisy operation: If your fan makes rattling, knocking, grinding, squeaking, or whining noises, it may be due to dust buildup, loose screws, or a faulty motor.

Reduced airflow: If your fan does not remove moisture and odors effectively, it may be clogged with dust and dirt. You can test your fan by holding a piece of toilet paper on it. If it does not stick, your fan needs cleaning.

Steamy mirrors and glass: If your bathroom vent is not working correctly, it will leave your mirrors and glass foggy and wet after a shower or bath.

Moldy surfaces: If your fan does not vent moisture outside, it can create a humid and damp environment that promotes mold and mildew growth on your walls, ceiling, tiles, and grout.

Visible dust and dirt: If you see dust and cobwebs on the vent cover or the fan blades, it clearly shows that your fan needs cleaning.

Cleaning a bathroom exhaust fan is not difficult, but it requires some tools, materials, and safety precautions.

This article will show you how to clean a bathroom exhaust fan in five steps.

You will need the following:

  • A stepladder
  • A screwdriver
  • A vacuum cleaner with a hose and crevice tool
  • A microfiber cloth
  • A sponge
  • An all-purpose cleaner
  • Compressed air (optional)

Before starting to clean a bathroom exhaust fan, wear gloves, eye protection, and a mask to protect yourself from dust and allergens.

Also, check if your fan needs cleaning by looking for signs of dust buildup, reduced airflow, or loud noise. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to give your fan a good cleaning.

Steps to Clean the Fan

Step 1. Turn Off the Power and Use a Stepladder

The first step is to turn off the power to the fan by switching off the correct circuit breaker in your home’s service panel (breaker box).

To be extra safe, test if the power is off using a voltmeter or a light switch. Do not attempt to clean the fan while it is connected to electricity.

Next, use a sturdy stepladder to reach the fan. Do not use a chair or stand on the toilet or tub, as this can be dangerous and damage the surface.

If needed, dry the floor, and place a rubber mat under the stepladder.

Step 2. Remove and Clean the Vent Cover

The second step is to remove the vent cover from the ceiling or wall. Depending on your model, you may need a screwdriver to remove some screws or latches that hold the cover in place.

If your vent cover has a light, disconnect the wire first by pressing the release tab on the connector.

Once you have removed the cover, soak it in a tub of warm soapy water for a few minutes to loosen up the dust and grime. Then scrub it with a microfiber cloth or a sponge until clean.

Rinse it with clean water and place it on an absorbent towel to air-dry completely before reinstalling.

Alternatively, you can use a spray cleaner instead of soaking the vent cover in water. Just spray it generously with an all-purpose cleaner and wipe it with a cloth or sponge.

Step 3. Vacuum and Wipe Down the Fan Housing and Blades

The third step is to vacuum and wipe down the fan housing and blades. Use a vacuum cleaner with a hose and crevice tool to remove most of the dust inside the housing.

Then switch to a brush tool or an electrostatic duster to clean the fan motor components.

After vacuuming, use a damp microfiber cloth or sponge with some all-purpose cleaner to wipe down the fan housing and blades.

This will remove any remaining dirt and grease that may affect the performance of the fan.

Step 4. Remove and Clean the Fan Motor (Optional)

The fourth step is optional but recommended for deeper cleaning of the fan motor. To do this, you will need to unplug and unscrew the fan motor from the housing.

Hold the motor with one hand while removing the last screw, then lower it carefully.

Take the motor outside or to a well-ventilated area and use compressed air or a soft brush to blow away dust from the motor and blades.

You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment if you don’t have compressed air.

Then wipe down the motor and blades with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any residue.

Ensure the motor is completely dry before reinstalling it into the housing.

Step 5. Reinstall the Fan Motor and Vent Cover

The final step is to reinstall the fan motor and vent cover:

Plug and screw back the fan motor into the housing, ensuring it is properly aligned and secured. Then align and secure the vent cover onto the ceiling or wall, using screws or latches if needed.

If your vent cover has a light, reconnect the wire before attaching the cover.

Turn on the circuit breaker and test if the fan works well:

You should notice a difference in your bathroom’s airflow, noise level, and odor.

Common Mistakes When Cleaning the Bathroom Exhaust Fan

Some common mistakes to avoid when cleaning a bathroom exhaust fan are:

  • Not turning off the power before removing the vent cover or the motor assembly unit. This can cause electric shock or damage to the fan.
  • Not cleaning the fan regularly. A dirty fan can reduce efficiency, increase fire risk, and promote mold and mildew growth.
  • Not removing the motor assembly unit for deep cleaning. Vacuuming and wiping the fan blades and motor may not be enough to remove all the dust and dirt. Removing and blowing the motor with compressed air or using a soft-bristled brush can help remove caked-on dust.
  • Not checking the vent duct for blockages or leaks. Bathroom fan ducts can sometimes get blocked by bird nests or other critters, which can reduce the airflow and cause moisture problems. Leaks in the duct can also cause condensation and mold growth.
  • Not replacing the vent cover properly. The vent cover should fit snugly and securely on the fan housing without gaps or cracks. A loose or damaged vent cover can affect the fan’s performance and allow dust and debris to enter.


You’ve just learned to clean a bathroom exhaust fan in five steps. Cleaning your fan regularly will help you prevent dust buildup, mold growth, and fire hazards. It will also improve the air quality and ventilation in your bathroom.

To recap, here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Turn Off the Power and Use a Stepladder.
  • Remove and Clean the Vent Cover
  • Vacuum and Wipe Down the Fan Housing and Blades.
  • Remove and Clean the Fan Motor (Optional)
  • Reinstall the Fan Motor and Vent Cover

That’s it! You’ve successfully cleaned your bathroom exhaust fan. Now you can enjoy a fresh and comfortable bathroom environment.