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oscillating fanKathy Price-Robinson

An oscillating tabletop fan that's caked with dirt is more than just an eyesore; it also spreads dust and other particles throughout the home. Here's how to clean a grungy fan.

Like many of us, I have an old tabletop fan that I neglected until one day I couldn't stand the sight of it. Covered in filth, it wasn't doing its job so well anymore, and I could only imagine the kinds of allergens I was breathing in.

Kathy Price-Robinson

This is how filthy the fan got. Somehow I didn't notice until I got it up on a table. Then I was truly grossed out. Between the shedding animals, years of grimy city life and the time spent stored in my garage, this fan was long overdue for a thorough cleaning. Here's how I did it:,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=903919&pid=903918&uts=1277848429

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

A grungy old fan
Phillips head screwdriver
Flat head screwdriver
A bucket or sink for washing
Scrub brushes
Cleaning soap (I used dish soap)
Old rags
Dishwashing gloves
Ear phones and an iPod with your favorite tunes (optional)

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

My first step was vacuuming up as much of the dust and animal hair as I could with a narrow-tip nozzle.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

I knew I wanted to get to the blade to clean it up and so I'd have to remove the grill. Mine was held together by four clips. three of which moved and one that was stationary. Other fans I've seen have plastic catches that hold the front and back grills together. And some have screws. I swiveled the clips open and removed the front grill.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

The inside of the front grill was covered with dirt. I could not have cleaned this while the grill was on the fan.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

My next task was removing the big plastic "nut" holding the fan blade onto a threaded shaft. It took me a while to realize that the old ditty "righty tighty, lefty loosey" didn't work here. As you can see above, letters on the nut helpfully indicate that it's righty loosey.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

Now I needed to remove the blades from the threaded shaft, but one of them didn't want to come off. After all, it had been there for many long years. But it finally did release with some tugging. There was another large plastic nut underneath that held the rear grill onto the fan body. As I took everything apart, I noted the order so I could put it back together again without any parts left over. With the second nut unloosened, the back grill came off.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

At this point, I could have stopped dismantling and started cleaning. But I really wanted to get inside the motor housing as I had seen a lot of hair and dirt in there through the vents on the back. So I got a screwdriver and removed the four small screws. I used a flat head screwdriver to work the four clasps and eventually got the cover off.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

Sure enough, around the motor I found a lot of hair and dirt. I used the narrow vacuum nozzle to clean as much as I could, then I used a barely damp cloth to clean as much dirt as I could. I was very careful not to get any extra moisture in or around the motor.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

The next part was fun, cleaning the blade in my bucket with a brush. It was simply satisfying.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

I did the same thing with the two grills, and the two plastic nuts. Again, domestic bliss.

How to Clean an Oscillating Fan

  • Canadrian

    Can't help but wonder how long it took to clean that $15 fan..... Good job though...


    I cleaned all of ours, one at a time, in front of TV shows!

  • Gin

    takes just a min...

  • Veronica

    and then you probably don't know the word recycling either, right???

  • anita

    actually dosnt take long at all 10 minutes max though if you have a few of them its a good rainy day project just plop in front of tv and go to town lol

  • Juliet

    It takes so long to clean a fan like this especially if it's a big one. I have cleaned several fans of my own, small and big. You need to take the front screen off, then turn the propeller to take off, then turn the one or two round rings that hold the whole thing, then you have to clean each thin wire on the screen and then each propeller part that makes the fan and dry all the parts then put them all back again. You can get a fan that you can just take off the front face of it to clean all inside... but then you have to be extra careful because the electric part is in front without any cover so you can't get that part wet and you you'll have to clean each cut ridge...Too much work. lol Just get a good air conditioner or be lucky enough to get central air.

  • linda


  • King David

    RULE #1 ---- UNPLUG DEVICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, it's obvious to some BUT NOT TO ALL!!! "LARRY THE LAWYER" would eat these "experts" for lunch!!! I'm only interested in safety so I said what I did.

  • Darlinkula

    The problem is that not all fans have protective covers that remove easily, it's a hassle to unscrew all those clips, I get a bottle cleaner and bend it a bit and just stick it through to clean the blades. Another tip for cleaning chandeliers is to hang an umbrella upside down below it, place light weight dish towels on it and spray the chrystals with window cleaner and let drip dry, it saves so much time rather than the time consuming task of removing each individual chrystal.

  • Laura

    I can't believe there's a need to instruct people how to do something this simple. As a whole, have we really become this stupid as to not be able to figure out a task such a disassembling a fan to clean it?

  • Lalath

    Not everyone is as brave or as smart as you. By being shown that it can be done and simply, others are encouraged to try.

  • sally

    Wow .. you aren't much of a teacher. Would hate to be YOUR kid.
    This is wonderful info and definitely something everyone should know
    how to do this time of year, even if you've never thought of trying to clean one.

  • David

    Laura is right, sorry but you dont have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to clean a fan....

  • Jeff

    Use your air compressor, takes about 30 seconds!

  • Janie

    Awesome idea, Jeff. I will try this, thanks!

  • Barbara

    That only works on light dust. Not on damp caked on dust as is on most when they need cleaning.

  • Poe

    The air compressor is the way to go...unless you don't have one. I agree with someone else that said, "Have we become so stupid these days that we need step by step instructions for fan cleaning???!"

  • Robert

    Compressor @ 120 PSI + Blow Gun Tip = NO dust (caked on or not) :-)
    I clean my 4 Fans every fall and spring with this method.
    Amazing at what comes flying out of them

  • Jamie

    OH sure..let me go buy one right now take the thing apat and clean it..sheesh

  • sheila

    I have a fan that I have had for about 20 years, I take it apart and clean it about 5 or 6 times a year and it run day and night in summer, night in winter. The newer ones I bought don't last no time.


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