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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

  • Vick  Wilform

    since we are on the topic of fans, can anyone tell me the correct direction a ceiling fan should turn in summer, clockwise or counterclockwise?

  • LindaMom

    We have our ceiling fan pull up in the summer months. Our fan moves air in the entire house for us, as it is positioned at the top of the staircase of our bi-level home.

  • Angela


  • tony

    Easiest way to remember. In summer you want to feel a breeze.

  • LilyRose

    Clockwise in the northern hemisphere, counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere.

  • Dan

    That depends on which way the blades tilt! If U feel a breeze, it's turning the right way.

  • Dale Horn

    Vick, simple..... set fan switch to one settting and on high. Take a single ply (regular will work) toilet paper torn in half. Hold just below fan. If it blows down, air is being taken from ceiling and blowing DOWN into room (Winter). Reverse switch, and repeat. T.P. should go up toward fan indicated fan is sucking air up to ceiling. (Summer)

  • Richard Milton

    Clockwise in the winter.

  • Laura

    Try counter-clockwise

  • pragmatica

    Vick - A ceiling fan should turn counterclockwise in summer. I call it Summer Seas (summer cc) to remember it.

  • czerny

    I can't tell you offhand which direction the fan should be set, but hot air rises so in winter the fan should blow the heated air down and in summer it should pull the hot air up to cool the room. Hope that helps.

  • Maureen

    Unless you live in the south, and all your vents are on the ceiling.

  • Greg

    Yes, hot air goes to the ceiling. But a fan just stirs the air ... in the winter you should have the fan blow up so the warm air at the ceiling is mixed back into the room but you don't feel the breeze. In the summer it should blow down so the breeze can be felt. Normally, if the switch on the side of the fan is up the fan will blow up and down on the switch blows the air down.

  • angelspalmsc

    how would anyone NOT see how to clean the fan???

  • itsthecathy

    A much shorter way to do this than soaking it....I use Goo-Gone and a paper towel. It just takes a minute and I'm finished.

  • Elizabeth Orndorff

    Endust one way. Bounce used to dry clothes, another.

  • r

    you take some water and a cloth and clean it, dumb story

  • Jeff

    Barbara's right the air compressor won't work for serious caked on dust. If you can remove the blades and they are non-metallic, I would soak them and scrub them in the sink or just pop them in the dishwasher like a plate, if they'll fit ok.

  • Jeff

    Laura, you are so right. Being a Mechanical Engineer and lifelong gearhead, it amazes me how many people can't handle pretty straightforward maintenance tasks around the home. I'm constantly showing my adult children how to do things for themselves. You can really save a lot of money with a basic set of tools. The best way to get started is buy a few DIY books for the home and appliances or get them from the library. Then start simple and just give it a try! You'll be surprised what you can do on your own. We really need to get back to more self-sufficiency and less reliance on others (including the government). We all save money in the longrun!!

  • Lori

    i unplug mine and run hot water from the tub thru it and shake out excess water and dry all the way thru


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