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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

  • Sue

    I have a similar fan, except mine's on an extendable stand. A few year's ago, I lent mine to my brother, who's a heavy smoker. It came back to me filthy and covered with tar & nicotine. I put it in the garage, where it gathered even more dust and dirt (I think all that tar really, really attracts grime). Early this year, I brought it out to dry a painted wall, and decided I couldn't live with this filthy thing any longer. Just like the author of this article, I took it apart and cleaned it. I also felt a huge sense of satisfaction: my fan looked brand new. Sadly, some posters think the "work" put into thoroughly cleaning a fan is not worth it. I admit, when I was quite young I probably would have felt the same way. But I've grown up. People need to stop filling our landfills with perfectly good, useful items that simply need a little work or simply a good cleaning. Stop being so lazy, America! Also, stop littering!!

  • phalleyb

    Didn't see anything about a drop of lubricant into the drive shaft ... VERY important!

  • Nowyoutellme

    The author should have warned us to turn off the fan first before trying to clean it. Ouch!

  • donalee

    What's the big deal? I've been cleaning fans since I was a little kid.

  • Lj

    Great job, enjoyed the article and agree that people need to do this kind of thing more often. Can't help but point out though, that I don't think unloosened is a word. You either loosen something or you tighten it. The "un" shouldn't be on the word.

  • Richard

    Plug it in, turn it on and take it in the bath with you.

  • Dean

    Energy Savings: I've heard that this fan, the "the whole house exhaust fan" is a great energy saver.
    I read about the whole house exhaust fan in the super good book "Energy Diet" by Paul Schekel. It is available from Tamarack Industries--what have you heard?

    I also like Paul Schekel's ideas ideas about "occupant behavior" and energy efficiency.

  • Dan

    I just took my fan outside and hosed off the dust, grime, etc. Worked just dandy!

  • pat

    just did it, took off front grill only, wiped front and back blades and grills with dish soaped cloth, worked wonderfully!!!! 15 minutes wala....My fan now looks spanking new!!!

  • Mary

    I think it was very nice of the gentlemen to tell how to clean a fan, very helpful to those who don't know how! I've cleaned mine for years the same way except for that motor part. What I'm looking for now is the net cover I saw advertised somewhere to cover the fan to keep the dust out! If anyone knows where to get one, I'd appreciate knowing where. Thanks.

  • bill

    What's a fan for? Why don't they turn on the AC?

  • Susan

    Please. I have underwear dirtier than that fan.

  • Jan

    YOu would be surprised how many people don't know how to clean a Fan. The clip on mine I can't get to clip back on.

  • chaz

    I cleaned mine with one of those feather dusters and it only took a few minutes.

  • AVL14


  • Linda

    Thanks so much for the fan cleaning info. Have two in the same mess used when seriously ill for two years and nearly threw away. Now, I cannot wait to clean them up!

  • Gina

    Slow news day???? Did not even read the story just the comments. I mean really? I am with those who say are there really people out there who need fan blade cleaning instructions? I mean that is like a self explanatory type job, I monkey could figure that out.

  • Rosetta

    Throw it away and buy a new one. They are only twenty dollars today.

  • lisa


  • rox_in_my_head

    People need to be TOLD how to clean a fan? Are you kidding? You just disassemble it, wash the blades and the screening, let it dry and put it back together. I can't believe there are people who can't figure this out on their own.


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