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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

  • froogle1

    That would be too much work for me. I just take the vac hose and vac off dust; spray it with mildew spray; turn the fan on and wait til it dries/ then spray the motor with WD-40. Works for me ..

  • joe

    HOT air rises while cooler air stays lower. In summertime you would want to pull more warm air up, NOT push it back down. Also, a fan placed in front of an air conditioner will help circulate your cool air faster. TRY IT !

  • darryl

    Canadrian, Can't believe how long it takes to leave a comment of a DIRTY FAN, About the same LOL

  • Margaret

    My comment is this. Why didn't you mention to put drop of oil in the motor to keep it running if it is an old fan. Mine works wonderfully after the oil job. Must admit my cleaning is a good dusting and nothing like your detail. More power to you.

  • Lassie

    If the fan screen has little clips holding it on, what kind of brainpower do you need to think, "hey, I can take the fan screen off, clean it all, and clip the screen back on"? Jeez, they'll be putting instructions on toilet paper next. .... The problem with a fan I have is, there are no clips to remove the screen. It seems to be all one piece, front screen and back. I suppose I could get a screwdriver and try to pry it off, but would I be able to get it back on?? Maybe stick a pipe cleaner in there to catch the bigger dust bunnies? Well, if it breaks, I'll just toss it away into a landfill like some morons here with a spare $20 in their pockets are going to do. After all, new things are nice to have, and that 10-15 minutes spent cleaning the old fan? I'd rather do something FUN.

  • grace

    i clean my fans every week it helps the fans blow more freely plus it gives it a new reowned life, i think every one should know how to do it, a compresser works well if your blades are cleaned but if you have pets and you have a dirt drive way take the fan apart clean it take ur compresser and blow out the back that helps the backing but not the blade.

  • Nano

    I use my leaf blower on the high setting, outside of course! This is for my small portable fans of course. Don't forget the blades on the ceiling fans, they pick up lots of dirt too.

  • Michael J. McFadden

    IMPORTANT: Something to be careful of with old fans:

    When a fan hits the stage where the blades won't turn without several minutes of manual coaxing to loosen up the old dried out lubrication/whatever, and then runs with a funny noise... DUMP THE FAN.

    I had a window fan like that once that had been gasping for well over a year. One day after a particularly long warm-up coaxing period it began running normally and then a few minutes later it practically blew up! Loud noise, a foot-long gout of blue flame shooting out in front of it for several seconds. Scary. Fortunately there wasn't anything flammable nearby. I actually forget at the moment whether it blew a fuse, but it was definitely a dangerous situation.

    - MJM

  • Erika

    How many people actually try to wash a fan? Using water one one you have to be careful with it

  • ComeOnNow

    Truly, I can NOT believe that there is 4 pages of comments about how to clean a fan!

  • fred harris

    The first step should have been: "Disconnect fan from power source" or "Remove plug from the wall." Other than that, a useful article.

  • George

    Someone named KATHY wrote this article. By studying the picture above, she must have used her husband to do the dirty work......or.......Kathy has "man" hands.


    I spray my fan when un assembled with scrubbing bubbles....then soak it in water it all cleans itself!

  • 73 Comments / 4 Pages

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