How to Clean a Dusty Bathroom Fan

A clean bathroom fan on the ceiling

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 20 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 30 - 45 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

The bathroom fan is underappreciated and often overlooked until it begins to sound like an airplane taking off or mildew begins to grow in the shower. An essential tool in fighting mold growth by removing excess moisture and venting odors from the bathroom, the fan draws air into the unit and expels it through a vent to the outside.

Learn how to clean your dusty bathroom fan the right way to keep it quiet and working properly.

How Often to Clean a Dusty Bathroom Fan

If the bathroom is used daily, clean the fan thoroughly every six months. Use an electrostatic duster with an extendable handle to dust the exterior of the fan every month. Infrequently used guest bathroom fans usually need just a yearly cleaning.

Before You Begin

If you still have the installation or user manual for your unit, take a few minutes to read the cleaning instructions or look the unit up online, especially if the fan has other components like a light or music speaker.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 stepladder
  • 1 screwdriver (optional)
  • 1 electrostatic duster with expandable handle
  • 1 large sink or tub
  • 1 microfiber cloth
  • 1 terry cloth towel
  • 1 vacuum with hose and crevice attachment
  • 1 flashlight
  • 1 sponge


  • 1 container all-purpose household cleaner
  • 1 disposable electrostatic duster (optional)


Materials needed to clean a dusty bathroom fan

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Clean a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

  1. Turn Off the Electrical Breaker

    To prevent accidental shocks, turn the fan's operating switch off and turn off the electrical breaker to the bathroom. If you aren't able to turn off the breaker (for example, if you live in an apartment) then avoid doing this task for safety reasons. Another option is to use a voltmeter to check for live current.


    Unless the bathroom has plenty of natural light, have a flashlight handy.

    Switching off the breaker to the fan

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Use a Sturdy Stepladder

    Do not attempt to reach the bathroom fan with a chair or by standing on the toilet or tub. Use a sturdy stepladder. If the fan is directly over the shower stall or tub, make sure the floor is dry. You may wish to protect the finish with a rubber mat under the stepladder.

    Using a steady stepladder

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Remove Exterior Dust

    Use an electrostatic duster or a vacuum with a hose and crevice tool to remove the visible dust and cobwebs on the exterior of the fan grid.

    Vacuuming the outside of a bathroom fan

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. Remove the Exterior Fan Cover

    For some models, you may need to use a screwdriver to remove the cover. Most covers have latches to depress on the sides and then gently pull it away from the ceiling or wall.

    Removing the fan cover

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  5. Unplug the Fan

    Once the cover is removed, you'll see the motor and blades of the unit. Most fans are plugged into an outlet, so, for safety, unplug it before cleaning the blades and the surrounding recessed housing.

    Unplugging the fan

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  6. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Fill a sink or bucket with warm water and, following the label recommendations, add the recommended amount of an all-purpose household cleaner.

    Mixing a cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  7. Soak and Clean the Vent Cover

    Submerge the vent cover and let it soak to remove the buildup of dust, hairspray, and grime while you clean the rest of the unit. After about 10 minutes, use a microfiber cloth or sponge to wipe it clean and then rinse in warm water. Place the cover on an absorbent towel and allow it to air-dry.

    Soaking the bathroom fan cover

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  8. Clean the Motor Housing and Blades

    If possible, remove the fan unit from the recessed housing. Most models will come out with just a few twists. Lightly dampen a sponge or microfiber cloth with water and wipe away dust from the blades and motor. Use a light touch to make sure you don't bend the blades. If the fan cannot be removed from the housing, use a damp cloth, vacuum, or an electrostatic duster to remove as much dust as possible.

    Cleaning the housing components

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  9. Vacuum or Dust the Recessed Housing

    The recessed housing and brackets that hold the fan in place can trap dust and insects in the corners. Use a duster or the crevice tool of the vacuum to remove as much debris as possible.

    Dusting the interior of the bathroom fan

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  10. Replace the Fan Components

    Once the interior components are clean and dry, place the fan back into the housing by screwing it in or reconnecting it to the brackets. If needed, plug the fan into the outlet. Turn the blades with your fingers a few times to be sure they are not hitting any part of the housing. Snap or screw the cover back in place.

    Replacing the fan cover

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  11. Turn On the Fan

    Turn the bathroom electrical breaker back on and turn on the bathroom fan switch. If you hear clicking, the fan blades may need to be adjusted slightly. Be sure to follow safety procedures when readjusting the blades.

    Turning the bathroom fan back on

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Tips to Keep Your Bathroom Fan Clean Longer

  • Keep the exterior cover dust-free by dusting at least monthly with an electrostatic duster.
  • Turn on and check the fan regularly to keep components in good working order.
  • Reduce the number of airborne propellants like hair spray and some types of air fresheners in the bathroom that can coat the cover and blades.