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How to Keep a Clean Air Conditioner Drain Line

Updated: Mar 24


How To Optimize Your Air Conditioner

There are two things homeowners care about when it comes to air conditioning in the hot and humid months. Cold air and clean air. Both can be achieved through two actions: maintenance and prevention.



Keep it Clean & Keep it Cool! - Prevent Drain Line Clogs


As your air conditioner ages, the drain line can build up debris and molds. Unwanted and/or harmful elements need to be purged from the drain line. To keep cold and clean breathable air flowing properly, you can take these simple steps to clean your air conditioner drain line and prevent clogs.


4 Steps to Prevent Clogs & Ensure Healthy Air Flow


  • Drain Line Cleaning

All you need to clean your air conditioner drain line is a simple vinegar solution. You can also flush it with warm water. Do this every three months. (We do not recommend bleach as it can be too harsh for plastic pipes.)

  • Quality Air Filters

Don't skimp on air filters. The most important thing is to successfully clean the air you and your family breathe every day. A good quality air filter will help keep your drain lines free of dust build up and other unwanted elements. Plan to change your air filters regularly (about every three months) unless you have smokers and/or pets. In that case, we recommend you change them more frequently.


  • Annual Checkup & Cleaning

In addition to a routine flushing of your air conditioner drain line, we recommend an annual checkup and cleaning. You can do this more often if you are in a high temp area or you run your unit often. Be sure to include the fan motor, blades and coils along with the drain line.


  • Regular Maintenance

Routine prevention and maintenance on your air conditioning unit will ensure cold clean air. It will also save you time and expense caused by clogs, leaks or unhealthy build up left unchecked over time. The best way to protect the life span of your air conditioner is to follow these simple prevention and maintenance steps.


Drain Lines 101


The purpose of an air conditioner drain line is to remove the condensation that the evaporator coil produces by expelling it outside the house. (An air conditioner works by pulling moisture from the air.) When an air conditioner's drain line gets clogged, water overflows into the condensate pan, which can then damage your air conditioner unit and even your home.


Air conditioner drain lines can become a breeding ground for molds to thrive. This is why regular maintenance is important. Algae, bacteria and sludge can accumulate inside the drain line, as well as wet clumps of dust or dirt clods in the outdoor end of the line. If the unit has been dormant for a period of time, you may also discover insects have taken up residence in the drain line.



If buildup causes blockage, water may no longer be able to pass through the drain line. This is a main reason for water backup into the condensate pan which can cause leaks. Clogs can also cause raised levels of humidity and dank odor coming from your air conditioning unit.



The following steps will help alleviate your drain line issues and get your air conditioning unit back to work keeping you cool!

How To Clean an Air Conditioner Drain Line


One of the most effective ways to clean your air conditioner's drain line is with a simple household product. You'll need about 1/4 cup of vinegar once a month to rid your drain line of unwanted buildup. Vinegar will prevent buildup and kill molds and bacteria.

  • First, turn off your air conditioner. Shut down the thermostat and flip the lever of your breaker to the “off” position.


  • Identify your air conditioner drain line location. The air conditioner drain line outside the house should be attached to the wall, near the condenser unit. Look for the inch-long PVC pipe (typically white, gray or black in color.) Follow this pipe to the end where it drains all the water.


  • Once you have identified the drain line, look for the access point. Most drain lines have T-shaped tees with a cap or cover. Remove the cap and look for the blockage. If it is visible, you can take it out manually (with protective gloves.)


  • To clean/clear your air conditioner drain line with vinegar, it will take about 30 minutes (leave in longer if necessary.) Distilled white vinegar (if you have it) has increased acidity making it better for cleaning buildups. Start pouring the vinegar inside.


  • Next, flush out the pipe with water. After rinsing, check if the clogs are gone and everything is flowing freely. Lastly, do a final check by having someone stand outside the house to see if water is draining out of the air conditioner drain line. (This process is recommended every 30-90 days.)


  • An alternate method is to use a wet/dry vacuum to clear the drain. You'll need to remove the paper filter in the vacuum to avoid ruining it. Hold the hose to the end of the drain line and plug the gap using a rag or duct tape. Turn on the vacuum for 2-3 minutes, then turn it off. This will be enough to suck out any debris and unclog the drain.


Now you know how to clean and clear your air conditioner drain line. Prevention and maintenance go a long way in keeping it clean and keeping you cool!




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