Does Your Air Conditioner Smell Like Feet?




Introduction: Does Your Air Conditioner Smell Like Feet?

About: I yam what I yam.

Are you finding the smell your air conditioner makes worse then dealing with the heat? Don't fret, you probably have a cheap air conditioner that needs a cleaning and slight modification. The air conditioner you have is probably not suited for the environment you live in. A unit that uses evaporative cooling is not much help to you if there is excessive humidity. The water it accumulates is warmed by the coils and can breed mold in the air conditioning unit. Mold and rotting debris will lead to the smell and can also pose a health risk. If you are feeling sick after using an air conditioner, mold could be the reason!

This instructable will walk you through basic cleaning and modification of a small Arctic King. The process will be similar for any model of air conditioner.

Step 1: Tools

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Cotton swabs
  • Paper towels
  • Used tooth brush
  • Hammer
  • Punch
  • Dril
  • Drill bits (For drilling Metal)
  • Bleach
  • Rust inhibitor (optional)

Step 2: Disassemble the Air Conditioner

  1. Unplug the air condtioner and remove it from the window if it is already installed.
    • Note: When handling an air conditioner be very cautious to not touch the fins. Pressing down the fins at the back of the air conditioner will decrease it's efficiency.
  2. Remove the accordian side pieces
    1. Slide the accordian piece all the way to the side until it comes out of the track (mine has the track on the bottom)
    2. Once the accordian is all the way to the side and out of the track it will be free to slide up and release from the main unit.
    3. Other models may have screws holding the accordian piece on.
  3. Next you will need to remove the screws holding the covers on the Air conditioner. This is fairly simple for the model in this instructable. You simply need to remove all the visible screws on the top, back and sides of the air conditioner. Pay attention to the type of screw you are removing. Some screws may be different types or different lengths. You will need to return them to the holes they were removed from. If you need to, take pictures of the screw next to the hole it goes into. You can reference the pictures to reassemble your air conditioner.
  4. Note: The image of the back of the air conditioner already has some screws removed.

Step 3: Clean the Air Conditioner

  1. The first step is to remove all the collected debris inside the air conditioner.
  2. The level of cleaning you wish to do is up to you. If you do not mind taking things apart then remove more screws and components so you may clean around them.
    1. Use the long stem cotton swabs to remove junk in tight places.
    2. Wipe out all the areas with paper towels
    3. Soak up all the remaining water with the paper towels.
    4. Note: You could use old rags or material if you have it. I think the paper towels are easier though.
  3. Clean off all the fins of the air conditioner with the tooth brush. Move the tooth brush in the same direction that the fins go, do not move it perpendicular to the fins.
  4. If you noticed a lot of the fins are pushed down, take this opportunity to put them in the proper position. This can often be done with a finger nail or running a knife between the fins. The efficiency of your air conditioner will be improved if you fix fins that are pushed flat.
  5. If there was mold in your air conditioner you may want to wipe the interior surfaces with bleach. Do not do this in excess! Too much bleach will result in your room smelling like an indoor swimming pool for a day or two.

Step 4: Modify the Air Conditioner

We are going to add what the manufacturer left out, weep holes! ! Buyer beware! Big box stores will gladly sell you an air conditioner not suited for your region

Anyway, Let's get to it.

  1. Place the unit upside down. I marked the underside with "inside" and "outside" for your reference.
  2. Determine the low spots where water may accumulate.
  3. Mark where you want your weep holes. I marked 8 spots where I wanted to put holes. Be sure all the holes will be on the outside of the window and not inside the room.
    1. VERY IMPORTANT: Be absolutely certain that you will not be drilling into any critical component of the air conditioner. One puncture of the coils and the air conditioner will be useless!
  4. Making the weep holes.
    1. At each of the marked locations use your punch to indent the metal slightly. This will prevent your bit from moving around when you attempt to drill the hole.
    2. I drilled the holes by using a small diameter bit followed by a large diameter bit.
      • Note 1: Do not chose a diameter that will allow insects(wasps and other nest builders) to go into your air conditioner. If you have it off and installed for a while insects may be attracted to building a nest in there.
      • Note 2: there are a few holes I have drilled on this particular unit that you must be extremely careful making.
        1. The back corner holes are near the coils. Drill these holes on a slight angle facing towards the side of the air conditioner so the bit goes away from the coils.
        2. At the bottom center of the air conditioner I drilled 2 holes through the metal into the round plastic piece surrounding the fan. This way water will not sit underneath the fan in the plastic. If you do this, be very careful that you do not drill into the fan blade ring and brake it. This ring is probably there to fling water on to the back coils to improve efficiency. There is only an efficiency benefit in low humidity environments where evaporative coolong works best. in high humidity environments the water is warmed and creates a bath for mold to grow in.
    3. Clean up the excess metal around the drill holes.
  5. Recommended optional step
    1. Paint each of the holes with a rust inhibitor.
    2. I chose not to do this. I figure if it rusts it will just mean I just have bigger weep holes. :)

Step 5: Test the Air Conditioner If You Had Removed Interior Parts. (optional)

  1. Assemble any mechanical or electrical components you may have taken apart.
  2. Make sure your body parts are away from the Air conditioner and briefly test it to make sure all the internal parts are properly installed and the air conditioner is working. You don't want to close up the air conditioner to find out something is out of alignment or disconnected. No use making extra work for yourself!

Step 6: Reassemble the Air Conditioner.

  1. Place the back and front cover on the air conditioner.
  2. Return the correct type of screw to the holes they were removed from.
  3. Reinstall the air conditioner in the window and enjoy cool air that does not smell like feet.



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    8 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Great info. I fight mold in Humid FL. Try Mold Control by Concobium instead of bleach. It makes a hard shell around the mold after killing it. even dead (bleached) mold spores can make people sick. It helps prevent mold on surfaces previously sprayed and allowed to air dry.

    Not exactly the best thing to do. Before you do this to your window unit read the literature that comes with the unit. Many of these small window units use the water in the pan as part of its working cycle, the fan splashes it onto the coils making the unit much more efficient. I'm not sure draining the water will harm the unit, but it will use more energy to achieve the cooling set point.

    2 replies

    As I thought about it more, I suspect this design is only good for low humidity environments. Where I am at we've been having 50% ,60% or more humidity. Flipping water onto the back coil will actuall exacerbate the mold problem. Less effective evaporative cooling will result in the water on the coil being warmed and running into a collection area. Now there is a nice warm bath for mold to grow in. My guess is that this design really only shows an improvement in efficiency if the humidity is low.

    it really is a horrible design. Engineers appearently don't consider biology. As it was, the air conditioner was useless to me. I would clean it and a few days later I would get headaches from the mold spore. This was a last attempt before getting rid of it. I usually only tend to use the air conditioner on humid days so the accumulation of water was excessive. I have not had a problem with the smell or it causing me headaches since I did this.

    So smart of you, now I'm going to have to check my 3 little window units. :>) lol. Thanks for sharing this tip!

    1 reply

    Thanks. It was either this or trash it. The mold growth had made the unit worthless to me.


    1 year ago

    Most small air conditioners are designed to have an accumulation of water in the outside fan area. The fan is supposed to flip the water up onto the outside evaporator coil. This is supposed to aid in the efficiency of its cooling. What I do it add a little bleach to the catch tray in the front every few weeks and this tends to keep the algae/scum growth down to a dull roar. I've also been forced to drill drain holes also but normally you can avoid it by making sure the unit tilts more towards the rear.

    1 reply

    I tried tilting it but that didn't help. I will know in the future to never get this type of air conditioner. Bleach would probably work but it seems silly to have to do that all the time. Maybe there should be a little place to open and pour it in. I'd probably end up ruining my carpet with bleach at some point. :) I'm happy with how it has been working since modifying it. It really was useless to me before.