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How often you should clean a ceiling fan — and the right way to do it

Ceiling fans are great for cooling down a room, but they also gather dust like crazy. Here are pro tips to keep them clean without getting dust everywhere.
by Karen B. Gibbs / / Source: TODAY

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Summertime and ceiling fans go hand-in-hand. The hotter the days, the longer the fans run — and the more that dust collects on the edges of the blades.

Unless you want clumps to fling around every time you turn it on, you need to start dusting those blades! Cleaning guru Bob Vila suggests dusting them every week and offers two options in how to do so.

Ceiling fan
OllyPlu / Shutterstock / OllyPlu

How to clean ceiling fans without a ladder

1. The easiest method is to use an extendable fan blade duster. It slips over each blade and cleans both sides at the same time. Such dusters attach to poles and usually cost around $15.

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Microfiber Dusting Set, $20, Amazon

MIcrofiber duster

How to clean ceiling fans without making a mess

2. The other method involves climbing a ladder. It’s harder, but you can take care of several chores while you’re up there: the blades, the motor, the fan’s direction, light bulbs and glass shades. But of those, the only chore you need to do weekly is dust. The others can be done two or three times a year, or as needed. Here's what to do:

  • Before turning off the fan, notice if it’s spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise. If you haven’t done so already, switch the direction the fan spins to accommodate the season. Clockwise warms a room; counter-clockwise cools it. (The more you know!)
  • Slip a pillow case over the blade, then use the case to wipe the dust off the sides, top and bottom. That way, all the dust stays on the pillow case — instead of going everywhere! Repeat for each blade and remember to press lightly or you’ll damage the blade. (When you’ve come down from the ladder, take the pillow case outside, turn it inside-out and give it a good shake so that the dust comes off on the lawn instead of your floor. Then simply launder as usual.) To reduce future dust build-up, Vila recommends using a dust-repelling spray like Endust (or a DIY version: one part liquid fabric softener to four parts water). Spray it on a microfiber cloth and wipe both sides of the blade.
  • Motor: Wipe the pull chain and the motor housing with a clean cloth. Spray motor housing with compressed air to remove interior dust.
  • Light bulbs: Change light bulbs as needed. If bulbs are still working, wipe them with a dry microfiber cloth to remove dust. According to cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper, author of "Cleaning Plain and Simple," a clean bulb shines at least 20 percent brighter than a dirty one.
  • Glass globe or shades: Remove and wash in warm, soapy water. Rinse and dry completely before replacing. Make sure the mounting screws are tight so the glass won’t rattle or shake while the fan is on.

For extremely dirty blades or kitchen fan blades that are caked with grease, wipe with a damp cloth first to remove dust and dirt. Then apply an all-purpose cleaner, or whatever cleaner is recommended by the fan manufacturer, to a sponge or cloth and wipe each blade to remove grease. Rinse cloth after cleaning each blade and repeat as needed. Then wipe each blade dry.

Now you can enjoy the fresh, clean air without a second thought.

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