When cleaning their homes, most homeowners dust, vacuum, sweep, and mop, but many neglect to regularly clean an important part of their home comfort: the AC drain line.
Although it may not seem like a problem, your AC drain line produces condensation and when your AC drain line is not cleaned regularly it can become a spawning ground for algae, mold, and other bacteria. These bacteria can build up and slowly clog your AC drain line over time, causing your AC system to function inefficiently, and if the clog gets big enough, to not work at all.
All central AC systems should have a device called a float switch that turns off the AC unit when the drain line fills with water and begins to leak. This switch’s primary function is to prevent water from overflowing and damaging floors or other parts of your home. Until that water clears, the system will not turn on.
When the excess condensation cannot escape through the drain, water can leak from the AC unit and cause substantial water damage to your home.
It’s best to have your entire AC system maintained regularly by a professional, but cleaning your AC drain line is a maintenance task you can easily do yourself.
Is Bleach or Vinegar Better for Your AC Drain Line?
We recommend using vinegar instead of a bleach solution because bleach can be harmful to your AC system if your drain line has copper tubing. Using vinegar will not damage your system.
Spilling bleach can also ruin carpet or clothing, whereas vinegar will just leave a strong odor.
How to Clean An AC Drain Line With Vinegar in 5 Steps
One of the most efficient ways to clean your AC drain line is by flushing it with vinegar. By pouring a cup of vinegar down your AC drain line you kill the algae, mold, and other bacteria that can build up and cause clogs.
- 1 cup of vinegar
- 1 cup of warm water (optional)
- Funnel (optional)
- Rags or washcloths
Follow these steps to quickly and safely clean your AC drain line.
Step 1. Turn off your air conditioner. Before doing any work, turn off your AC system at the thermostat and the breaker or disconnect/shut-off box to be safe.
Step 2. Locate the drain line. Your AC drain line is a white, T-shaped PVC tube that’s generally located inside a utility closet or your garage, but in some cases, it will be in the attic. Depending on your AC system, it might be hidden by a removable access panel.
Step 3. Remove the cap. There should be a white plastic cap on top of the PVC tube and you should be able to remove this by hand.
Step 4. Pour the vinegar and put the cap back on. Slowly pour a cup of vinegar down your AC drain line. Using a funnel here is optional and will reduce your chances of spilling the vinegar. Don’t forget to put the cap back on when you’re done.
Step 5. Wait 30 minutes to an hour before turning your AC back on. The vinegar will kill the bacteria, but it may take some time to work, especially if you have not cleaned your AC drain line recently or had a professional perform maintenance on your AC system.
Optional: You can pour a cup of warm water down your AC drain line to help flush out any bacteria build-up or to remove the vinegar odor.
How Often Should You Put Vinegar in Your Air Conditioner?
For the best results and to keep your AC drain line clear, you’ll want to repeat this cleaning routine monthly or at least every other month. This will eliminate any algae, mold, or other bacteria or sludge buildup in your AC drain line and prevent your drain line from clogging up.