How to Effectively Clean a Ceiling Fan

Tips for Cleaning a Ceiling FanYou sit down to rest for a moment before your guests arrive and your eyes travel up to the ceiling. There it is. Oh no! That ceiling fan is dirty and there is no getting around it; you are going to have to clean it. Ceiling fans are important in many households these days and popular too, providing both cooling and warming benefits, depending on the time of year. Many ceiling fans are designed like fine furniture and need to be cared for—not only for their good-looking appearance, but to maintain optimum operation. There are many ways to clean your ceiling fan, and we have some great ideas.

The ceiling fan moves the air in your home via blades, which may differ greatly in style but are remarkably similar in function. The blades essentially cut the air, making the fan move faster as it forces the air downward or upward. Considering all ceiling fans do, it is not a surprise they become dirty and need frequent cleaning. Some ceiling fans, such as remote-control ceiling fans, can be installed considerably out of reach of homeowners (think high-vaulted ceilings or in two-story homes), which can make cleaning them a real challenge. Fortunately, we have discovered several techniques and processes for cleaning these fans, and encourage you to find the one procedure to work best in your home.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Ceiling Fan

Dust and grease are predominant reasons for cleaning any type of household equipment. Ceiling fans gather far more than their fair share by virtue of being difficult to reach, in constant use and cutting through the air in your home. A build up of dust and grease on the blades can affect seasonal allergies and you may not even realize it. Seasonal allergies are triggered by substances in the air, and your body produces histamines to counteract the effect. It’s not difficult to imagine airborne allergens moving in a significant way by the blades of your ceiling fan.

In addition, dust and grease can decrease the effectiveness of your ceiling fan, which may cause an increase in your heating and cooling bills. Clean fan blades move air more efficiently.

How To Clean Fan Blades

Ways to Clean a Ceiling FanBelow are some favorite methods of cleaning ceiling fan blades. Recently, new tools have been invented to help with the process. No matter which method you choose, be sure to shut the fan off completely. And if you use a ladder, consider having a helper while following the safety rules and instructions included. Be sure to carefully clean the flat aspect of the fan blade, but also carefully wipe down the edges of the blade as well.

The Pillowcase Method

No, you are not going to put your pillow on the fan. All humor aside, this is an incredibly effective way to clean the fan. However, it does require you to be on a ladder tall enough to comfortably reach the fan. You simply place an old pillow case (flannel may work the best as it is kind of fuzzy and generally lint-free) on the fan blade and draw it towards you taking the dust with it. Twist the case closed to trap the dust, and hand it down to your helper who can step outside and give it a good shake.

You repeat this process for each blade in turn. This method works best for small ceiling fans with relatively short blades, because you have to balance yourself on the ladder the whole time you are cleaning. Because the case is dry, this idea is not as effective as some because it will not clean sticky grease, which can form on the blades.

Long-Handled Duster Method

While this can be messy as you will get the dust and dirt from the fan on your floor, it can be effective and doesn’t require a ladder. For this reason, this method may be best for outdoor ceiling fans. It has a drawback, however, as you cannot see exactly what it is you are cleaning and whether or not it has been cleaned to your satisfaction. However, there are now carefully designed duster heads, usually made of a microfiber type fabric, which cleans the top and the bottom of the blade at the same time.

Step Ladder and Damp Towel

This basic and common method removes both dust and the grime, which can form from grease in the air. Again, this works best on small fans with short blades such as a bedroom ceiling fan, but can work well on larger ones like a commercial ceiling fan, understanding you will have to step up and down off your ladder to reposition yourself as you move along the blades.

Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuum cleaners can help you clean your ceiling fan for sure, and suction captures all dirt and debris before it hits the floor. But, this is likely a two-person job and you may need a ladder or very strong arms. It takes a lot of strength and dexterity to guide a vacuum cleaner hose or wand along the ceiling fan blades. And, using this method does not allow you to see what is on top of the blades, unless you are on a ladder and can see where you are cleaning.

Dusting Sprays

You may have heard of dusting sprays, which work by applying ingredients, usually chemicals (although there are formulas for making your own) onto the surface and then wiping off with a soft cloth. There is also canned air spray cleaner for dust, but this may not be useful for large areas of fan blades. It can be quite messy as it just blows debris around. With this being said, the canned air spray can be quite useful to blow out dust and cobwebs from the intricate design work covering the motor of the ceiling fan. Unless you are a skilled person with mechanical knowledge, leave the cleaning of the actual motor itself to a professional.

Cleaning Light Fixtures

How to Clean a Light on a Ceiling FanCleaning the light fixtures on your ceiling fan can be more or less complicated depending on the design. Most have glass globes surrounding the light bulb, which can be removed by loosening a screw. You should have a helper stand by to retrieve the globes from you and then wash and dry them before they are replaced. This can really change the look of your fan. The dust and grease from the air tends to settle on the light fixtures and cleaning will help those lights really shine. Take time with the globes off to gently wipe off any dust collected on the lightbulb and replace any burnt-out bulbs.


There are many precautions to take when cleaning a ceiling fan. As mentioned in the first paragraph in the article, be sure the fan is off. Next, you may want to spread an old sheet or small tarp on the floor to trap any debris that falls. In addition, if you use a ladder, be sure to have a helper standing by and use the correct type of ladder for your situation. Always follow the industrial rules and instructions when using a ladder of any type or size. Use utmost caution when wiping or dusting the blades, as you must balance yourself on the ladder while doing the cleaning. You may want to think about using a two-sided ladder, which allows you to place one foot on each side of the ladder, enhancing your ability to maintain your balance.

Lastly, when cleaning your ceiling fan, don’t use any cleaners with a sticky residue, and don’t use harsh chemicals that may harm the finish of the blades. This will just make things worse and may cause more dirt and grime to form in the future. Be sure to use lint-free soft cloths, as these will not scratch or otherwise harm the surface of the blades and motor covers. You may not always have access to the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning your fan, but if you do, be sure to follow those guidelines.

How Often Should You Clean Your Ceiling Fan?

You should always clean your ceiling fan when the seasons change. Remember earlier when I mentioned the air flow of the fan can change from season to season? Most fans come with a switch installed (usually on or near the motor), which allows you to change the direction of the fan blades from clockwise to counter clockwise. This directs either the warmer heat from the ceiling in winter down to you, or reversing the direction allows cooler air from the floor to move down toward you to provide a cooling draft. Timing the cleaning like this can serve as an automatic reminder to you.

In addition, clean the fan more often if you have certain types of heat, such as wood heat, which produces its own particular type of dust and debris, but can also leave a gray film on the surfaces of the blades. You may wish to clean more often, perhaps monthly, if you live in a particularly dusty area, like farmlands or on dusty, gravel roads where generally more dirt sifts into your home. And, be sure to clean your fans before your guests arrive.


How to Use a Ceiling Fan Duster We have discussed several methods for cleaning your ceiling fan. You may want to try them all to find one you feel works the best for you. It seems as one reviews the list of techniques, the type of strategy used may depend on your environment, the type of heat you have, whether or not you have seasonal allergies and how often you are able to clean the fans. My favorites methods are the “pillowcase” for plain old dust and dirt, and the “step ladder and damp towel” for removing sticky greasy grime.

One thing to consider is calling in a professional if you have ceiling fans far beyond your reach. They usually have the equipment, expertise and experience to clean those fans quickly and easily for you.

Finally, enjoy your ceiling fan. They were designed to make life more comfortable in your home and have the capacity to not only look beautiful, but to provide efficient airflow in both summer and winter months, helping you stay cool or warm and can often help reduce heating and cooling costs. Clean fan blades are much more attractive and efficient, and it is possible to clean them fairly easily. It is important to remember the more often you clean them (say once a month, especially in winter), the easier it is to keep them clean.

One final word, a heating and cooling technician once told me to turn my ceiling fans off when no one was home. He said ceiling fans provide cooling and warmth for people, not the air. This will reduce your energy costs too!