How to Clean and Maintain a Kitchen Exhaust Fan

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  • 3-5 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30-60
What You'll Need
Boiling water
Rubber gloves
Breathing mask
Scrub brush
Trisodium phosphate cleaner
Baking soda
Paper towels

Kitchen exhaust fans do a great job of removing steam and smells from the kitchen when you are cooking. But, like everything else, they need to be cleaned and maintained. Grease and grime can build up and will need to be removed. If you neglect to clean it, it's possible it could contribute to a grease fire in the kitchen, so give your kitchen fan some regular care and avoid creating bigger problems.

TIP: You'll need rubber gloves and a face mask for most of these steps, because you'll be working with chemical cleaners you really don't want to touch or inhale.

Step 1 - Remove the Filter

Start by unplugging the fan or turning off the appropriate circuit at the breaker box. You’ll need to open the kitchen windows to give good circulation of air as well. Then, remove the mesh filters, put them in the sink, and pour boiling water over them. This will loosen the grease.

Step 2 - Clean the Filter

To help remove the maximum amount of grease, remove the mesh filters from their frames and soak in a mix of one gallon of water to half a cup of ammonia for an hour. After this time, put on the rubber gloves and mask, remove the filter, and scrub hard to complete the cleaning. Soak the frames and scrub them clean as well before leaving them to dry.

Step 3 - Clean the Fan

man replacing filter on kitchen exhaust fan

It’s not just the filter that accumulates grease, as the fan blades do as well. To start, use the trisodium phosphate cleaner (wear your mask when using this). If you don’t want to use such an intense chemical, mix up one quart of warm water, two tablespoons of baking soda, and 1/4 cup of ammonia instead. Working from the back, scrub the fan housing and the fan blades. You’ll need to keep drying the areas you’ve completed with paper towels. Be prepared to make a little mess during this process.

If the kitchen exhaust fan hasn’t been cleaned in a while, you’ll need to repeat this process several times in order to get rid of all the grease. Keep going until the fan and the housings are completely clean, otherwise the grease and dirt will simply build up again very quickly. Expect it to be a long and tiring job since accessing all the areas you need to clean can be awkward. Also, keep replacing the cleaner so you continually have it strong and fresh. When you’ve finished, allow the area to dry.

Replace the mesh filters in their frames and put them back into the kitchen exhaust fan. Then, turn the circuit breaker back on.

Step 4 - Maintain

You should give the kitchen exhaust fan a full cleaning annually. However, to keep it working well, you will need to maintain it regularly as well. This doesn’t need to be a major cleaning project, but you do need to clean the filters at least once every three months.

Take them out and soak them for an hour in the ammonia and water solution before scrubbing to remove all the grease that has accumulated. Allow them dry before you re-assemble the filters and put them back in the kitchen exhaust fan. This will ensure the fan works at maximum efficiency and keeps your kitchen smelling great.