Plum rains won’t last forever and when they’re gone, it’s time for the Big Hot. You’re going to need your air conditioner operating at peak efficiency if you want to survive.

When was the last time you cleaned your AC unit? Not the filters. Those are easy; just pull them out and run them under the shower head. When was the last time you cleaned the insides? The guts of it.

You could just get a garden hose and wreak absolute havoc on your living room, or you can hire a professional.

Here’s how to do the latter!

Wait, why do I need to clean my AC unit?

Improved efficiency! Better indoor air quality! Lower electricity bills, because the unit doesn’t have to work as hard! That sense of satisfaction when you do something good and responsible!

Getting a Professional Air Conditioning Cleaner

Taobao. You can get everything under the sun on Taobao, including dozens of handyman services. Base your decision on cost and the number of purchases and good reviews.

We went with a Suning service that offered full cleaning of two units for 165rmb. No shipping fee, because nothing’s being shipped, except a man in a yellow shirt!

Put the item in the basket and order it the way your normally would. Once it has been accepted, you’ll be contacted by the handyman directly, probably via SMS. Antiquated, but you can use it to get their WeChat ID. The extent of the Chinese you’ll need is “date” and “time,” or, in my case, “my equipment is broken, can we reschedule for tomorrow morning.”

We sure can, AC man!

If, instead of SMSing, they try and call you, just hang up and text the number. If you get robo-calls from Suning, just hang up, they’ll text you and you can respond that way.

That’s just good advice in general.

The Experience

The handyman will appear at the door carrying two large bags. One contains rags, pipes and the mini-gashood they set up around the AC unit. The other is a 15 kilo nuclear football-looking briefcase that provides the heat and pressure for the cleaning wand.

Each unit takes about 20 minutes to clean. First they’ll remove the filters; these are the plastic mesh nets that sit under the hood of the AC unit and filter out bigger particles of dust and so on. You can (and should) wash these yourself just by running them under water and leaving them to dry. You should do this every two weeks.

I hadn’t done it in about, oh, three years, so the difference was pretty dramatic.

As your filters are drying, the handyman will wrap a plastic hood around the air conditioning unit with a draining pipe to catch the dirt and cleaning water.

They’ll do a little bit of cleaning with just a regular brush, but the highlight of the operation is when they get high-pressure wand out and fire super-heated (130 degrees) water vapor into the interior of the machine.

The black gunk that comes oozing out will haunt your nightmares for days to come. Water is drawn from a small bucket which the handyman fills from your sink, and drained away into a separate bucket. The handyman will throw the waste water out wherever you ask them to dispose of the evidence of your negligence.

The handyman wipes down the surfaces, reinstalls the filters and closes the unit. Boom.

The Take-Away

Forty-ish minutes to clean two air conditioning units. It went by very quick. Combined with the time it took to set up the equipment, pack up and wipe things down, the Suning AC man was in and out in under an hour. They’d have to be, since they apparently do ten units per day.

The AC unit, which had been sputtering and coughing for weeks, worked a dream. Without four or five years of gunk and dirt build-up — so much gunk, so much dirt — putting stress on the system, it now produces ice-cold, gale-force winds.


A couple of suggestions from my experience

If your AC unit hangs over or next to something delicate (like a bookshelf), I’d suggest preparing a cloth or plastic cover to keep it safe from any dripping water. The hood catches almost everything.

Prepare a chair or a step ladder, as the handyman does not bring one with them.


Here’s the Suning service we used, but you can find dozens of other options by searching qing xi kong tiao fu wu (清洗空调服务).

Looking for more cleaning services? Check out the in our Directory.