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How to Clean a Bathroom Extractor Fan

cleaning bathroom extractor fan

Cleaning your bathroom extractor fan should not be skipped, because dirty extractor fans can become clogged with gunk. And a dirt build-up that restricts airflow means your fan will struggle to extract moist air and at the same time, putting extra strain on the motor.

Bathrooms are designed to get wet, but the steam from a hot shower or bath will create extreme levels of condensation, resulting in water working its way into the tiniest of places. Bathroom cabinets, mirrors, and other fixtures with metal components can develop rust. And high levels of moisture can cause anything made from wood to swell and crack.

Bottom line – a clean and working extractor fan in your bathroom is crucial.

You can clean the inside of the extractor fan by easily removing the cover to gain access, and then dusting – or vacuuming – and scrubbing the inside of the unit. You’ll need to turn the power off first, and make sure that you let the unit dry fully before putting it back together and using it again.

Why Should I Clean My Extractor Fan?

For an extractor fan to work efficiently, it needs to be able to freely draw out air from the bathroom to the outside of the building, and for this extraction process to work efficiently, it must have clear blades and clear vents.

Without these conditions, it will be unable to remove enough moisture from your bathroom, which can lead to problems with damaging condensation that can rush screws and split wood, and, cause black mould to grow. And of course, its ability to get rid of those nasty odours (you know who you are) will also be reduced.

You may also put your extractor fan under more stress, as the motor will have to work harder to keep turning the blades and vents are caked in dirt. This will burn the motor out more quickly, and result in a reduced lifespan for the unit – so it’s a good idea to get cleaning!

You ought to try and clean your bathroom extractor fan once every 3 – 6 months or so, depending on how much steam your bathroom is exposed to, as this will keep it operating in top condition and looking good.

Plus, no point in having a gleaming clean glass show screen, shinny white toilet bowl, and glistening tiles, only to have a filthy extract fan grill on the wall, ceiling, or window.

What Makes Extractor Fans Get Dirty?

You might be wondering where all that dirt even comes from since you keep your bathroom so clean. In fact, bathrooms are usually the cleanest rooms in the home. How do bathroom extractor fans get so filthy?

Although you may not see it, there is dust, hair, and other dirty particles floating around in the air. When these particles mix with the humid air and get sucked through the extractor vent, they stick together and gather into a mass. Over time, more and more of the sticky mess builds upon, around, and inside the van itself.

Also, it’s worth checking the extractor ducting and exterior vent cover, as the dirt can reach through the entire extractor vent system, and not just indoors.

As the room then dries up, the dust dries against the fan, and this dirt may not move when the fan starts up again – meaning it sticks and forms a gradual layer of residue.

How Should I Clean My Extractor Fan?

So, let’s get onto the cleaning. How do you start?

Step One: Cut The Power

The first and possibly most important step involves turning off the fan’s power. This should be done before you do anything else at all. Use the switch at the wall, or your circuit breaker, and double-check it’s off before moving to the next step.

Step Two: Remove The Cover

removing bathroom extractor cover

You can’t clean the fan with the cover in place over it, so next, you have to take the fan’s cover off. You should refer to your instruction manual, but this will usually involve unscrewing part of the fan and then lifting the cover off.

Some fans have spring clips or a slide function, so check the manual or study the fan to see how it unclips.

Once you have got the fan cover free, put it in some warm, soapy water and leave it to soak while you clean the rest of the fan. A good soak should loosen the dirt, making it easy to wipe away.

Depending on your grill/cover design, you may find that this is the dirtiest part. Grills with thin vents are more likely to clog and catch dirt, so make sure this is cleaned thoroughly.

Step Three: Vacuum The Dust

The easiest way to clean most of the dirt out of your extractor fan is to use a vacuum cleaner on it. Use one of the attachments to suck as much dust and debris as possible from inside it, turning the fan blades to disturb the dust.

Step Four: Wipe Down The Insides

wiping away dirt bathroom extractor fan blades

Next, get a warm damp, slightly soapy cloth (microfibre of other), sponge, or soft cleaning pad, and wipe down the insides. You can also take the fan apart further (consulting the manufacturer’s manual) or use a toothbrush or paintbrush to get into difficult-to-reach cracks and crevices.

Take pictures if you are going to disassemble bits of the fan so you know how to put them back together afterward!

Step Five: Scrub The Cover

Now that the cover has had time to soak, give it a good scrub. Use a toothbrush to get in all of the slats, and another cloth to wipe down and clean around the edges. Once the cover is clean, rinse it down to get any soap or remaining dirt off it.

Step Six: Dry Everything

Take a clean rag and dry the fan cover and the fan itself carefully. You may find that paper towels are good for getting into little cracks where the water may have built up. Their absorbency will help to pick up the water and get the fan dry quickly.

Once you have got it as dry as you can with clothes, allow a few hours so that it can fully air dry.

Step Seven: Reassemble The Fan

When the fan is dry, put it all back together, referring to your manual if necessary. Once the screws are in or the clips back in place, the job is done and you can resume normal use of your fan.


Cleaning your extractor fan is not hard, and you only ever need to deep clean it once every 3 months. A routine clean helps to make your bathroom more hygienic and ensures that it is keeping your bathroom as dry as possible.

This will help increase the lifespan of your fan’s motor, reduce damage to anything in your bathroom that’s vulnerable to excessive water, keep bad smells away, and of course, reduce the chance of mould growth.

Don’t neglect this simple yet crucial chore – get it done!

Next: How to Replace a Bathroom Extractor Fan – [Fitting Guide]