How Do I Clean a Bathroom Ceiling Exhaust Fan?

Updated February 21, 2017

A bathroom ceiling exhaust fan pulls warm, moist air and dust, dirt or other particles from the bathroom and vents the air outside to make the bathroom inhospitable to harmful mould or other microorganisms that grow in wet, moist environments. Over time, the fan blade assembly and motor, exhaust vent and light fixture, if applicable, accumulate a layer of loose and oily debris. This not only reduces the fan's efficiency, but also promotes the growth of mould--and poses the risk of fire. Clean the fan and vent at least once monthly to prevent build-up.

Flip the bathroom ceiling exhaust fan breaker switch in your circuit breaker box so that no electricity flows to the fan and/or attached light.

Set up a step stool or ladder near the vent and then step up on the stool or ladder carefully. If you’re dealing with a high ceiling, ask someone to hold the ladder to stabilise it while you work.

Pull down on the ceiling exhaust grille and/or light cover and unhook it from inside of the vent, or unscrew it from the ceiling. Set it aside. Unscrew the light bulb from the socket, if applicable, and set it aside. Unscrew the light assembly from the vent and set it aside.

Attach a crevice or brush tool to the end of your vacuum hose. Vacuum the exhaust grille and/or light cover, the fan blade assembly and motor, and the walls of the vent to remove dust, dirt and other debris.

Wipe the fan blades and the vent walls with a soapy cloth or undiluted distilled white vinegar to remove the loose and oily debris. Rinse your cloth and repeat with additional detergent and water or vinegar as needed until you've removed all of the grime. When finished, rinse the areas with a fresh, damp cloth and then wipe dry.

Repeat the cleaning and rinsing process with the exhaust grille and/or light cover. When finished, wipe the exhaust grille and/or light cover completely dry and set the piece aside. Clean the light bulb and light assembly, if applicable, with a dry, soft cloth. Screw the assembly back into the vent and the light bulb back into its socket.

Reattach the exhaust grille and/or light cover to the vent. Flip the breaker switch back on. Flip the fan and/or light switch to confirm that the fan and/or light are working.


Hire a professional vent cleaner to inspect and clean the exhaust fan and vent thoroughly once a year. If you have experience with removing bathroom exhaust fans, remove the fan from the vent for easier cleaning. If necessary, lubricate the fan before returning it to the vent. If you don’t have experience, make certain that your professional vent cleaner removes, cleans and lubricates the fan during the annual cleaning and maintenance.


Always wear a mask, goggles and gloves when cleaning your bathroom exhaust ceiling fan. Use caution when cleaning--fan blades and the edge of the bathroom exhaust vent opening can have sharp edges. Don't allow moisture to enter the light bulb electrical socket while cleaning. Stop cleaning the fan and vent immediately if you see mould, a bird’s nest or any parasites. Contact a professional cleaner to inspect and thoroughly clean the fan and vent.

Things You'll Need

  • Step stool
  • Ladder (optional)
  • Screwdriver set (optional)
  • Vacuum
  • Water
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Mild detergent
  • Distilled white vinegar
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About the Author

Based in Southern Pennsylvania, Irene A. Blake has been writing on a wide range of topics for over a decade. Her work has appeared in projects by The National Network for Artist Placement, the-phone-book Limited and GateHouse Media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University.