How to Clean Heat Exchanger Tubes


Heat exchangers are mechanisms used in a lot of appliances and cooling systems. Heat exchangers are most commonly found in air conditioning systems, refrigerators and commercial freezers. The heat exchanger is made up of a series of copper tubing. This tubing changes the air from a heated temperature to a cooled temperature. Heat exchanger tubes are susceptible to exterior damage; if dirt and dust builds on the exterior of the copper tubing, it will not be as effective. You do not have to call a professional to clean these tubes; clean them yourself with a few supplies commonly found around the house.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper towels
  • Spray bottle
  • Commercial cleaner
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Vinegar
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Unplug the device that the heat exchanger is attached to. The heat exchanger tubes are located on the back of the unit. If you're dealing with a refrigerator or a commercial freezer, keep the doors closed so you do not spoil the food or allow cool air to escape.

  • Remove any debris on the ends of the tubes with a damp paper towel.

  • Spray the tubes down with a commercial cleaner, an all-purpose cleaner or white vinegar and use a nylon brush to get any debris off of the tubes.

  • Dip a sponge in warm water. Ring the sponge out and scrub the tubes down to remove any leftover cleaner from the tubes.

  • Turn the appliance back on.

Tips & Warnings

  • In residential homes, heat exchanger tubes only require superficial cleaning.
  • Do not try to remove the heat exchanger tubes unless you are a licensed professional.
  • Be careful not to scratch the tubes while cleaning them. A scratch can lead to a puncture and your tubes will no longer work.

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  • Photo Credit copper cable image by Witold Krasowski from
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