I think I'm getting the Black Lung, pop.
March 20, 2010 6:09 AM   Subscribe

This is the inside of my A/C. Am I going to die?

Sumer is icumen in! So I decided to fire up my in-window A/C and see if everything is working correctly. Imagine my horror when I espied some thick grotendous blackish-greyish ... fur, or something, coating almost the entire inside of the unit. (I didn't actually turn it on, so I do not anticipate any chestbursting aliens at this time.)

pic 01
pic 02
pic 03

So this is a two-part question, really:

01. What the actual fuck is this, AskMe? Mold? The dreaded Black Mold? Mildew? Intergalactic sex pollen? Or is it just soot-filled lint that adhered to the interior? (The latter was my first assumption, as two restaurants vent their exhaust in the general area of my backyard.)

02. Do I get a new A/C, or do I just clean this one up a bit? I'm pretty comfortable disassembling the unit and cleaning it out with some rubbing alcohol or diluted bleach. But I'm concerned that there will be more of this vile plague stuck within difficult to reach areas.

The nerdy engineer part of me wants to rip this sucker open and subject it to all manner of tinkerings and purgative cleansings. The lazybones part of me wants to order a new one online and be done with it. And the helplessly ambivalent part of me is asking YOU.
posted by elizardbits to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am far from a mold specialist, but I have lived in big, polluted cities, and this looks like accumulated soot (schmutz) to me.

Definitely a known problem in New York, per this article about silly people who insist on decorating in white.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:40 AM on March 20, 2010

Consider giving it a rinse.
posted by hawthorne at 6:45 AM on March 20, 2010

yes, charmcityblues is correct, the scientific term for this is Schmutz.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:50 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Doubtful it is the black mold, as the "substrate" of the AC unit is styrofoam. I don't think mold likes to eat styrofoam.
posted by gjc at 7:54 AM on March 20, 2010

Best answer: Mine looks like that too and I'm just fine. I did try to clean it out, and was able to clean that manifold or whatever it called, like in your pictures, but didn't make much of a dent in what was accumulated on the blower blades. That was a whole new level of furry.
posted by intermod at 8:03 AM on March 20, 2010

I vote for dead skin cells, lint and hair that has accumulated over the years.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:08 AM on March 20, 2010

Best answer: If you want to clean it take the whole unit down to a U-Do car wash and use the wand there to wash it off. Be careful to not get the spray too close to the fins (12ish inches away, test on your hand) and keep the spray as straight in to them as possible to prevent bending the fins over.
posted by Mitheral at 8:10 AM on March 20, 2010

Are you on the first floor near a street? It could be brake dust which is A horrible black but mostly harmless.
posted by chairface at 8:24 AM on March 20, 2010

Response by poster: I vote for dead skin cells, lint and hair that has accumulated over the years.

It is, embarrassingly enough, only about a year and a half old. (The giant hairballs are all behind the teevee console.)

Are you on the first floor near a street?

Third floor, facing the backyard. And the aforementioned restaurant exhausts. Pleh.

I am in love with the car wash wand idea, but unfortunately I do not have a car with which to transport the A/C, nor do there appear to be any of those kinds of car washes in NYC proper.
posted by elizardbits at 8:36 AM on March 20, 2010

That looks pretty much identical to the interior of my AC units (Florida, second story, neither window facing the street). I rinsed them out last year, but the black gunk accumulated pretty quickly again. Keep meaning to ask the landlord (who owns them) about it but have never bothered. For what it's worth, they seem to work fine.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:00 AM on March 20, 2010

please do your best to take it apart and clean it. one less piece of (possibly toxic when you consider disposing of the freon) junk in the landfill!
posted by kuppajava at 9:28 AM on March 20, 2010

It's possible to pay people to come by and clean it for you -- this guy, for example. The company I used when I lived in NYC would come in the fall and take away the AC, then return it in the spring all sparkly clean and remount it in the window, but they're no longer in business.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:22 AM on March 20, 2010

Is this the internal blower (looks like it) or the exhaust fan? Remember, the AC doesn't explicitly circulate air between the inside and outside -- it blows the inside air past the freon and cools it, with the outside fan being used to expel heat. Some ACs will have a cleanable filter on the inside before the air reaches the fins and this should be washed, usually in dish detergent by hand, before each season and more often as necessary. If the inside of the blower is getting schmutzy, my suspicion is that the filter is missing or not working very well. All that said, it's just the same schmutz that's already sitting around in your apartment, and won't harm you.
posted by dhartung at 12:03 PM on March 20, 2010

Response by poster: My A/C is on and I am not dead. YAYS!

(I hosed it down in the backyard and let it dry out for about 10 days.)
posted by elizardbits at 8:26 PM on May 3, 2010

« Older Help me find a good AM3 mainboard   |   How do I adjust my motorcycle suspension? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.