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“The best way to get rid of kitchen odors is to eat out.”
That statement was made by stand-up comedian Phyllis Diller. While it may just be a funny passing remark, it still brings to focus the fact that our kitchen is responsible for filling our homes and hearts with the aroma of delicious food. Sure, that aroma can get overbearing at times, which is why we have the humble kitchen exhaust fan.
The kitchen exhaust fan removes grease, steam, odors, and smoke from your kitchen and vents it to the outdoors. A lot of the grease and grime collects on the surface of the fan over time. If this collected grease is not cleaned periodically, it could become a potential fire hazard.
However, it is not very difficult to clean hood vents or range hoods, as kitchen exhaust fans are also called. While you could hire a professional cleaning service if you haven’t cleaned yours in a long time, regular cleaning is a simple DIY activity that homeowners can handle themselves on a regular basis. Here’s a step-by-step kitchen exhaust fan maintenance guide.
The process of cleaning your kitchen exhaust fan
Turn off the power
The process of cleaning the exhaust fan will bring you in close contact with the electrical components of the fan. To reduce the risk of accidental injuries, switch off the power supply to the fan and unplug it completely. Even a faulty wire can lead to serious accidents.
Find the filter
Exhaust fan filters, or grease filters, are rectangular in shape and made of metal mesh. You can find them located on the underside of the microwave exhaust fan or the hood. Finding it may be easier if you refer to your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website.
Some newer models also have a charcoal filter located on top of the hood. This filter is installed specifically to remove odors from the kitchen and must be replaced once every six to twelve months, depending on how busy your kitchen is
The next step is removing the filter. Your grease filter is usually held in place by either tabs or levers. Release these and remove the filter gently by hand.
While the filter should come off without much effort, it may be sticky if there has been extensive grease build-up. In such cases, sliding a butter knife around the edge should help you get some leverage to loosen it easily.
Cleaning the filter
You will need a pan deep enough to hold the filter in. This is the pan you will use to soak and wash the filter. Normally, a regular sheet pan works just fine.
Next, you will need to make the cleaning solution. In this case, the solution is made out of two common household items: baking soda and dish soap. Both of these materials are adept at breaking down the filter.
Add the baking soda and dish soap slowly to a large pot of water. Adding the baking soda slowly is essential to make sure it does not make the water fizz over. Then, bring the water to a boil.
Boiling water also helps break down grease faster, but be careful to not overheat the water, science that could agitate the soap and cause the water to bubble over onto your stove. Set aside around 235 ml of the cleaning solution to clean other parts of the exhaust fan, such as the fan blades and the exhaust hood.
Slowly add the solution to the pan that has the filter. The emphasis on doing it slowly is to avoid any backsplash. Keep adding the solution until the filter is completely submerged.
Let the filter soak in the water for at least half an hour. If it is very greasy, leave it for an hour. The baking soda and dish soap will get to work and start breaking down the grease.
Then, get to work scrubbing the filter gently with a soft sponge or a soft-bristled scrub brush. Do not scrub very aggressively to avoid damaging the filter. The grease should come off easily.
If it does not, then you may need to repeat the soaking and scrubbing process once more. Once the grease is gone, rinse the filter in running hot water. Then, air dry the filter for a couple of hours. The reason experts ask you to air dry it instead of using paper towels or cloth is to make sure there is absolutely no moisture on it when it is reinstalled.
Cleaning the rest of the fan
Spray the cleaning solution on the outer portion of the hood and wipe away any grease marks. Make sure you do not spray it on any electrical components, as that could lead to electrical mishaps and reduce the lifespan of your fan.
Be sure to clean your blades as well. Clean blades are more efficient and will also increase the life of your blower unit.
If there is light grease build-up on the fan blades, soak a non-abrasive sponge in the cleaning solution, wring it and then wipe away the grease.
If the build-up is heavy, apply a thin layer of dishwashing soap to the affected area and let it soak for around 30 minutes before wiping it away with a non-abrasive sponge.
Reinstall the filter
Finally, reinstall the filter in place, plug the exhaust fan back into the socket and you’re good to go until the next cleaning cycle.