If we’ve learned one thing from the pandemic, it’s how important it is to keep surfaces clean.

At this time of year, one of the most-touched surfaces in your home just might be the air conditioner thermostat.

Killing germs on the thermostat’s surface is only one reason to regularly clean it, however. Often, a malfunctioning thermostat is simply dirty.

Dirt can affect the way the thermostat calibrates, which means it must use more energy than normal to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. In other words, a clean thermostat is a more energy-efficient thermostat.

Cleaning your thermostat when the seasons change from warm to cool and then again when they change back can extend the life of the device as well.

Here’s how to clean your thermostat:

  • Remove the cover. Depending on the model you have in your home, you might have to remove screws, but most covers simply snap off.
  • Using a clean, soft paintbrush and a gentle touch, dust the inner workings of the thermostat. For grime or debris at points where the electronic components touch, slide an open dollar bill like dental floss between them to loosen and remove it. An alternative tool is compressed air.
  • Inspect the device for loose or corroded wires. If you find them, call an electrician to repair; this is not a do-it-yourself job.
  • Replace the batteries.
  • Dust the cover and then put it back on.

Note that smart thermostats do not need interior cleaning.