How to Clean Swamp Cooler Pads


If you have a Mastercool or Aerocool, cleaning your swamp cooler pads is something that should be done on an annual basis. It is best to do this when you first turn on your swamp cooler for the year. Cleaning your pads is a fairly simple process that can make a big difference. If you find that your swamp cooler is not working as well and you haven’t cleaned your pads yet, you should consider washing them.

Why Cleaning Your Swamp Cooler Pads is Important

Cleaning your swamp cooler pads is important for a variety of reasons. In New Mexico, we tend to have hard water, which contains dissolved rock, limestone, or other dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sometimes iron. While not dangerous to your health, hard water can create issues with your home’s piping, fixtures, appliances, and of course, your swamp cooler. Over time, hard water minerals begin to harden and start to build up on your swamp cooler pads. This can affect your cooler’s efficiency and even produce a fish-like smell. Cleaning your pads annually helps manage mineral buildup, makes the pads last longer, removes foreign matter (like cottonwood seeds), and improves efficiency. For homeowners that have Mastercool swamp coolers and a water softening system on their home, you should clean the pads annually and replace them every 3-5 years. If you don’t have a water softening system on your home, or a water filter attached to your copper line, your pads will most likely need to be replaced every year.

Swamp Cooler Pad With Minimal Hard Water Build Up
This Mastercool pad is about a year old and has a small amount of hard water build-up along the edges. This pad could use a good wash before going back into your swamp cooler for further use.
Swamp Cooler Pad With Mold And Debris 1
This Mastercool pad needs to be replaced. Cleaning it won’t help because it has a lot of hard water build-up, and debris and is even starting to mold in some areas.

Directions on How to Clean Your Swamp Cooler Pads

Below are step-by-step instructions on how to clean your swamp cooler pads. To help make it easier we’ve created this video to walk you through it. Cleaning your pads is something that you can do yourself, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, call your local HVAC expert. This service is usually included if you have someone come out and start up your swamp cooler at the beginning of the season. Even so, you should always ask to make sure that it’s a part of the service.

Equipment You Will Need:

  • Drill or Phillips Screwdriver – you’ll need a drill or screwdriver to gain access to the inside of your swamp cooler.
  • Protective Glasses – It’s always important to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Safety glasses or goggles will help protect your eyes from any unexpected debris.
  • Gloves – This form of PPE protects your hands from things like hot metal (your swamp cooler could be very hot, depending on the time of day) and cuts or scratches.
  • Ladder – You’ll need a ladder to access your roof. Be sure to make sure that the ladder is on a flat surface and is secure.
  • Hose – You’ll need some kind of hose in order to properly spray down your swamp cooler pads.
  • Flashlight – You may need a flashlight in order to look inside the unit in order to see where the power outlets are and unplug them.

Step by Step Instructions

1. Choose a Good Day with Nice Weather

Make sure you do this on a nice day. Don’t try to clean your swamp cooler pads if it’s windy or stormy. Secure your ladder and make sure it is placed on a firm, level ground. Visit the American Ladder Institute for full instructions on ladder safety.

Step 2 Disconnect Power

2. Disconnect the Power to your Swamp Cooler

First, you’ll then want to be sure you’ve disconnected the power to swamp cooler. Take off the panel on the side of your swamp cooler to gain access to the power outlet. Unplug the cords to both the pump and the motor. You’ll find the receptacles on the inside of your unit.

Step 3 Remove Panels Covering Pads

3. Remove the Cooling Pads

The next step is to get the pads out. They are located in the front part of the cooler with a mesh cover. You’ll need to unscrew the panel in order to slide out the front cover. Then you’ll remove the top panel, which will pop right off after you’ve removed the front mesh covering.

Step 4 Remove Distribution Pad

Once the pads are exposed, remove the water distribution tube section laying on top of the pads. This isn’t connected to anything, so just pick it up and set it off to the side. Be sure to put items in a safe place, especially if you’re on a slanted roof.

Step 5 Slide Pads Out

At this point, the pads will easily slide on out and you may have several sections of pads depending on your cooler.

4. Check the Pads Condition

Once the pads are out, be sure to check their condition. Are they falling apart? Are they super heavy? If the answer is “yes” to either of these questions, then they probably have a lot of hard water build-up and need to be replaced.

Step 9 Front And Back Instructions

After you inspect the pads, safely transport them from the roof to the ground so you can wash them.

5. Cleaning the Cooling Pads

Once you’ve moved the pads off the roof, shake them out like a rug. This is a simple way to get rid of some of the loose foreign matter within your pads.

Before washing, look at the side of each pad and look for instructions that will indicate which side is the front and back.

You’ll then begin by backwashing the pads (start from the back and go to the front). Grab your hose and tilt the pad at a downward angle. You’ll see slanted grooves on the sides that will show you the pathways within each pad. This allows you to force the debris through the pad.

Go ahead and begin washing each pad thoroughly. If you are cleaning your pads and the calcium isn’t coming off easily, you probably need new ones.

Step 10 Backwash At An Angle

Once the pads are cleaned, carefully transport them back up the ladder to the roof.

6. Place Pads Back in Swamp Cooler

Place the pads back in their place. Be sure to look at the pads and put them in correctly. Once you’ve replaced them then you can put the distribution tube section back on top of the pads.

Set the top metal panel back in place and then put the mesh panel back in front and screw the panels back together.

7. Plug it all back In

Plug both the swamp cooler motor and the pump back in. Place the metal panel covering back in place and screw it in.

And you’re done! Easy-peasy, right?!

If you’d rather have a professional come out to clean your swamp cooler pads, give TLC a call. Our experienced technicians are comfortable climing up on top of your roof and cleaning or replacing the pads for you.