Cleaning stinky 98 Ford Escort AC Evaporator?

We bought a 98 Escort several years back. Runs great, phenomenal gas mileage, but we soon found out the climate system smelled like mold. I spent a few afternoons cleaning out the area by the air intake risers, where there were lots of very small leaves (black locust, I think), made sure the drains there were clear, added some smaller hardware cloth over the intakes to keep other leaves and mice out (seems most cars do a poor job on those), then removed the blower motor and got some of the small leaves out of the AC housing next to the AC evaporator on the fan side. But I must not have been able to get them all. The AC drain drains Ok. But whenever we use the AC or any of the other climate settings that use the AC (defroster, etc.) we get a musty smell the next time we turn on the blower. Even if we end up running the blower on face vent or floor vent only to dry out the evaporator fins. I think there are still a few leaves in there that get wet. I’d like to pull off the instrument cluster and lift open the AC housing if the housing opens, but can’t see or feel any evidence of screws or snap connections on the housing. Want to make sure that if I go through the effort, I’ll actually be able open the thing. I’ve also thought of running some soapy water with a little borax into the AC housing, which should kill the molds, but I’m not keen on the idea of inhaling borax when I run the air. A handful of little borax works great in our swamp cooler, but those pads never dry out. Any experience with this? Is that housing glued together, or open? Can you open the housing without disassembling the AC system (illegal). I won’t try those “Ozone in a can” products again, as they are worse than the mold!

Open the doors, turn the vent fan on high and at the base of the windshield spray Lysol so it gets drawn into the ventilation system. Repeat until the smell is gone.


That should do it. I prefer liquid Pine-Sol, adding a few drops to the intake each time I go to start the engine.

Had a shop try to blow it out, they also used a disinfectant, so I traded one smell for another, until it came back in a week! Next weekend, I might pull the whole dash apart, take out the heater core, to get to both sides of the AC evap. Anyone else done this?

The last time I messed with this I used both lysol and ozium (one of those air “purifying” air fresheners).

What I did was get a bunch of it pumped into the ductwork, closed all of the vents, and then shut down the fresh air intake & blower - to get the stuff to just sit in there for a while. I did this a couple of times & it worked fairly well. I didn’t keep the car all that much longer so I can’t how long its good for.

I did this on our 97 Accord early this summer. I ended up using a box cutter to cut a hole in the evaporator housing and then used a vacuum cleaner wand to suck out the compost, and there was a lot of it.