Knowing how to clean your own air ducts can save you a lot of money, as the businesses who perform this service charge a small fortune to do it for you. Now, you should know up front that the EPA finds no evidence to support that dirty air ducts are making you sick unless they’re clogged, infested with vermin, or contain mold.
So is it a necessary household task? Probably not. Is it one that I do? You bet. Ever since the day I dropped an earring down a floor register and opened it to find a massive spiderweb occupied by an equally massive spider, I’ve made a point to clean my air ducts thoroughly once a year, and less thoroughly once a month. Seriously, that spider looked like something that had crawled out of my nightmares. Cleaning my ducts regularly lets me sleep at night.
And, regardless of what the EPA says, I always notice less dust settling on my furniture in the days after I’ve done such a cleaning.
It just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’ve got forced air coming out of a duct filled with dust, pet hair, Cheerios, or big ol’ hairy spiders, they’re bound to spread around a bit, right? Why put up with that?
Fortunately, cleaning your air ducts isn’t that difficult to do if you use the right tools and make a point of following directions. No, you won’t get as deeply into your duct system as a commercial company will. That’s fine: most of the debris in your ducts gathers toward the registers, anyway, and you can reach those spots on your own.
How To Clean Your Own Air Ducts
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You will need:
- Vacuum cleaner with accessories hose
- Dust brush for your vacuum
- Rotary dryer vent brush cleaning system
- Cordless drill with flathead and Philips bits
- Microfiber cleaning cloths
Step 1: Remove the register and clean the duct.
Floor registers are easy to remove: just lift them up. Wall registers may have to be unscrewed using the cordless drill. Either way, remove and wash the vent in a sink of hot, soapy water, then rinse and let them air dry. Metal registers can be cleaned in a dishwasher, though if you’ve painted your own you should probably wash them by hand.
Once the registers are out of the way, attach the dryer vent brush to the end of your cordless drill. Make sure it’s firmly attached to the drill before feeding it into the duct because you do not the brush detaching and getting lost in your duct system!
Turn the drill on and let it whip the brush around in your duct. With the drill still running slowly pull back, so the brush cleans the walls of the duct as you pull the brush out. Turn the drill off when the brush reaches the final 2 feet, or you’ll fling dust everywhere.
Once you’ve removed the dryer vent brush from your duct, stick your vacuum cleaner hose with the dust brush attachment down into the duct. (Again, make sure that brush is on firmly!) Now, vacuum up any dust or other gunk you’ve dislodged, then give the dryer vent brush a quick vacuum before moving onto the next duct.
Step 2: Wipe the inside of the duct and surrounding area.
Using a damp microfiber cloth, reach down into the duct as far as you can and wipe the interior clean. You’ll want to rinse the cloth repeatedly because chances are you’ll find a lot of dust and gunk in there the first time you do this. For particularly stubborn dirt it’s okay to spray a homemade all-purpose cleaner on the cloth before wiping.
Wipe the area around the duct, including the floor or wall. Return the clean register vent to place, and you’re done!
• You can use this method to clean cold air returns, too.
• The deep cleaning described above only needs to be done once or twice a year. Keep ducts clean by lifting the register and vacuuming any dust or debris you see. (Monthly works.)
• If you have pets that shed a lot, or kids who like to drop things down floor registers, you might want to consider installing vent register filters.
• Be sure to change your HVAC’s air filter when you clean your ducts!
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