These simple steps explain how to clean your home’s air ducts yourself. In minutes, you’ll remove dust, pet hair, mold, and other allergens.
Steps to Clean Your Home’s Air Ducts and Vents
Before you start cleaning your ducts, you should keep a few safety tips in mind. These tips are essential for your safety and protecting your heating and cooling system.
- Always turn your home’s thermostat off before you begin to clean your air ducts.
- Have a helper nearby if you need to climb a ladder or step-stool to reach high wall vents or ceiling registers.
- You may also want to wear eye protection to shield your eyes from falling dust or debris when working with overhead air vents.
STEP 1: Gather Your Equipment and Materials
You need a dryer vent brush plus warm soapy water, cleaning cloths, and a vacuum cleaner with a dust brush attachment to clean your air ducts. You will also need a screwdriver to open wall or ceiling vents and a step-stool to reach them.
STEP 2: Remove and Clean Your Vent Covers
Floor registers are easy to remove. Usually, you can lift them. For wall registers, use a screwdriver. If your vent cover is extremely dusty, use your vacuum’s dust attachment to clean the surface before removing it. Wash the vent cover in a sink of warm, soapy water. Scrub as needed, but take care not to damage the finish. You can wash unvarnished metal vent covers in the dishwasher.
To whiten plastic vent covers, wash them in a sink of warm, soapy water then put them on a baking sheet or in another large container, and cover them with hydrogen peroxide. Set them in a sunny spot for an hour or two and wash them again in hot, soapy water. Shake off excess moisture then let them fully air dry before you reinstall them.
STEP 3: Clean Inside Your Duct
Insert the vent brush into the duct as far as you can. Rotate the brush and run it along the duct’s walls. Use a light touch in crinkly Mylar flex ducts, which are easily damaged. If you have exposed ductwork, like in a basement, tapping it a few times before can help loosen debris, too. Finally, remove the brush and insert your vacuum cleaner’s hose as far as you can to clean up the debris. If you have a shop vac, you can get further in your duct system using an extension hose.
STEP 4: Wipe the Rest
After vacuuming, wipe the vent’s interior clean with a damp microfiber cloth. Rinse and change rags as needed. Spray an all-purpose cleaner on the cloth before wiping it to clean stubborn dirt. Also, be sure to clean the area around the duct, including the floor or wall.
STEP 5: Finish Up
Put the clean vent cover back on and turn on your thermostat. Run your system for 30 minutes to filter any hidden dust loosened during cleaning. After thirty minutes are up, change your system’s air filter to eliminate all the extra dust it collected for you.
Why Do This Yourself?
When forced air from your HVAC flows through ducts and vents filled with dust, dirt, and pet hair, that debris spreads throughout your home. Clean those ducts, and you’ll have cleaner indoor air — and that means you’ll see less dust, too. Depending on what’s been hiding in your system, you also might notice fewer odors and reduced allergy symptoms.
Do You Need to Hire Professionals to Clean Your Air Ducts?
Should you call a duct-cleaning company to do this task? In short: no. Companies claim that you need a pro to clean your ducts because they use specialized equipment. What they’re referring to involves sending pressurized water through your duct system to flush out the gunk.
The problem is that air ducts develop gaps over time, which means pressurized water gets into your walls. Once there, it causes mold and mildew. This is the exact situation the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns against when it says that “preventing water and dirt from entering the system is the most effective way to prevent contamination.”
How Often Should You Clean Your Air Ducts?
Follow these steps to clean your home’s air ducts at least twice a year. If someone in your home has indoor allergies, or if you have a lot of pets, do it each season. You can use this method to clean cold air returns, too. And always change your filter after you’ve cleaned your ducts.