Knowing how to clean your air ducts can save you a lot of money, since the professional duct cleaners charge a small fortune to do it.
Is it a necessary household task? Probably not. Is it one that I do? You bet.
How to Clean Your Air Ducts
One day, I dropped an earring down a floor register and opened it to find a massive spiderweb occupied by an equally massive spider. Ever since then, I’ve made a point to clean my air ducts regularly. It lets me sleep at night. Also, I always notice less dust in our home for weeks after I’ve cleaned the ducts. (Related: How to Reduce Dust in Your Home.)
Why You Should Clean Them
It just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’ve got forced air coming out of an air duct filled with dust, pet hair, Cheerios, or big ol’ hairy spiders, they’re bound to spread around a bit. Why put up with that? That’s why you need to know how to clean your air ducts.
With less debris in your home’s air ducts, you’ll see less floating around in your home’s air. That means you’ll see less dust, too. Depending on what’s in your ducts, you also might notice fewer odors and reduced allergy symptoms. (Related: How to Improve Your Home’s Air Quality.)
How Often Should You Clean Your Air Ducts?
Follow the steps below 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. Be sure you change your system’s filter after you’re done.
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. These filters are made from electrostatic material that filters dust out of the air your system blows through the vents while also keeping dust from settling into them.
How Long Does This Take?
Fortunately, cleaning your air ducts isn’t that difficult to do if you use the right tools and make a point of following directions. It takes maybe five minutes per register the first time, and even less time than that if you do it regularly.
Steps To Clean Your Home’s Air Ducts
- A vacuum cleaner with a dust brush attachment
- Microfiber cleaning cloths
Air Duct Cleaning
- Liquid dish soap
- Natural all-purpose cleaning spray
Step 1: Preparing to Clean Your Air Ducts
- Use the button on your home's thermostat to turn off the system before you begin cleaning your air ducts and registers.
- Gather your materials and equipment. If you have wall or ceiling vents, you'll want a step-ladder or stool to stand on, too.
Step 2: Remove and Clean Your Vent Covers
- Floor registers are easy to remove. Usually, you can just lift them up. Use the screwdriver to remove wall and ceiling vents, including cold air returns.
- Remove and wash the vent cover in a sink of hot, soapy water. Scrub as needed, but take care not to damage the finish. You can clean unpainted metal registers in a dishwasher, but wash painted or varnished ones by hand. Once they're clean, shake off excess moisture then wipe them dry.
Step 3: Vacuum Inside Your Duct
- While the vent covers dry, insert the dryer vent brush into the duct as far as you can reach. Rotate the brush and gently run it along the duct's walls. Use a light touch doing this with Mylar flex ducts (the crinkly, plastic kind) since they are easily damaged and dislodged. Remove the brush.
- Attach the flexible hose attachment to your vacuum cleaner. Insert it into the duct and turn on your machine to clean up the debris you've dislodged. Again, if you have flex ducts, be gentle doing this and focus your cleaning on the floor of the vent. Remove the hose and turn off your vacuum cleaner.
Step 4: Wipe the Inside
- Using a damp microfiber cloth, reach into the duct as far as you can and wipe the interior clean. You'll want to rinse the rag repeatedly because you'll find a lot of dust and gunk in there even after you've vacuumed.
- To clean stubborn dirt, spray an all-purpose cleaner on the cloth before wiping.
- Cold air returns are often unlined, so you'll find bare wood or drywall behind the vent cover. Don't saturate this area while wiping it clean, or you may wind up with a mold problem. Rinse your cloth often and wring it out well as you remove grime.
Step 5: Finish Up
- Wipe the area around the duct, including the floor or wall. Then, put the clean vent cover back on and restart your system.
- It's a good idea to change your system's air filter after you've cleaned your air ducts, too.