Many people want to clean their own air ducts and vents to improve their indoor air quality (IAQ) and maintain the correct airflow to avoid overworking their HVAC equipment. This is a great idea, the airflow must be maintained, or the HVAC system cannot deliver the treated air efficiently. When the ductwork is dirty, contaminants, such as dust, dirt, vermin, pet dander, bacteria, and mold spores, can enter the air and lower the IAQ significantly. These airborne contaminants can trigger an allergic reaction and lower the quality of life for people with respiratory ailments. In this article, we will offer five steps to help you clean your own ducts.

  1. Assemble Some Supplies

There are a few things that you need to clean your ducts efficiently, they are:

  • Protection: When you clean, wear goggles, a dust mask, and a pair of heavy-duty gloves.
  • A Screwdriver or Power Drill: To remove the vents, you will need a power drill or screwdriver with an appropriately sized head to match the screws for your registers.
  • A Vacuum: This is needed to clean the dirty dust from the air register, and a typical home vacuum cleaner will not be powerful. The ideal vacuum is a shop vac with a hose that’s long enough to reach up to the ducts.
  • A Brush: A small stiff brush will be useful to clean stubborn areas.
  • Paper Towels: These will be useful for general cleaning and to mop up any moisture that you find in your ducts.
  • Microfiber Cloths: Always have a few of these on hand to help you clean hard to reach areas.
  • A Fresh Furnace Filter: The last thing that you need is a new furnace filter when your duct cleaning is completed. It’s important to use the model recommended for your furnace. If the furnace filter is too small, the air can pass around it, and if it’s too large, it will not fit.
  1. Identify the Vents

Many homeowners don’t know that they have different types of vents routed into the ductwork that runs throughout their homes. This may seem confusing, but there is an easy way to check which type of vent you are dealing with. Simply hold a tissue up to the vent. If it sticks, it’s a return duct, and if it drops, it’s a supply vent. A return vent brings fresh air into the home from outdoors, and supply vents deliver the treated air to the room. Generally speaking, you don’t need to clean the vents that are located outside your home because they are not regarded as part of your HVAC system.

  1. How to Clean Ducts

The easiest way to clean your ducts is to follow a specific procedure:

  1. Carefully remove the air duct cover screws and return plates and keep them somewhere safe.
  2. Cover the supply vents with the kitchen towels to prevent dust and debris from blowing into rooms when you’re cleaning.
  3. Set the thermostat to fan “On,” and the fan will assist you during the cleaning. Make sure the heating and cooling mode are “Off” and if you have an older thermostat that has no fan only position, you will need to run the heat.
  4. Tap the inside of the air ducts to loosen any stubborn buildup with your brush and break apart any dampened areas.
  5. Use the brush to sweep the dust and debris located in the supply registers. Vacuum the loose dust to remove it without creating too much mess and wipe the surfaces clean with the microfiber cloths. Rinse the microfiber cloth in clean, warm water as you work, and you will notice that you’re removing a lot of dirt and grime. Dry the cleaned areas with more kitchen towels and dispose of those that you’ve placed over the registers as you progress through your home.
  6. Now it’s time to clean the return registers by sweeping as far into the registers as possible and finish with a microfiber cloth.
  7. Shut-off the fan and the power to your furnace via the breaker panel or a service switch if you have one. This is important because you need to work safely in the blower compartment.
  8. Clean the return air boot and blower compartment. Remove the front furnace panels to gain access to the return air boot and blower compartment and use the vacuum to clean up the dust and debris. This area is where you will find the most dust in the entire HVAC system, and you can clean the furnace fan at the same time.
  9. Once the ducts and registers are cleaned, it’s time to replace your furnace filter. Consider an upgrade to a better filter if you’re having a lot of problems with dust in your home. Changing the furnace filter more frequently will also help to control the build-up of dust in your home. Keeping the filter clean promotes better airflow to the HVAC system, which will help to prevent overheating in the blower motor. It’s a good idea to change your furnace filter every month to protect your system.
  1. Pay Close Attention to Mold

If you discover mold during your cleaning, it’s important to contact a local HVAC specialist for help. Mold is toxic and difficult to remove without specialist cleaning equipment and experience. A home or shop vacuum cannot reach far enough into the ducts to reach deep mold growth, and breathing mold spores can be very harmful to your health.

  1. Clean Your Ducts Regularly

Experts recommend that homeowners get their ducts cleaned once or twice per year. The best time for duct cleaning is at the beginning of spring and/or fall, and filters should be changed frequently. Cleaning ducts can be tricky, and the results can be less than optimal if you don’t have specialized equipment and training. If you want a comprehensive deep clean and sanitizing, it’s better to call a local HVAC specialist. Many people are surprised at the freshness of their indoor air after professional duct cleaning.