How To Clean Air Ducts

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Homemakers love keeping all their rooms neat and tidy every day. Even the bathroom! But there is a grimy place that most people don’t even think about.

You might have guessed it, the air ducts. The dirty air ducts in your home are like the fault in your car’s engine; it doesn’t make the house look bad from a distance, but affects the hygiene. Air ducts get filled with a host of dirt, spider webs, contaminants, hair, molds, and whatnot. The particles fill the ducts to the extent that the air quality in your house can start deteriorating.

But cleaning air ducts is an expensive and time-consuming task. Professional cleaners charge hefty amounts which can burn a hole in your pocket. The good news is that there’s a way to do it yourself.

DIY cleaning air ducts may not be as effective but would still clear about 85% of dirt particles.

Tools Required to Clean Air Ducts

  • Vacuum cleaner– Try to arrange for a powerful vacuum cleaner from your neighbor. You must have a decent household vacuum cleaner with a long hose.
  • Toilet brush– Brushes with distinct bristles to clean up the grills.
  • Screwdriver– Screws fasten some of the duct covers or grills in the wall. Check the sizes of the screws and arrange for a screwdriver to open those.
  • Cardboards or paper towels– Something to cover the duct grills to prevent the dust particles from scattering on your floor. You would need a lot of paper towels, cardboard, or large tissues to cover up the furnace and grills.
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6 Steps to DIY Duct Cleaning

1. Cover the Supply Grill and Furnace

Since the aim is to rotate the dust particles and suck them into the vacuum cleaner, it’s essential to cover the supply grill. Remove the covers of the supply grill and pack it with a cardboard or paper towel to prevent the dust from scattering on your floor. This will substantially decrease your cleaning time. 

If you can reach the duct, open the furnace grill and cover it with paper towels to prevent dust from moving out. You don’t need to do this if the furnace filter is working alright and dust doesn’t move out of it. It’s important to ensure this to prevent dust from falling into the fan motor.

2. Turn off the Furnace and Air Conditioner

Power off the return air outlet(air conditioner) and the heater(furnace) to ensure you don’t damage the duct by using the vacuum cleaner with the AC turned on.

3. Turn on the Fan

Your air ducts should have an only-fan mode to move out the sticky dust particles and extract them in the vacuum cleaner. Install a new thermostat with only fan mode in case your air duct doesn’t have that option. It will be a useful addition to the air duct and help you clean easily in the future too.

4. Use the Brush to Wipe off Dust

Open all the return air conditioner grills and clean the opening of the duct where you’re going to use the vacuum cleaner. Use the toilet brush to roughly loosen and break up dust particles that are sticking to the walls of the duct around the opening. Hit the walls of the duct to loosen up dust particles to a long distance.

5. Use the Vacuum Cleaner in Each Grill

Open all the wall grills and return grills one by one and simultaneously shove the hose of the vacuum cleaner to clean off dust particles. Move the hose around to catch all the particles pushed away by the fan.

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Simultaneously, use the brush to loosen up the stubborn particles that refuse to fall off the walls.

Use the screwdrivers to open the return air conditioner grills and repeat the same process of cleaning using the vacuum cleaner and toilet brush.

6. Power Off the Fan and Clean Blower Compartment

After shutting off the fan, go to the blower compartment and open the furnace and the main return air conditioner boot. This compartment will have a major fraction of the dust, so sleeveless clothes like this are going to be nasty. Use the vacuum cleaner to extract the dust particles and clean the fan too.

How to Properly Maintain Air Ducts?

  • Prevent Duct Leaks

Duct leak is a major cause of inflation of electricity bills due to the air lost from duct leaks. Other than cleaning your air ducts, get your air ducts tested once in a while if you notice an increase in air conditioning bills. Use duct mastic to seal the air leaks. Air leaks in ducts make people lose about 30% of conditioned air on average.

  • Remove Obstructions Outside Duct Grills

Don’t put furniture or any other obstructions just outside the air vents because they can restrict airflow. Obstruction in air circulation can damage the fan motor by changing the pressure inside the duct.

  • Sterilize Duct by Installing a UV Light

Ultraviolet light helps destroy molds, bacteria, fungus, and sterilize the air inside the ducts. Sterilizing the duct improves the air quality and kills bacteria and molds that can build up due to humidity.

  • Keep the Area Around Ducts Dry

Humidity is the major cause of build-up bacteria in the ducts. Don’t fit in taps around the area where air vents are placed. 

  • Change Furnace Filters

Changing the furnace filter and installing good quality filters prevent dust particles from spreading into your home. A good furnace filter will also ensure proper airflow through the fan which in turn ensures reduced electricity bills and efficient use of the motor.

3 Signs that Air Ducts Need Cleaning

Air ducts at home are hidden behind layers of walls, flooring, and it’s challenging to identify the ideal time when your ducts need cleaning. Most commercial duct cleaners suggest cleaning the air ducts twice a year. But a lot of factors affect the period in which your air ducts need cleaning. Here are some signs to know when your air ducts urgently need cleaning.

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1. You Have Renovated Your Home

Construction workers and contractors assure that they would carry out the construction task tidily and no dust or dirt will seep into the air ducts. While it is an ideal situation, the reality is far from this.

Construction workers don’t pack all the air vents and grills. Dust and debris from cement, drilling, mortar, and bricks seep into the air ducts. 

The dust and dirt in air ducts will circulate your home when you turn on the AC and heaters. Inhaling these particles can cause you and your loved ones respiratory problems. It’s thus necessary to clean your air ducts after construction to avoid such troubles.

2. House Is Getting Dirty Frequently

If your house is getting dirty hours after you cleaned it up thoroughly, it might be a sign that your ventilation system is throwing in the dirt. Open the vent covers or grills and check for excessive dust particles inside the duct with a flashlight. In case you find any of the supply or return ducts dirty, it’s time to clean them up.

3. Air Conditioning Bills Are Rising

Has your air conditioning or heating suddenly shot up? Stop blaming your kids or partner for this one time. Your air ducts may be the culprit this time around. Electricity bills don’t shoot up extensively without a reasonable explanation.

Your air duct might be the one to blame as filthy air ducts can obstruct the airflow inside the ducts.

The air flows slowly because of the obstructions, and as a result, your air conditioner and surface have to work harder to meet the temperature you have set in the thermostat. As the air conditioner works harder, the electricity bills shoot up.

Written by Pulkit D

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