DIY duct cleaning is a great way to improve the air quality in your home, and save money at the same time. There is an army of dust, dander, dirt, hair, and bug fragments in your air ducts that can pollute the air that you breathe, so it's important to clean those vents regularly. By taking the time to learn how to take care of this important maintenance task yourself, you can avoid having to pay for a professional duct cleaning company to do it for you.
The truth is you won't be able to get as deeply into your duct system as a commercial duct company will. That’s fine. Most of the debris in your ducts gathers toward the registers (the air duct grates) anyway, and you can reach those spots on your own.
Why Should You Clean Your Air Ducts?
Research conducted by the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) shows that the average home creates approximately 40 pounds of dust annually. If you’re wondering where all that dust goes, it gets trapped in your air ducts. Over time, the dust, debris, and toxins inside your ducts get circulated and re-circulated throughout your home, causing your HVAC system to work harder than it needs to.
Cleaning your ducts is a must if you or someone in your household suffers from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues. Your air ducts contain allergens (dust, debris, pet dander, pollen, mold spores, mildew, etc.) that can exacerbate respiratory health conditions. If you have pets in your home, the dander, fur, and dust that they shed also gets trapped in your ducts and aggravates these health issues even further. Cleaning your ducts is critical when it comes to reducing personal illnesses and discomfort to those dealing with respiratory issues in your home.
When Should You Clean Your Air Ducts?
- Once a year or more if someone in your home has allergies or breathing problems, or if you have pets. The most common times to clean your ducts are the beginning of spring and fall.
- When you purchase or move into a new home.
- After the renovation project.
- Every 2-3 years for small households, that don't meet any of the criteria listed above.
What Do I Need To Clean My Air Ducts?
1. Furnace Filter. Before getting started make sure that you have a clean replacement filter. If you need to order one, PureFilters carries a large selection of filters at an affordable price.
2. A sturdy ladder. You'll need a ladder that's high enough to let you reach and clean the vents.
3. Screwdriver. Make sure you have a screwdriver that fits the screws on your vents. To make things easier and faster you can also use a power drill if you have one.
4. Vacuum. You’ll need a vacuum with a hose attachment to reach inside and suck up the dust and dirt from the air registers. If you don't have a powerful vacuum, you can always rent one or borrow a shop vac from a friend.
5. Brush. A soft bristle brush with a long handle (a vent cleaning brush, toilet brush, or large stiff-bristled paintbrush will do the trick)
6. Cleaning Cloths & Paper Towels. Microfiber cleaning cloths and a roll of paper towels.
7. Dust Mask & Goggles. To prevent dust and debris from getting in your mouth and eyes while getting the job done.
7. Gloves. Heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands.
How Do I Clean My Air Ducts?
Step 1 - Put on your goggles, dust mask and gloves.
Step 2 - Climb up the ladder and unscrew/remove the air duct grates. If your air grates are on the floor, you won't need a ladder to the job done.
Step 3 - Cover up the vents that you aren't cleaning with a paper towel or cloth. This prevents dust that you kick up while cleaning one vent from being pushed back into your house through the other vents.
All you have to do is place a paper towel or cloth between the vent cover and the wall (or floor) without putting the screws back in since you'll be removing each paper towel/cloth when you clean that air vent.
Step 4 - Set your thermostat to “fan on”. The fan will help move the dust that you loosen while cleaning. If you don't have a "fan on" mode, use the heat on mode to get the fan to kick on.
Step 5 - Use a microfiber cloth to clean all the registers. Turn on your vacuum to catch any dust being pushed out, and vacuum as far down into the duct as you can. Then use the brush to loosen up any built-up dust or debris.
Step 6 - Using a damp microfiber cloth, reach down into the duct as far as you can and wipe the interior clean. Rinse the cloth repeatedly to get rid of all the dust and gunk that you remove with each wipe.
Step 7 - Repeat steps 5 and 6 until all your ducts are clean.
Step 8 - Wash and screw the grates back in.
Step 9 - Power off your furnace and change your furnace filter.
Please note that turning off your thermostat is not the same as turning off your furnace. Turn your furnace off via the service switch or breaker panel.
Step 10 - Clean out any compartments in and around your furnace that look dusty or dirty.
What do I do if I find mold while cleaning my air ducts?
Do not ignore a mold problem. If you think you’ve found mold while cleaning your air ducts, remove as much of it as you can. Then try to determine what's causing mold build-up and if it can be easily fixed. The government of Canada offers helpful resources to help you address moisture and mould build-up in your home.
If you're unable to determine the extent of your mould problem, contact a qualified professional to identify the source and provide you with a written report with actionable solutions.
DIY vs. Professional Duct Cleaning
We highly recommend getting a professional to clean your ducts in the following cases:
- You have excessive mold growth
- There are rats or rodents living in your ducts
- There are excessive foul odours coming from your vents
- There was fire damage in your home
- There were major renovations done in your home
- The job seems too big to do on your own
Allergy Dust Mites. ENT and Allergy Center of Missouri. University Physicians. University of Missouri Health Center
Addressing moisture and mould in your home. Health Canada. Published in 2014