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How to Clean Air Ducts Yourself

Typically, the best time to clean your air ducts is post-spring since plants and flowers are in full-bloom. On the other hand, many prefer to keep their air ducts clean in preparation for hot or cold months during which, HVAC systems will be used more often. Regardless of when you choose to do it, experts recommend cleaning air ducts in your home at least once a year for health reasons and maintenance purposes.

Over time, the buildup of dust, dander, pollen, pet hair, insect droppings and other debris create a dirty and bacteria-filled environment in your air ducts that does not get filtered when blown out, thus lowering the air quality in your home. Even worse, mould or mildew can also develop inside the vents due to moisture and humidity; with this fungus in your home, you can expect allergies to be triggered, skin and eye irritation to flare up, and even breathing or respiratory problems to develop. 

With that in mind, it is quite clear that your air ducts should be cleaned annually or as and when needed to keep the air quality in your home high while also ensuring optimal air flow through your vents. Now, the question is – how do you clean air ducts yourself? Well, Maid For You has got the answer. Read on!

What You Need for DIY Air Duct Cleaning

For best results, it is important to have everything you need to properly clean air ducts yourself. Here is a brief look at the things you will need, and why they are required for the job:

  • Screwdriver/Power Drill: Either of these tools can be used to unfasten the screws that hold duct covers in place.
  • Long Broom: Since you won’t be climbing into the vent to pick up debris, a long-handled broom is necessary to pull out accumulated dust and dirt.
  • Vacuum Cleaner: Along with the broom, a vacuum cleaner with an extendable wand or long hose attachment is handy for cleaning hard-to-reach areas inside the air duct.
  • Hard Brush: To remove stubborn dirt inside the vents, a long, hard-bristled brush is suitable for effectively scraping off hardened grime.
  • Dust Rags: One or more of these will be used for wiping while the others will be used to create a barrier between the duct and cover. This is intended to prevent loosened or unsettled debris from blowing through the vent and into the air while the fan is running.
  • New Air Filters: It is advisable to replace the air filters annually unless they are still in very good condition. In this case, you should clean the filters at the very end and then place them back to complete the cleaning process.

What to Wear When Cleaning Air Ducts Yourself

DIY air duct cleaning can get pretty messy due to the dust, dirt and whatnot found inside the vent; more importantly, it is advisable to take safety precautions if you are dealing with mould/mildew in your air ducts. For these reasons, we recommend wearing the protective gear below:

  • Face mask
  • Safety goggles or protective eyewear 
  • Rubber gloves
  • Full-length clothing to protect skin from mould, dust, etc

Step-by-Step Guide to Clean Air Ducts Yourself

After you have gathered everything you need to clean your air ducts and dressed for the task at hand, it is time to begin the cleaning process. 

Follow the instructions below, one step at a time, to clean out air ducts safely and effectively.

Step 1: Open the Air Duct

Depending on the type of grill/cover your air ducts have, you will likely have to unfasten the screws to take them down. You can do this manually with a screwdriver or with the help of a power grill that will quickly do the unscrewing for you. Once you have taken down the cover, pull out the old air filter and decide whether you are going to replace it with a new one or not. If you are going to be using the same air filter, vacuum up the dust and debris from the mesh and then rinse it clean under running water. Don’t forget to clean the cover by dusting it off or vacuuming both sides of it. 

WARNING: Turn off all HVAC systems from their main power switches and instruct household members not to turn them back on until you have finished cleaning inside your air ducts.

Step 2: Cover the Vents

Grab the dust rags and cover each individual HVAC vent in your home. For this, you must make sure that the HVAC system is turned off from the main power source, and then open the vents to place the cloths over the inner sides of the covers; close the vents back up when the dust rags are in place. 

NOTE: The cloth should conceal the inside of the vent cover from end to end and top to bottom.

Step 3: Turn on Fan Mode

Before you begin cleaning inside the air duct, allow the system’s fan to assist you by loosening and pushing debris closer to the vent. For this, switch the system to fan mode and run it at the highest speed. Allow the fan to run for at least 5 minutes and, during this time, walk around and check that the cloths covering the vents are all holding up well. At the end of 5 minutes, turn off the system at the power source and proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Clean Inside the Ducts

Clean the inside of your air ducts in the following sequence:

  1. Use the long-handled hard brush to clean all sides of the vent starting from the top (ceiling), sides, and then the bottom. Push the brush as far as it can go, and use as much pressure as possible.
  2. Take the broom and sweep the debris forward to accumulate the rubbish closer to the vent opening. Sweep the top and side panels to remove dust that may have been missed by the brush.
  3. Vacuum up the debris and the rest of the air duct (that is within your reach). 
  4. As far as your hand can reach, wipe down the inside of the air duct with a clean dust cloth.

Step 5: Cover the Vent and Run the Fan

For a thorough clean, we advise running the fan of the HVAC system again to push out loose debris that might have been out of reach at the time of sweeping and/or vacuuming. For this, you need to cover the grill with a rag and close it up again. Once sealed, turn the system on and allow the fan to run for a few minutes.

Step 6: Turn Off the Fan and Take Out the Dust Rags

After the fan has done its job of assisting you for a second time, turn off the HVAC system and take down the covers from all the air ducts. Remove the dust rags and wipe down the interior one last time as there will likely be some debris settled close to the opening. Once that is cleaned up, put in the cleaned or new filters and screw the vent covers back on.

While this is a rather simple and straightforward method to clean air ducts yourself, if there is mould present inside the air vents of your HVAC system, we recommend leaving the task of cleaning it up in the hands of a professional. This is because the ducts will require deep cleaning to ensure that there is no trace of the fungus after the cleaning is done. Secondly, asthmatics and individuals who suffer from allergies are not advised to get close to mould spores even with protective gear on as it can still trigger attacks. 

Of course, if you are just giving your air ducts a routine, annual clean, all you need to do is follow Maid For You’s step-by-step guide to clean air ducts yourself and your vents will be good to flow!

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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