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How to clean air ducts yourself

Updated on November 15, 2023
Written by
Conroy Baltimore
Conroy joined the HouseFresh editorial team in 2023. He is an experienced writer, who has honed his skills in home improvement writing in-depth guides for Angi. In his spare time, you can find him playing basketball or video games.

Cleaning your air ducts is something you can do without the help of a professional. 

While they don’t need to get cleaned frequently, inspecting them at least once a year is a good idea because they can get polluted with dust, debris, mold and vermin droppings. If not, these contaminants can severely impact your health and affect your home’s indoor air quality. 

All you need is time and some tools to keep your ducts clean.

Air ducts are an essential part of your HVAC system. They’re responsible for ensuring your home meets your heating and cooling demands. Additionally, they work to keep dust and debris out of your home so you don’t breathe in anything harmful.

However, your ducts can get dirty because they filter out pollutants. Usually, that’s a job for HVAC contractors because a few complexities may be too challenging for the average person. 

But what if you can’t wait for a service professional? Is it okay to clean air ducts by yourself? 

The answer is yes; our guide will show you how to do that.

What you’ll need:

🔲 Protective gear such as a mask, goggles, gloves 
🔲 A vacuum to clean parts of the ducts your arms can’t reach
🔲 Small brush
🔲 Screwdriver to unscrew the vent panels
🔲 Cleaning cloths or paper towels

What you’ll need to do:

Once you have all of those items gathered, it’s time to start cleaning your cleaning. 

  • Step 1: Remove the vent covers with your screwdriver. They’ll be covered with dust, so you must wash them by hand or place them in the dishwasher.

  • Step 2: Cover the vents with paper towels. This prevents debris from flying all over while you clean different areas of ducts.

  • Step 3: Change your HVAC system to fan only. This helps loosen duct dust, making it easier to get the job done.

  • Step 4: Grab your vacuum to clean up the area. There may be a few dusty spots left. If so, wet a paper cloth or towel and clean up the remaining residue. 

  • Step 5: Replace the air filter. This is important because air filters help keep your home’s indoor air quality optimum. Ideally, you would want to use a HEPA filter because they’re highly effective at removing contaminants and other particles from the air that may affect your health.

  • Step 6: Reattach the newly washed vent covers once the filter is replaced.

  • Step 7: Reset your thermostat settings to your desired comfort.

Voilà! You’ve successfully cleaned your air ducts. These steps will help you keep them well-maintained and avoid hefty maintenance costs.

Why clean your air ducts?

We get it; after a busy week of work or being home with the kids, the last thing you want to do is household chores. 

But you should clean your air ducts because not doing so can impact your health and your loved ones. 

Household dust can creep into your vents, which then gets blown into the air you breathe. As a result, you might deal with some uncomfortable respiratory issues or other irritations.

❌ Airflow is restricted when air ducts are clogged because of pollutants; it restricts airflow, which reduces air quality.

❌ Dust and debris can quickly become mold and mildew due to the restricted airflow. Furthermore, breathing these particles can affect your health. You can use a dehumidifier to increase your defenses against mold, but it won’t eliminate it.

❌ Neglecting cleaning air ducts can increase wear and tear on your HVAC system. Since there are blockages, it has to work extra hard to filter air plus meet heating and cooling demands. The additional usage can spike your energy bills tremendously.

❌ Dust and debris accumulation can become a fire hazard if you leave too much time between duct cleanings.

How often should you clean your air ducts?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you should only clean them as needed if you see visible signs of dust, a change in your air quality, or evidence of mold growth. 

In addition, getting them inspected at least once a year is essential to ensure everything is fine. 

Besides dust, vermin can make air ducts their new home, especially when outdoor temperatures change. So, clean the vents if you don’t want to inhale anything harmful.

One thing to note about cleaning ducts is when to seek professional assistance. Of course, we’d love it if you could complete this project without spending a large sum. Unfortunately, some places in your HVAC system may be hard to reach or need to be inspected with professional help to assess the damage. 

If you decide to go this route, monitor how well the technician does the job. Sometimes, inadequate work can lead to worse conditions for your home. 

So, ask various HVAC businesses about their ductwork services and for advice about whether you need your ducts cleaned. You can also follow a checklist provided by the EPA to grade their work and see if they followed proper duct cleaning procedures.

Final thoughts

After reading, you might feel a sense of urgency to go and clean your ducts. Again, that’s only necessary if you haven’t done so in a while or someone in your household suffers from respiratory issues. Also, check your ducts occasionally to see how much buildup is present. 

If you think it’s getting too heavy or the indoor air quality has changed, break out the tools and start cleaning. 

We hope you enjoyed the insight from this article regarding air ducts. For more relatable topics, check out our blog.


About the author

Conroy Baltimore

Conroy joined the HouseFresh editorial team in 2023. He is an experienced writer, who has honed his skills in home improvement writing in-depth guides for Angi. In his spare time, you can find him playing basketball or video games.