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What to Know About Cleaning Air Ducts

Often kept out of sight and out of mind, your air ducts run throughout your household with the purpose of providing your home with clean air.  Left unattended, your ducts can accumulate foreign particulate in the air which can cause a drop in your indoor air quality. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that no studies have proven that duct cleaning prevents health problems, many people who are more sensitive to airborne dust and pet dander than others state that after cleaning their air ducts, they have experienced a drastically improved indoor air quality.  Do your air ducts need to be cleaned? Read on to learn everything you need to know about the pros and cons of clean ducts.

Why You Need Clean Air Ductsvacuuming air duct

Giving your air ducts a thorough cleansing is not something I would advocate for everyone. To some, it can seem like a daunting procedure.  With mixed opinions on the efficacy of this process, here are the pros and cons.


  • Removing debris and cobwebs from air ducts eases airflow and increases an HVAC system’s efficiency by up to 40%
  • Cleaning removes accumulated dust – preventing it from spreading across a household.
  • If you have fiberglass ducting, your ducts are more prone to gather more dust than those made of sheet metal


  • Getting your ducts cleaned professionally can be a costly process.
  • Dust accumulated on the interior of the ducts may not be circulating and may not be a problem.
  • The health benefits claimed by some are not proven
  • Symptoms of dirty ducts can often be resolved by replacing your furnace filter.

Whether or not your air ducts need cleaning is often based on a case-by-case basis due to factors such as severity of symptoms and individual air systems.  To get a better idea on if your ducts need cleaned, you’ll need to take a closer look.

Symptoms of Dirty Air Ducts

Open up your air ducts and take a peek inside. It’s a good idea to use a flashlight to get a better look.  There are a number of foreign particulate that could be living in your air ducts. If you see one or more of the following symptoms, you may need to have your air ducts cleaned.

Mold – Substantial mold growth on the walls of your air ducts is a good indicator that your air ducts need a deep cleaning. Don’t just look for the presence of mold. Look for the cause. Damp or moist ducts can lead to mold accumulation and potentially worse symptoms.

Pest Infestations – Ducts infested with vermin like insects or rodents should also be cleaned. As with mold, the underlying problem needs to be addressed along with a thorough cleaning.  Rats and other rodents can leave droppings and dander.  You can clean these out of your ducts, but if you don’t eliminate the source of the pests, future problems will continue to occur.

Excessive Dust – Ducts clogged with excessive levels of dust and debris allow for particles to be released into the home from your supply registers.  Your HVAC system is designed to prevent excessive buildup in the first place, so if there’s a dust problem, check out your air filter – it may need to be replaced.

Apart from these symptoms, look for clogs of dust, cobwebs, and debris blowing out of air supply registers in your home.  These are also indicators of dirty ducts that need a cleaning.

man looking into air ductHow to Clean Your Air Ducts Yourself

So you’ve found out that you have dirty air ducts, now what? Cleaning air ducts is no easy task, but if you feel that you’re up for the challenge, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Household cleaner – bleach will work
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Zip Ties – for reconnecting ducts
  • Cloths or Rags
  • Mastic
  • Small paintbrush – for sealing duct connections

Acquire all of the above materials. Take your bucket, and mix one part housecleaner with three parts water to make a potent cleaning solution.  Go to your air ducts.  Remove the outer and inner liners from the duct connectors at the unit and at the ceiling or wall.

Take your cloth rags and soak them in the solution.  Wring them out until they are damp.

Reaching in as far as you can, use the damp rags to wipe the inner liner with the rags.

Once the ends of the duct are clean, apply a light layer of mastic over the duct connector.  Slide the inner liner back over the metal duct connector.

Using your zip ties, secure the inner liner onto the duct connector.  Pull the insulation and outer liner over the duct connector.  Use another zip tie to secure the outer liner and insulation into place and apply another layer of mastic over the outer liner of the duct.

You can also vacuum inside the duct as far as you can reach with a vacuum home.  Keep in mind that, while this method is effective at removing visible dirt and debris, this process will only clean the end of each of your air ducts.  If your ducts are contaminated in unreachable areas of your ducts, you will need to seek out professional help.

Seek Professional Help

For serious duct issues, or if you do not want to clean your air ducts yourself, there are many professional services available that use specialized equipment to thoroughly clean your ventilation system.  These services can get to hard-to-reach areas of your duct system and clean them using expensive cleaning equipment.  This process can be costly, however, with prices ranging from $300 to $600.  If your nose is consistently itchy, it could be a worthwhile investment.  Always look for reliable services and ask to see proof of contamination in areas where you cannot personally see.

professional cleaning air ductsKeep in mind that while duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems, this doesn’t mean it is not beneficial.  Even though studies do not conclusively demonstrate that particle levels increase due to dirty air ducts or decrease after cleaning, if your air ducts are dirty, action should be taken.  Dirt that accumulates inside air ducts can adhere to the duct walls and potentially enter your home air space.  Dusty, dirty ducts and vents are just one of many possible sources of indoor air contamination.  Your indoor air can be affected by a number of outside factors such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, and pets.  Perhaps the best preventative measure to take is to use furnace filters to filter your indoor air quality and to replace them every 3-6 months.

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