How to Properly Clean Your Vent System During Spring Cleaning

by Jessica - May 6, 2019

You can never worry too much about the air quality inside your house. If the air itself is carrying a funny scent or it’s just a little too heavy to comfortably breathe like normal, then it’s probably time to do some air duct cleaning (and we’re not talking about anyone’s nose). As you can imagine, air quality is about more than just simple comfort; a dirty vent or AC duct can be home to many bacteria, viruses, mold, insects and other nasties.

Knowing how to clean your own air ducts will not only make your home safer for you and your family, but you’ll save a lot of money in the long run, since professional duct cleaners can charge you a pretty penny for it. Let’s see how you can tackle this problem without spending too much or damaging anything around the house.

What you’ll need:

  • Screwdriver or hex driver: Our instincts tell us that your register, like those of most people, is being held in place by some screws or fasteners, so you’ll need this to get them loose. A ¼” hex driver is what you’ll most likely end up needing but check first.
  • Vacuum: While most household vacuums will do a decent job, you’ll be better off with a heavy-duty unit, so try and get a stronger version if you think yours isn’t powerful enough. Whichever model you pick, make sure that it has a long hose attached.
  • Vent register filters: If you have pets that shed a lot, you’ll definitely want to install some of these around the house, since they help keep the most common allergens like dust, pet fur, dirt and others at bay.
  • Brush or broom: Something with stiff bristles and a long handle will do just fine; you don’t just want to gently pull the dust out, but scrape up anything that shouldn’t be there.
  • Paper covers: Place a couple of these around the vent you’re cleaning, or you’ll be taking extra steps to finish cleaning after you’re done with each duct. You can also cover other registers around the house while sweeping the dust you’ve collected.

How to clean your air ducts, step-by-step

1. Cover your supply registers

You’ll want to avoid all the dust you’re moving inside the ducts from just being thrown into the other rooms, and it’s pretty simple to prevent that from happening. Just lift the registers and wrap a paper towel over the top, then put it back into place. Do this for every supply register in the house.

2. Double check your furnace filter and turn on the fan

There are several furnace duct cleaning pros and cons, but overall we think it’s best if you at least double check. If you don’t, the dust might end up clogging your fan motor, and that’s a costly repair you want to avoid, especially after doing such a simple task. After that, turn on the fan, so the dust you remove gets pushed out.

3. Start scraping the dust inside the ducts

Use the handle of your brush or broom to knock a little on the duct walls to loosen up the dust sticking to it, then start sweeping it out towards your supply registers. Get your vacuum and put the end of the hose near the register to catch any dust that comes out of it. Keep doing this and sweep as far in as you can reach, and repeat around the house with your other supply registers (which should be covered by now).

4. Cut off the power to the motor

Just turning off the thermostat won’t be enough to cut out the power to the fan motor; you’ll have to do so via the breaker panel or a master switch. This is important because the next step is cleaning the furnace.

5. Access the furnace and clean it out

Once the fan is off, remove the panels covering the furnace’s blower compartment, and sweep out the dust that has built up inside. There’s bound to be a lot of it, so be prepared. Do the same for the return air boot and the furnace fan as well. You can also replace your furnace filter since you’re already there, which can help you reduce the dust buildup.

Is it necessary to have your ducts cleaned? Absolutely, although it’s not something that you’ll have to do every week or month (thankfully!). You’ll get the best results doing so a couple of times a years, tops, and spring cleaning season is perfect for it, so get dusting! If you made too much of a dusty mess while doing so, however, you might want to get someone else to take care of that for you, right?