How to clean air ducts yourself

How to clean air ducts yourself

Your ductwork is an important piece of your HVAC system. Duct cleaning can help improve HVAC performance and home air quality.

This piece will review the benefits of duct cleaning and provide an overview of how to clean air ducts yourself. 

DIY air duct cleaning tools


bissel vacuum

Bissell 2252

  • Affordable
  • Powerful

Cleaning brush

rubbermaid cleaning brush

Rubbermaid 14.5-inch brush

  • Under $5
  • Versatile


screwdriver set

Amazon Basics 51-piece bit set

  • Good value
  • Easy to use

Paper towels

bounty paper towels

Bounty quick-size

  • Thick
  • Flexible sizes

Air filter

air filters

Filtrete AC furnace air filter

  • High quality
  • Filters allergens

Why clean air ducts yourself? 

According to HomeAdvisor, it costs an average of $376 to have your air ducts professionally cleaned. The price may vary based on elements like accessibility and lifestyle factors (e.g., if you have pets or smokers in the house).

DIY air duct cleaning will save you money since it involves tools that most homeowners already have. It can also help prolong the life of your air conditioner and furnace. It eliminates dust in the home and may improve air quality for your family.

Is duct cleaning a waste of money?

Professional duct cleaning is worthwhile. Experts have tools that can reach deep into your ductwork. You won’t be able to access all of your ducts with DIY cleaning.

Additionally, duct cleaning companies can identify and remedy potential issues in your ductwork, including leaks or blockages.

Duct leaks and obstructions can damage your overall HVAC system without immediate attention. They may also result in increased utility bills.

Cleaning your air ducts yourself is also beneficial. You can do a DIY cleaning between professional cleanings to keep your system running smoothly. 

Connect me with an HVAC pro to clean my ducts.

Air duct cleaning: do it yourself

Cleaning your air ducts yourself is a simple process involving tools you probably own already. The job may take several hours, depending on the size of your home and the number of air registers.

Tools for DIY air duct cleaning

Before you begin, gather the necessary tools. These include:

You may also choose to invest in:

DIY air duct cleaning steps

1. Loosen up dust

If you have visible ductwork (in your attic or crawlspace, for example), lightly tap the outside with the handle of your cleaning brush. This will help loosen up dust and dirt.

Turn your thermostat to “fan” and “on.” Let it run this way for a few minutes. The air will push any dust closer to the registers where you can reach it for cleaning.

2. Turn off your HVAC system

The simplest way to make sure everything is off is via your electrical box. Turn off the breakers associated with your HVAC equipment, including the furnace and AC condenser.

Switch your thermostat to “off” as well.

3. Remove your vent grates

They may simply pop out. Or you may have to unscrew them first. Once the grates are off, cover the vent opening with a paper towel. If you have vents on a ceiling or a wall, you can use painter’s tape to secure the paper towel.

Covering the vent opening with a paper towel will prevent dust and debris from entering your rooms as you clean.

If you have different size grates, use a Sharpie to mark the inside with a number. Write the same number somewhere you can see it within the vent. This way, you’ll be able to easily match the grate to the correct vent later on.

Make sure you also remove and clean the grate on your air return. It’s typically larger than the other grates around your home.

4. Clean your vent grates

If your grates are plastic or metal, load them all into your dishwasher (top shelf for plastic) and clean them that way. Ensure they’re completely dry before replacing them.

If your grates are wooden or another material that’s not dishwasher safe, clean them in the sink. Run cold water over them and scrub the dirt and dust off. Dry them immediately to prevent warping.

man cleaning air ducts

5. Clean your vents

Start with one vent in your home. Remove the paper towel cover.

Insert your cleaning brush and jiggle it around to knock off anything stuck to the insides of the vent like spiderwebs or dust bunnies. We recommend using a toilet brush because of its long brush handle. But devote the brush to vent cleaning only. Don’t use a brush you’ve already used to clean the toilet (😬).

Insert your vacuum wand into the vent as deep as it will go. Vacuum out all debris.

Using a dampened rag or paper towel, wipe out the inside of the vent as far as you can reach. You can use tap water or your favorite multipurpose cleaner. 

Re-cover the vent with a paper towel when you finish. Continue this step until you’ve cleaned all the vents in your house.

6. Clean your air return

Take out the filter in your air return. Throw it away.

Use your cleaning brush, vacuum, and paper towels to clean out the air return. Only go as far as you can safely reach.

Replace the filter with a fresh new one.

7. Return your grates

Once your grates are clean and dry, remove the paper towel covering each vent. Replace the grates. You may need to use a screwdriver to secure them.

8. Clean your furnace blower compartment

Lots of dust accumulates in this area. To access it, remove the cover on your furnace. You may need to unscrew it with a screwdriver.

Take the furnace filter out and dispose of it. Use your cleaning brush to remove cobwebs and other stuck-on dirt from the compartment.

Vacuum out the blower compartment with your hose attachment. Then clean it out with a damp paper towel. Again, you can use plain water or your favorite multipurpose cleaner. If you can reach the furnace fan, clean that as well.

Replace the filter with a new one. Close and secure the furnace cover.

9. Clean your air condenser

Check out our step-by-step guide for cleaning your air conditioner

10. Turn your system back on

Enjoy your fresh ductwork!

Sound like too much work? You can always call a pro to get your ductwork spic-and-span. 

Connect me with a local HVAC expert.

Benefits of clean air ducts 

Fewer allergens

Keeping your air ducts clean reduces the number of allergens circulating in your home. This includes pet dander, pollen, and dust.

Unattractive to animals

Sometimes, rodents and birds can make their way into your ductwork. Dust and debris provide good nest-building materials for them. Clean air ducts are inhospitable – those pests will leave and find shelter elsewhere.

Additionally, air ducts can host insect infestations. These are much less likely to happen when your ducts are clean and dry.

Mold prevention

Clean, sealed ductwork keeps mold out. If your ducts are dirty with leaky joints, mold can flourish.

Mold inhalation is a potential health hazard. And it smells bad.

Don’t attempt to clean your air ducts yourself if you suspect mold growing in your ductwork. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends hiring a professional for HVAC mold removal. 

Lower utility bills

Clogged ducts make your HVAC equipment work harder than it needs to. Your system can function at max performance with clean air ducts, thus reducing your utility bills.

You may also save money by proactively finding and fixing potential furnace and AC repair issues in the cleaning process.

Prolonged HVAC system life

Maintenance is necessary to keep your HVAC system at its best. Duct cleaning should be part of your regular AC maintenance.

Be sure to schedule HVAC system checkups every year. We recommend having your ductwork cleaned professionally every 3-5 years. Between those appointments, clean your air ducts yourself to ensure your HVAC equipment lasts as long as possible.

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