How to clean air ducts & vents yourself

After you have built your home, it’s now time to lean back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ll never have to work a day in your life again. 

It would be great if it were simply that easy. However, that’s not reality. 

You want to ensure that your family’s air is safe to breathe, but you also want your HVAC to perform optimally. 

air ventilation grille

We’ll walk you through the air duct cleaning process to ensure it gets done correctly.

It is a good thing to get done in the spring when the weather outside is warming up. However, there’s no saying that you can’t do it in the fall or even in the middle of winter. 

The spring gives you a nice period of time where the weather’s great for you doing such a project yourself. 

It does involve improving all the air your family is exposed to. There’s dust, and there’s dander. There’s the hair, and there are bug fragments. If you haven’t had your air vents and ducts cleaned, you could be breathing in a bit of everything.

Chances are, it’s probably not doing anything great for your health. They’ll hang around the vents and ducts where the air is getting pushed through.

Who’s the recipient of the dirty air? You are!

Think about it. Do you want to breathe in old dust accumulating in your home’s various places?

air ventilation grille

You didn’t construct your dream home just so that it could become the foundation of your daughter’s allergy problems.

After really imagining all the stuff flying around your house, you may have gotten more convinced that cleaning the vents is the right choice.

Most people don’t want dirty, dusty air going uncontrolled around the house. You do many other things for your family to be both comfortable and healthy. This is just one of them.

There are several reasons you’ll want to undertake this task. Potential allergies are just one of them, and the more reason to get started.

An average family generates an astounding amount of dust every single year—40 pounds, to be more precise. Pets and mold will only make the air quality worse. Then there’s potential dust that can also blow in through an open door or window

If you’re not doing anything about it, this dust isn’t going to be leaving your house. It will just spread. It lingers and is in constant circulation until you either breathe it in or clean it out. 

It’s a nightmare for someone that suffers from allergies. 

When you’re not keeping your ducts and vents in good order, fine particulate contaminants such as dangerous allergens will rage against your family. Do you want to see who wins? 

They quickly flow through the house, where they’ll land on various objects, like your kids’ toys. Have you seen how they like to put those things in their mouth? 

You’ve probably heard of the EPA. They have had a thing or two to say on the matter. They’ve ranked indoor pollution on a scale in terms of its damage to public health.

They ranked it in the top five, being devastating to people’s health. It’s because we’re being exposed to millions of dangerous particles that we cannot even see.

Should you do it yourself? 

Cleaning your air ducts is just a different type of house cleaning. We’ve never been given the necessary training to ensure we were correctly taking care of our homes. 

In turn, we spend a lot of money to get it right. Often, it costs us a lot of money. 

You’ve probably seen various $99 air duct cleaning offers by reputable companies. 

After reading this article, you’ll see there isn’t a good reason to pay that money when you can do it yourself. Learning how to do it is also simple.

When you have the necessary air duct cleaning tools for the DIY job, you’ll be able to do it and save on renting it.

Pros have 150-foot vacuum hoses that they use for the purpose. They’re elaborate systems mounted on a truck. They’re high-powered, but they are not necessary. You can do the work yourself without such advanced machinery. 

It means you won’t get in quite as far as they do, but that’s not where most dust gathers anyway. Do you know why? 

Most of the stuff you’ll want to remove won’t even be into your ducts. It’s closer to the register, where it’s more accessible. Most of it you can even reach with your hand. 

However, there are some tools you’ll want to make a DIY air duct cleaning easier.

DIY air duct cleaning tools

Doing air duct cleaning yourself requires tools. The good thing is you can use them again next time the job needs to be done. Here are the tools you’ll need.

  • Paper towels. You won’t want to have too few of them. It’s easy ending up in a situation of having to do more cleaning if you don’t have enough paper towels. 
  • Microfiber cloth. These work great for the purpose.
  • Screwdriver or power drill. You can use either. It’s a matter of whether you want to remove screws the easy way or the hard way. The different registers around your home may have different types of screws. Go around to make sure you have one that works. 
  • Brush. A stiff-bristled paintbrush is pretty good for the purpose. You can also get a cheap toilet brush.
  • A strong vacuum. We suggest you bite the bullet and buy one of the ones you would normally rent. It’ll set you back an amount of money. However, it also means you won’t be spending $99 on air duct cleaning going forward. A normal vacuum isn’t powerful enough for the purpose.
  • Gloves. Trust me. You’ll need a good set of heavy-duty gloves for this.
  • Dust mask or goggles. It will be dusty what you’re doing, and you’d be better off ensuring your health is properly taken care of with a dust mask. 
  • Furnace filter. A new furnace filter is needed when you’re done. Figure out what system you have to find the corresponding one. 

Here’s a guide to making sure you’re finding the right vents

Which ways do the vents go? 

There’s an easy way to see which way a vent blows. New homeowners learn a lot of new things, and you may not even have known that there are different types of vents. 

Some blow air into the house, and some remove air. You’ll want to find a piece of tissue if you don’t yet know which ways your vents are blowing.

Place a tissue on top of a vent. Does it get sucked towards the vent? If so, it’s a return duct. That’s where the air is leaving through and goes back into the HVAC system

Supply vents will experience the opposite. It blows air into the house, either warm or cool. If the AC is on, it’ll cool the house. If the furnace is on, it heats

It’s important to know that we’re talking about vents on the inside of the house that are distinguished from any outside vents. Outside vents are connected to your attic. They don’t have anything to do with your HVAC system, and they’re not the ones you’ll be working on anyway. 

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. 

Time needed: 30 minutes.

How to clean air ducts & vents yourself

  1. Screws from air duct covers and return-air grill plates must be removed.

    You will want to make sure you put those screws in a place where you can find them again. If they’re on the floor, there are probably no vent

  2. Supply vents need to be covered with paper towels.

    We’ll be cleaning the vents one at a time, which means other vents are prone to spewing out dust. It is a situation you will want to avoid. Take the supply vents out and place a paper towel underneath so that it is stuck between the cover and the wall or floor.

    At this point, do not add the screws back in. You’ll be removing the paper towel when you’re done. paper towel in supply vent

  3. Make sure the “fan on” mode is running. 

    You want the HVAC system to work with you, not against you. With the fan on, it’s easier to vacuum out all the dust as it will have loosened. If you’re unable to set the system on “fan on” mode, heating is better. It’s another reason why it’s beneficial to do the work when it’s not 110 degrees outside. fan on mode on a thermostat

  4. Access the ducts to loosen the dust.

    Access the crawl space or basement where the ducts are located. Knocking loose the dust in there will make it easier to suck out of the vents. This is where the toilet brush comes in handy. It’s not a big knock that needs to happen.

    Tap wherever you see ductwork in the crawlspace or basement. Deposits that may have stuck will now move their way toward the supply registers. accessing the ducts through the crawlspace

  5. Get as much dust from the supply register as possible. 

    The dust is seeking toward the supply register, where you can now use the vacuum to get it. Sweep it out as best as you can. Turn the vacuum on and put it near the register. Now lift the register and use the hose to trap the dust that is coming out. Push the hose in as far as possible. The further you can get in with the hose, the better. The brush can be used to loosen dust that may have gotten stuck. vacuum

  6. Use the microfiber cloth and glove.

    Rinse the microfiber cloth and put it into the duct as far as you can. Wipe the interior as clean as you can before retrieving the cloth. It’s probably full of dust and could use a rinse. Rinse it before repeating the process until you’re no longer getting lots of dust on the cloth. 

    If it’s been a long time since it was last done, you’ll want to do it several times. When you’re done with a register, it’s time to remove the paper towels. The recently cleaned duct is now in a much better condition than it previously was!

    Throw out the used paper towels. Go through each supply vent, taking out as much dust as possible. The picture I took is clearly not of a microfiber cloth.
    wash cloth

  7. Return registers must now be cleaned as well.

    Return registers are a bit harder than supply ones because dust isn’t being pushed in your direction. However, get in and sweep as far as you’re able to. Use the brush and cloth there as well. Go as far in as you’re able to. return register

  8. Ensure the entire system is off.

    You’ll want to shut off the entire system now. The fan should be shut off at the thermostat. Turn off the electricity by turning off the unit’s breaker panel. Ensure it’s done at the breaker panel level because the thermostat won’t entirely eliminate the electricity. breaker panel

  9. It’s time for the return air boot and blower compartment to get some love.

    It won’t be pretty, but it’s where most of the dust will be. Sweep up all the dust that has accumulated in the return air boot and blower compartment. 

    It’s where all the air ends up when it’s been retracted from the house and where most of the dust will be. The furnace fan could probably also use a good cleaning while you’re at it. blower compartment

  10. Put in new furnace filters. 

    Furnace filters do a great job of catching contaminants. However, they do not do much if they’re clogged. Consider whether you have the filter that is best suited for your family. Some filters will have higher MERV ratings and provide better protection. 

    Cleaning or changing a furnace filter is important. Doing it every three months is usually necessary, which will also make your system last longer. There could be situations that call for you having to do it more frequently, like if you have air filter being installed



Is duct cleaning a waste of money and a ripoff, or is it necessary and worth it?

Duct cleaning is definitely worth it. However, you don’t have to pay for it. It’s both necessary and a good thing for you to be doing. Most people don’t know that it’s a relatively easy task to do themselves if they have the right tools.

What are the benefits of air duct cleaning?

Cleaning your air ducts has various benefits, including reducing allergens and providing a cleaner living environment. It also makes your air system operate more efficiently and gets rid of various odors, like the smell of smoke.

How often should you clean the air ducts?

Every 3 years. The NADCA has certain recommendations, and we’re operating on the side of caution. We want your family to be safe and not annoyed by allergens. By keeping your ducts clean, you’re keeping your family happy.

How do I know if my air ducts need to be cleaned?

Unpleasant odors and clogged air filters are signs to look out for. If you’re experiencing poor airflow, it’s also a sign that the ducts are clogged and need cleaning. 

How does air duct cleaning work?

It works by first gaining access to the ducts through the vents and registers. You then loosen all the dirt that’s been stuck in the ducts by tapping on it from the basement. With the aid of a brush and a vacuum, you suck it out before returning to your daily life.