Statistically, 90% of us spend most of our time indoors, which is why it is of the upmost importance that you maintain good indoor air quality. After all, the last thing you want to do is to subject yourself and your loved ones to the risk of developing allergies and sickness due to biological contaminants (in the form of pollen and mold) and pollution from household products (which can be emitted by floor polish, pain, drain cleaner fluid and pesticides).
If you can’t afford to hire a professional or if you simply do not have the time to monitor a third party as they clean your air ducts, you might want to consider using a weekend to clean your air ducts on your own.
When Should I Clean My Air Duct?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, signs that your air duct requires cleaning include a musty odour, visible mold growth or the sudden illness or allergic reaction by one of the household occupants. If you have none of the above symptoms but have noticed that the grill of your return registers is dusty, then do note that you might not have to clean your air duct just yet. Instead, simply heavily vacuum the area to drastically improve your indoor air quality.
How to Perform DIY Air Duct Cleaning
There are essentially four basic steps to cleaning your air duct, but before you roll your sleeves up and begin on this project, you would want to first prep several items beforehand. These tools include a screwdriver, a heavy-duty cleaning brush, cleaning rags, heavy-duty gloves and a vacuum cleaner. You should also protect yourself by wearing a face mask at all times, as dust and other harmful bacteria will be floating dangerously close to your own face.
Step One: Clearing the Perimeter
With your heavy-duty gloves on, begin by scrubbing down the exterior area of the air duct. Once you’ve given the general vicinity of the air duct a good scrub, you should then position light objects away from the duct to prevent anything from accidentally falling inside the air duct. You can then remove the air duct covers using the screwdriver.
Step Two: Cleaning the Interior Walls
Most air ducts come with filtered inner surfaces to better trap dirt, so forcefully sucking out all the grime from the inner walls may be too harsh for the delicate surface area. A better option would be to manually scrub down the inner walls with a brush or rag cloth. Do note that you should still scrub the interior area of your air ducts clean, even if it is already lined with furnace filters.
You might also want to consider applying cleaning fluid to a sponge and scrubbing down stubborn stains present in the air duct, but do refrain from flooding the entire area with water as excess moisture can lead to mold growth. After you’re satisfied with brushing and rubbing dirt away, you can then vacuum any excess dirt as well. In the event that you spot possible mold growth in your air duct, do your best to extract a sample to be submitted to your local microbiological laboratory. These experts would be able to inform you on whether or not the mold (if existent) is hazardous, and further advise you on the best way to fully remove the bacteria from your household.
Step Three: Cleaning the Lower Area
Your cloth or brush obviously will not be able to reach the lower area of your air duct, which is where the hose of your vacuum cleaner comes in handy. Simply pass down the hose towards the lower levels of the air duct and patiently suck out as much dirt as you can from your air duct. While this method is not as efficient as hiring a professional duct cleaning service crew, it can surely help remove the bulk of the irritants and make breathing indoors an easier, healthier affair.
Step Four: Replace the Grilles
It is highly recommended that you thoroughly soak and clean the air duct grille cover before repositioning it back into place. Once the grille has dried and is completely clean, you can then screw the cover back into place and vacuum the entire area just to be sure that most of the dust particles have been removed. Before you fasten the grilles, you might also want to apply disinfectant throughout your air duct system to biologically destroy the formation of mold, bacteria and dust mites in your air duct.
Besides cleaning your air-duct and return-air grilles, you should also spend some time spring cleaning the interior areas of your heating system, ventilating system and furnace fat, especially if your model comes with an air-conditioning pump on the inside. This cleaning exercise should include the cleansing of coils, fan motor, fan housing and drip pans as per manual as well.
Maintaining Your Air Ducts
Now that your air ducts are finally clean, you can now extend its state of cleanliness through several tips, with the most obvious being to simply minimize the amount of dirt entering your air ducts. To do this, only use air filters with the highest efficiency as recommended by your heating and cooling system manufacturer. These filters should also be changed according to the manufacturer’s manual or when the filters have become visibly clogged, whichever event occurs first. You should also note that the cleanliness of an air duct will also rapidly deteriorate if it operates with one less missing filter, so be sure to have all filters well fitted into position at all times.
If your building is undergoing renovation, you should also have your air duct sealed away to prevent the dust from the construction from finding its way into your air ducts. Similarly, you should also keep the rest of your house dust-free as well simply by regularly vacuuming your home.