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DIY Duct Cleaning: Do You Need the Experts?


diy duct cleaning

You have probably heard that clean HVAC ducts help ensure healthy indoor air quality. You may be thinking about doing a DIY duct cleaning project. If you’re watching your wallet and have an industrious spirit, you can try duct cleaning yourself.

Learn more about the benefits of duct cleaning for your home or business:
Allergies and Duct Cleaning: What’s the Connection?
How Furnace Duct Cleaning Makes Your AC Work Better

Good-to-know tips before you begin

Before you start a do it yourself duct cleaning project, there are a few things you should know.

  1. DIY duct cleaning isn’t easy. If you’re not accustomed to this type of work, it can take longer than you realize to finish the job.
  2. Do it yourself air duct cleaning isn’t for the squeamish. You might uncover mold, animal and insect droppings and all sorts of things. You might even find a dead rodent.
  3. If you take on DIY duct cleaning, you can make your ducts significantly cleaner and reduce dust.
  4. As a DIYer, you probably don’t have access to the high-powered vacuums and rotary brushes that duct cleaning companies use. Without professional equipment, you cannot achieve the same results as a reputable duct cleaning service.

What are the tools of your new trade?

  • Heavy duty gloves, a dust mask and goggles to wear when doing the DIY duct cleaning work.
  • A screwdriver that’s compatible with the screws on your registers and return-air grille plates.
  • Paper towels or rags.
  • A vacuum with a lengthy hose. A “Shop Vac” works best.
  • A stiff-bristle brush with a long handle. A rotary dryer vent-cleaning brush or toilet brush are good choices.

DIY duct cleaning: a step-by-step guide

  1. Remove screws from air duct covers and return-air grill plates.
  2. Temporarily cover your supply air registers with paper towels or cloths. Lift the unscrewed register slightly up and tuck a towel under it to keep the towel in place. This will stop dust from entering your rooms as you clean.
  3. Set your thermostat to the “fan on” position. The fan will help move the dust that you loosen when cleaning. Make sure the heat and cool mode is off. If you have an older thermostat that does not have a “fan only” setting, run the heat.
  4. Loosen the dust in the ducts using the brush. A light tapping with the brush will loosen clumps of dust sticking to the inside of the ducts.
  5. Uncover and lift one supply register at a time. Use the vacuum hose to suck up any dust blown out by the fan. Use the hose to go as deep as you can to suction dust.
  6. Clean the return-air registers one-by-one with your brush and vacuum.
  7. Clean each duct covers and grill plate before reattaching.
  8. Change dirty HVAC air filters. You won’t get the full benefits of clean ducts if you have HVAC filters clogged with the dust and contaminants they are designed to catch.

Learn more: Why and How to Change an AC Filter

What if you find mold during your DIY duct cleaning?

If you think you’ve found mold, have it tested to verify. Call in a professional if you have a mold problem. HVAC duct cleaning services have the expertise to remove dangerous mold. They also have the equipment to get to hard-to-reach areas that your house vacuum cannot.

If your find moldy insulation, call an HVAC professional to replace it. There is no effective way to clean mold from insulation.

DIY duct cleaning: what are the risks?

Duct damage. By doing a DIY duct cleaning, you run the risk of tearing your ducts, especially if you have flex ducts. These are made from thin plastic and are easy to damage. Even if you poke a small hole in your ductwork, you’ll reduce airflow in your home. That makes your HVAC system less effective and drives up your utility bills.

You also need to be careful not to crush flex ducts or knock the plastic tubes off any support brackets.

Less effective cleaning. While you can improve your air quality with a DIY duct cleaning, your efforts won’t be as effective as a professional cleaning. You won’t be able to reach every nook and cranny that professionals’ can with high-powered vacuums and 150-feet of hose.

If you think DIY duct cleaning isn’t for you, there are many reputable NADCA-certified cleaning companies available. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association sets professional duct cleaning standards and requires continuing education for those certified.

It won’t hurt to get a few estimates from NADCA-certified companies like Arista Air before putting on heavy duty gloves and a dust mask and beginning a DIY duct cleaning project. Whichever route you take, you’ll likely improve air quality, which is especially important for asthma and allergy-sufferers.

Check out our helpful guide to learn more: FAQ: Duct Cleaning and Your Indoor Air Quality.

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