Indoor Air Quality & How To Clean HVAC Ducts

Read our easy 10  DIY steps to clean and sanitize your air ducts and HVAC vents to improve your home’s air quality. 

During the hot summer months and cold winter season, we go several months without opening our windows for fresh air. The HVAC indoor air quality in our homes is very important for our health and comfort. Many people see HVAC cleaning as a hassle and end up being quite expensive. You might be wondering if there’s really any practical do-it-yourself model. Lucky for you – there are some life hacks to save money on your HVAC duct cleaning. Since the Internet is full of amateurs offering their “expert” advice, it’s important that you follow the procedure here or from another authoritative source. Be smart in your research! If you aren’t careful, you may break your system components or injure yourself. If you do decide to repair or clean it yourself, make sure you have the proper tools necessary.

Don’t attempt to apply any biocides to the inside of your ductwork. The FDA has not approved any of those products for commercial use. Many so-called “magic formulas” are just scams. By circulating these chemicals throughout your home, you open yourself to numerous health hazards.

And remember, if you need to clean a hard-to-reach area or fireplace, play it safe and call a technician. The adventures of DIY methods are not worth your life.

DIY Ductwork Cleaning

It’s not always necessary to clean a ductwork system, despite the advised yearly checkup by most HVAC companies. Many factors influence the condition of your ducts, including the initial installation, environment changes, and how often you use the heater. As long as you change out your filter every 1-3 months, your system should adequately perform.

That being said, you will need extensive ductwork cleaning if you have mold, a vermin infestation, or clogged air vents. You may find visible mold on components of your cooling and heating system. If you notice weird smells from the vents, it may be a sign of a fungus growing or rodent droppings. Also, an excessive amount of dust and debris can clog air ducts and you won’t feel any change in temperature when you adjust the thermostat.

For more telltale signs your system needs cleaning or repair, check out our other blog post “Why Is My Air Conditioning Not Working?

It is critical that before any cleaning, retrofitting, or replacing old air ducts for new ones, that you properly identify the cause. Otherwise, the problem may likely to recur and you’ll have wasted precious time and money. Your investigating might be the most laborsome part. You’ll need to carefully remove a large section of the vent, peer through with a flashlight, and thoroughly observe to find the culprit.

Before you decide to clean inside the ducts themselves, make an effort to clean various other system components, such as cooling coils, heat exchangers, and fans. Using a process of elimination, you can be sure the ducts the real problem. Besides, your diligence will reward with longer operation life and higher efficiency of the overall system.

It is not necessary to clean air ducts yourself on a regular basis. How often should you clean your air ducts? Do it only when needed. However, if you have a furnace, burning stove, or a fireplace, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends you inspect before every heating season.

Last, but not least, use common sense when operating with liquids. You don’t want to track water inside your ductwork and contaminate further the airflow. If you tend to sweat profusely, you should wear gloves and other protective gear. The EPA has a detailed guide on prevention of contamination of your duct system.

Safety Precautions

Before deciding to clean your HVAC ducts yourself, make sure you set up your work area. Cover your furniture with plastic cover sheets to prevent contamination (this will save you a cleaning disaster at the end!). Then, cover the surface under every register. That way dust and dirt pushed out of your ductwork will not end up on your floor or carpet.

AC Duct Cleaning Equipment

Here’s a quick suggested list of tools that will suffice for most types of ductwork:

  • Vacuum – While you might prefer a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner, any household-type will do the job.
  • Furnace Filter – At the conclusion of your cleaning, most of the clogged dirt will be pushed to through your vents and onto your filter, meaning you’ll probably have to replace it. Wondering what would be the correct filter for you? While there are countless brands and types of filters, we reviewed most in our other blog “The Best Air Conditioner Filters For Allergies
  • Brush – A stiff-bristle paintbrush or a toilet brush will work.
  • Duct Tape – Before commencing duct cleaning, you will need to seal off all the registers. If you don’t have a sealant tape, use paper towels. Unless you want to do a lot of vacuuming and sweeping after you finish your work, covering registers is crucial.
  • Screwdriver or Hex Driver – You will need these tools to remove registers from the wall, as they are most likely fastened to their place. Use whatever device fits your fasteners. If the screws are very tight, don’t force it with the screwdriver. Get some WD-40 to loosen them.

Step-By-Step Process for Do-It-Yourself Air Duct Cleaning and Sanitizing

Step 1: Cover the Register Vents

Ensure your supply registers are covered. Supply registers are coverings that provide heated air to the rooms. This step is essential as you don’t want dust drifting into the room while you work. Cover supply registers with sealant tape. If you don’t have a sealant tape, lift the register and wrap it in a paper towel. Afterwards, put it back in its place.

Step 2: Turn On the Fan

Set the thermostat to “fan on.” At the same time, turn off “heat/cool” mode. You will need the fan running while cleaning the duct system to carry the dust and dirt particles along the ductwork.

Step 3: Check and Secure the Filter

Check if your old furnace filter is properly in place. The strainer will intercept any debris that the fan motor would otherwise suck. If any dust or dirt got into the fan motor, it could cause damage.

Step 4: Brush Away Dust from Inside the Ductwork

Break up, dust, and wipe away any dust you can reach in ductwork. Take your stiff-bristle paint brush or toilet brush and tap on any accessible ductwork in your basement or attic. Tapping will loosen any deposits of dust or dirt stuck to the inside of the duct system. Careful not to bang too hard and dent the frame.

Step 5: Vacuum Supply Registers

Carefully remove part of the sealant tape. Then, use the vacuum cleaner to catch any dust the fan has pushed out of it. Use your vacuum cleaner hose to clean inside of the piping as you are able. Proceed to push the tube as far inside of the duct’s pipeline as possible.

Step 6: Brush Remaining Dust from the Supply Registers

Use your brush to remove any remaining buildup deposits of dust and dirt within the registers. Finally, sanitize the all the registers with a domestic sanitizer.

Step 7: Shut off the Power to the Furnace

Do this via breaker panel or service switch. Turning off the power is essential for your safety in the following step.

Step 8: Clean Blower Compartment

Remove the panels from the furnace. Now you can access the blower compartment and the return boot. Use your vacuum cleaner to clean this area. If you wish for more thorough cleaning, remove the blower and furnace fan from its compartment. Take them apart and clean each component. However, do this only if you feel confident that you can put the wiring network back together.

Step 9: Replace the filter

In the end, you should change the furnace filter for a new one. In fact, make sure to remove it on a monthly basis. A dirty filter reduces the lifespan of a blower motor.

Step 10: Remove Coverings and Test the System

Finally, clean up your work area and remove the coverings on the registry vents and your furniture. Test your system on different settings to see if you encounter any further issues.

When to Contact an HVAC Professional

Since the situation in every home is different, it is impossible to give a general answer to whether you should attempt a DIY duct cleaning option.

If someone at your home suffers from allergies or other lung conditions, you probably should not attempt a thorough cleaning yourself. By choosing to clean the system yourself, you also risk the chance of getting sick by handling fungus and other dangerous bacteria. Allergies and other health issues is a very important factor in having your HVAC air quality at a healthy and optimal level year round.

However, be careful when choosing a duct cleaning service provider. If a service provider is negligent or unqualified, they can damage your HVAC and leave it in a worse condition than they found it. Instead, trust the professionals at North Augusta Air Conditioning to provide you clean, quality AC at your convenience.


Schedule A Service Call!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

secure contact

Customer Reviews

best hvac company in Augusta
“I called 6 other companies when my AC stopped pushing air at 5PM. None of them seemed to want my business. When I got to Sig Cox, the guy who answered the phone was polite, knowledgeable, and was even trouble shooting with me before sending someone out. The agent got to my house in 30 minutes, troubleshoot, and fixed the problem in another 30. He even topped off the freon for free. The pricing was definitely agreeable. You’d get charged the same or more with any other company. Some of the best customer service I have seen. You should absolutely consider Sig Cox for you HVAC problems, I won’t be looking anywhere else.”
Nicholas Brennan
Nicholas BrennanGoogle Review
“These people are amazing. After hiring Sig Cox the first time to fix my HVAC unit about a year ago, I was more than happy, to say the least. Then about a week ago I had them install a new HVAC unit for me. This is by far the best a/c repair company in Augusta GA. They are professional, timely, and really take care of their customers. I highly recommend them and proudly give them an A+ rating! Thank you all so much!”
Chris Kirksey
Chris KirkseyGoogle Review
“This company did some work for my mother-in-law, of which she was quite pleased, so she recommended them to us. We had a downstairs unit that just wasn’t putting out any cool air. They came by post haste and assessed the unit, gratis. Of course it was a compressor failure so we had to make the hard decision to buy a new unit or fix what we had. The advice we got from our man on the scene was honest and sincere.
Since we had an older unit that used the phased out Freon and compressors are ugh, expensive, we went with a new unit. We decided on the Amana since it had a lifetime warranty on the compressor and rated well in Consumer Reports.
A month later the other unit failed and we replaced that as well. Six Cog worked with us on the price, we were never hassled on the payment, nor did they demand any payment on the spot and never did I feel pressured into anything. The install was smooth, fast and highly professional. Both units fired up, granted a month apart, and the house was cool almost immediately.
This company has a great reputation from what I can garner in the community, and I’m here to tell you that I recommend them highly as well. Please note that this is first recommendation I have ever put online.”
Donald Bradshaw
Donald BradshawGoogle Review
“Very good experience. The Service Technician, David, went above and beyond to assist us in our AC repair.”
Daniel Brown
Daniel BrownGoogle Review
“From the first time that Mr. Boarwright came out, I knew that your company was top of the line. None [of the other companies] laid it out on paper like Sig Cox.”
Steven Burris
Steven BurrisGoogle Review
“Thank you and your crew for your profession assistance in solving our unique heating and cooling situation that involved two seperate zones.”
PJ Rodgers
PJ RodgersGoogle Review
“It was a pleasure doing business with your staff. They were professional and provided the solution to our problem.
Margaret Brubaker
Margaret BrubakerGoogle Review
My air conditiong system went out, Sig Cox was recommended so I called them. Technician Andrew came out, was on time, and he properly diagnosed the problem. He had the part ordered. When the part came in, Nolan installed the part perfectly. Both technicians were very professional and knowledgeable. I even talked to the owner of the company who is involve day-to-day with his company. Very nice people to deal and they really go beyond what’s expected to help you get things fixed. I highly recommend Sig Cox!! Ask for Andrew or Nolan, they know what they’re doing!!
Dan Can
Dan CanGoogle Review
“We had a heating and air company we were satisfied with, but when we needed a new unit we went with Sig Cox because of the deal we couldn’t beat. We have been SO impressed with everyone we have worked with, from the customer service, to the salesman, to the technicians, they are all so friendly and professional! We will be loyal customers from now on!”
Ashley Marks
Ashley MarksGoogle Review