What is Air Duct Cleaning?

Air Duct Cleaning Process

Air duct cleaning removes indoor pollutants from your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Indoor air pollution is often much worse than pollution outside because of its density and prevalence. Over time, our HVAC systems collect pollutants, such as dust, dirt, hair, pollen, and more. Exposure to indoor air pollutants leads to increased symptoms of existing respiratory diseases or the development of diseases.

Both short and long-term exposure to indoor air pollutants has an impact on your health. Indoor air pollution seriously threatens you and your family, which is why air duct cleaning is so beneficial.

In this air duct cleaning guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this essential task. The following is what our air duct cleaning guide covers:

  • The necessity of air duct cleaning and how it benefits you and your home
  • Signs to look for when needing an air duct cleaning service
  • Why hire a professional for air duct cleaning rather than do it yourself
  • The process of air duct cleaning and frequently asked questions answered

Is Are Duct Cleaning Necessary?

Yes, absolutely! Air duct cleaning is necessary to maintain your home’s indoor air quality. Without such care, you can expect serious short-term and long-term health effects. Those with already existing respiratory conditions can expect an increase in symptoms, while those without may experience flu-like symptoms.

Symptoms of short-term exposure to poor indoor air quality include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, or skin

Not everyone is affected by poor air quality since everyone has different levels of sensitivity. In addition, some parts of the home may be more impacted by indoor air pollution than others, making it possible for people to experience different amounts.

Long-term exposure to poor indoor air quality increases the risk of respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer. Some pollutants have more impact on human health than others, including radon and carbon monoxide. These pollutants could be lingering in the ducts of your home.

Without regular cleanings, your air ducts will become home to these pollutants and many others, reducing the quality of air. Air duct cleaning not only benefits your health but many other aspects of your home as well.

Healthier Environment

Cleaning your air ducts of any indoor air pollutants will significantly reduce any symptoms you or someone else may be experiencing. If a member of the household has a respiratory condition, they’ll likely feel the effects of an air duct cleaning instantly.

In addition, you and your family are not exposed to poor indoor air quality for long periods of time. This reduces the risk of developing diseases that may have drastic effects on your long-term health. Not only will your physical health improve but so will your mental health knowing you have peace of mind.

Energy Efficiency

A buildup of dust in your air ducts and registers will prevent steady airflow. This means the HVAC system has to work harder to cool or heat your home. Removing dust, dirt, and other debris from your HVAC system will increase its efficiency.

As your AC or furnace operate, they won’t have to spend as much time cooling or heating your home. In turn, your utility bills will go down. Cleaner HVAC systems work more efficiently and spend less energy, putting more money in your pocket.

Removes Odors

Your air ducts collect more than just dust. They’ll also accumulate odors from all kinds of sources (cigarettes, paint, pests, cleaning chemicals, etc.). These sources could be what’s causing your air ducts to smell. Odors can linger into the rest of your home, creating an unpleasant environment.

An air duct cleaning can remove those foul and musty odors from your HVAC system. By eliminating all the debris from inside, you eliminate any particles that are holding those bad smells. If you find yourself battling a continuous odor, it may be coming from your ductwork.

Cleaner Home

When dust and dirt are prevalent in your air ducts, your home will also suffer from uncleanliness. You’ll find more dust on surfaces and the registers, which create unsightly environments.

Eliminating the dust and dirt at the source will significantly decrease the amount of dust impacting the cleanliness of your entire home. After an air duct cleaning, you won’t have to clean surfaces as much, which gives you more time to do the things you want.

Signs of Needing Air Duct Cleaning

women with sore throat

Once you know the importance of air duct cleaning, you can start looking for signs of when to get them cleaned. Identifying the signs of needing an air duct cleaning helps you as a homeowner. Your health, home, and wallet will all benefit.

When determining if you need an air duct cleaning, consider the following:

  • Higher energy bill
  • Excess dust
  • Insect or rodent infestation
  • Increase health problems
  • Strange odors
  • Recent construction
  • Unknown condition

Higher Energy Bill

The presence of a higher energy bill doesn’t directly point to dirty air ducts. Energy efficiency is tethered to a number of different aspects of your home (insulation, roofing, siding, etc.). While your air ducts may not be the first place to start when creating an energy-efficient home, they are certainly an excellent, low-cost place to start.
As the registers, vents, and filters in your HVAC system collect dust, the air has a harder time passing through. This prevents air from reaching the places it needs to in your home. As a result, the HVAC system works harder to cool or heat your home. If you can’t find the culprit of your high utility bills, look to the ductwork.

Excess Dust

A buildup of dust on the registers or vents in your home indicates the need for an air duct cleaning. You should take note of how often you’re changing the filter. If you have to change your HVAC filter more often, it’s a sign the dust in your ducts is significant.

In addition to the dust in your vents and filter, look for excess dust in your home. Do surfaces have more dust than usual? Do you have to clean more often because of excess dust? These are signs your HVAC system is moving a lot of dust through your home. Get it all removed with comprehensive cleaning.

Insect and Rodent Infestation

If you’re currently battling against ants, roaches, mice, or rats, it’s possible they could be calling your HVAC system home. These small pests can penetrate ductwork by burrowing or chewing their way inside.

Once pests are inside, they’ll leave behind droppings, dander, diseases, and other harmful bacteria to you and your family. They may even potentially die inside the air ducts, leaving behind a foul odor. If you find pests inside your air ducts or you’re seeing them around the house, it may be best to get your air ducts inspected.

Strange Odors

All kinds of odors could come from your air duct system. As we mentioned already, pests can leave behind dander or die inside. These leave behind extremely foul odors that will impact your entire home.

In addition to pests, a buildup of dirt may also create a musty odor in your home. We should also mention the presence of mold in your HVAC system could lead to a musty or foul odor. When looking for that strange smell in your home, check the air vents next time!

Increased Health Problems

Are you or a household member experiencing more symptoms of allergies or respiratory conditions? If so, you may be breathing in high amounts of indoor air pollution. When an HVAC system has not been cleaned in some time, a variety of contaminants can accumulate.

When you, another household member, or even guests start to experience more health issues, you should start looking at the air duct system. This is especially true if the symptoms do not persist once you leave home. You may notice your symptoms stop after leaving the house for a while or traveling. This indicates the air duct system is the cause.

Recent Construction

After remodeling your home or performing almost any kind of home improvement, it’s best to have your air duct system cleaned. While remodeling your home, dust, dirt, paint fumes, and other types of pollutants will find their way into your HVAC system. They’ll collect in your air ducts and stay there. Once you are completely finished with your renovations, get your HVAC system cleaned immediately after.

Unknown Condition

Finally, if you’ve recently moved into your home and aren’t sure when the last time the air ducts were cleaned, contact your local HVAC expert. They can perform an inspection and let you know what your air ducts need. For some, a comprehensive air duct cleaning is best.

Why Hire a Professional for Air Duct Cleaning

replacing air duct filter

When in need of an air duct cleaning, you may be inclined to attempt it yourself. However, we highly recommend contacting your local professional. Homeowners are unable to perform a comprehensive cleaning like a professional air duct cleaner. Standard vacuum cleaners aren’t enough to get the job done.

If you want to have your air ducts cleaned, hire a professional with the right equipment and experience. Your local expert air duct cleaner will provide the following:

  • Comprehensive cleaning
  • Necessary tools and equipment
  • Highly experienced and trained professionals
  • Vast range of air duct services

Learn more about each of these important qualities in an air duct cleaning below.

Comprehensive Cleaning

Air duct cleaning companies are able to provide complete cleaning of your HVAC system. While on your own, you’ll only be able to reach the first couple of feet of the ductwork. With a professional, they can clean the entire system using the right tools and equipment.

Many air duct cleaning companies will take before and after pictures to ensure the process is complete. When cleaning the ducts yourself, there is a lot of uncertainty. For this reason, air duct cleaning companies are the best option for your HVAC system.

Necessary Tools and Equipment

In order for your air duct cleaning company to provide comprehensive cleaning, they must have the right tools and equipment for the job. Some air duct cleaning businesses will only use vacuum cleaners which is a serious red flag.

Instead of a traditional vacuum cleaner, they should use negative air machines and industrial vacuum cleaners with rotating brush attachments. These types of tools are what your air duct cleaner will use. It’ll help them remove all contaminants from your HVAC system for many years to come.

Highly Experienced and Trained Professionals

Your local air duct cleaning company should also be highly experienced with HVAC systems and have a team who is trained professionally. The more years of experience your contractor has, the better. Additionally, you can ask them for licenses and any certifications they may carry. This will instill the confidence you need in their ability to clean your air ducts.

Vast Range of Air Duct Services

Finally, a professional air duct cleaning company will provide more services than just cleaning. When cleaning your air ducts, your contractor may run into potential damage that should be addressed sooner than later. The right air duct company will bring up the issue to you and suggest solutions they can provide.

When looking for an air duct company, make sure they can provide installation, replacement, and even repair services alongside cleaning. That way, if your air ducts have any issues, they can solve them for you on the spot.

How Are Air Ducts Cleaned?

Air duct cleaning typically takes three to five hours, depending on the size of the house. If your air duct cleaner says it’ll take an hour, that is a serious red flag. Complete cleaning of the HVAC system should take longer than a single hour.

During your service, the technician will clean the following parts:

  • Air ducts
  • Coils
  • Drain pan
  • Registers
  • Grills
  • Air plenum
  • Blower motor and assembly
  • Heat exchanger
  • Air filter
  • Air cleaner

Overall, the process of cleaning each of these parts is broken down into five simple steps:

  1. Inspect air ducts
  2. Create negative pressure
  3. Clean ducts
  4. Clean remaining system
  5. Cleanup and inspection

This process is the industry-trusted method, so your air duct cleaning company should be following the same procedure. By learning more about each of the steps listed above, you can communicate better with the air duct technician. See what each step involves below.

1. Inspect Air Ducts

Upon arriving at your home, the technician will begin inspecting the air duct system and locating the registers in each room. Depending on the company, the technician may take pictures of the inside of the system before they start cleaning.

2. Create Negative Air

The next step is to create negative pressure or a vacuum in your HVAC system. This is done by using a negative air machine. By creating a vacuum, any disturbed dust or dirt will not move throughout the system and into the rest of the home. The negative air machine will help make capturing indoor air pollution easy.

3. Clean Ducts

Next, the technician will start agitating the dust and debris inside the system. Most companies use an industrial air duct cleaner that features a rotating brush and vacuum. As the rotating brush moves through the ducts, it agitates any dust or debris, which is simultaneously removed via the vacuum.

4. Clean Remaining System

After the air ducts are cleaned, your technician will clean other parts of your HVAC system like the registers, drip pan, coils, blower motor, and more.

5. Cleanup and Inspection

The final part of the air duct cleaning process is to clean up any potential dust that falls onto the floors while accessing the ductwork. If before pictures were taken, your technician will take after pictures and provide you with copies.

Air Duct Cleaning FAQs

How much does air duct cleaning cost?

According to Angithe average cost of air duct cleaning is approximately $375. That price will fluctuate depending on where you live, the size of your home, and the company you use. Be sure to ask multiple air duct cleaning companies for estimates before making a decision.

How often should my air ducts be cleaned?
According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), there is no rule on how often you should have your air ducts cleaned. They recommend having your air ducts inspected once a year and having them cleaned as needed.
How long does air duct cleaning take?

Air duct cleaning usually takes three to five hours to complete. It will depend on the size of your home.

Is air duct cleaning a scam?

No. Air duct cleaning is not a scam when it’s performed by a certified and experienced professional. However, there are companies and individuals out there who will try to scam you with a one-hour cleaning using a typical vacuum. Avoid these people and make sure you hire a professional for the job.

How can I prepare for air duct cleaning?
To prepare for air duct cleaning, you should clear any furniture or storage from around registers, vents, furnace, and air conditioner. This helps the technician easily access the HVAC system.

Before the day of the service, you should determine what you’ll do with pets or children you may have. Air duct cleaning can be a little noisy, which may bother your pets or children. Your technician will be accessing every room in your home, so have that in mind when the day comes.

Are landlords responsible for air duct cleaning?
It depends on where you live and the laws applied to landlords. In some parts of the country, air duct cleaning is part of providing a safe and habitable environment for tenants. The HVAC system is certainly a part of that, but it may not be protected where you live. Be sure to consult your area’s laws and regulations.
Is air duct cleaning loud?

Air duct cleaning is no louder than running your own vacuum. It shouldn’t disrupt you or the rest of your family too much.

Does air duct cleaning make a mess?

Aside from a bit of dust from accessing your HVAC system, air duct cleaning does not make a mess. This is especially true when you hire a professional and local air duct cleaning company.


If you want to learn more about air duct cleaning or HVAC systems in general, check out the resources we’ve provided below. We also encourage you to contact your local HVAC experts for any questions you may have.