How to Clean Your Vents

Vents (and the air ducts behind them) attract a host of household debris—from dust to coins to pet dander. Keeping your vents clean is crucial to the air quality in your home. If anyone in your household suffers from airborne allergies, keeping your home’s air dust-free is an important step in maintaining a symptom-free lifestyle. If a vent isn’t being used, close the cover, but never place anything (furniture, books) top of it.

What You’ll Need

  • Broom or traditional duster
  • Rag
  • Screw driver
  • Vacuum cleaner with attachments
  • Duct tape
  • New air filters

The Cleaning Process

  1. Dust your vents with a broom or traditional duster. If your vent is on the ceiling, you may have to sweep the floor directly underneath it when you are finished. You may also wipe your grates with a damp cloth.
  2. Unscrew your vent covers and set aside. Carefully remove large objects that might have fallen in (i.e. small toys). WARNING: Be very careful if doing this by hand—depending on the structure behind the vent, you could get shocked or burned.
  3. Vacuum your air ducts with a dust brush or crevice attachment. This will clear out dust bunnies and other debris that have been settling in your air ducts. Consider taping the attachments to your vacuum hose to prevent possibly losing them in your air ducts (especially if you are cleaning a floor duct). Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook suggests that during heating and cooling seasons this task be done weekly.
  4. Screw your vent covers back on. Make sure they are on tightly! You may also want to vacuum the area surround your vents since dust might have had the chance to escape. If your vents are broken or chipped, consider replacing them.
  5. Change air filters in your furnace. This keeps allergens and dust away from the source. If you use vent filters, change or clean these once every 2 months. These are available to put directly behind or over your vent. Although they might cause extra hassle in the clean-up department, they are particularly useful if anyone in your family has airborne allergies, such as dust or mold. This extra layer of protection will keep the air circulating through your home as clear as possible. Once a year, clean the coils in your air conditioner and heat pump.
  6. Hire professionals once a year. They have super-strength vacuums and brushes to get your air ducts as clean as possible. To save money, considering doing this in the off-season months of October, November, April, or May. Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson suggests hiring professionals right before heating season starts. Having clean vents and ducts can prevent fires and dangerous carbon monoxide build-up!

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