HVAC DIY 101: How to Clean Your Air Vents

HVAC DIY 101: How to Clean Your Air Vents

Just as clean filters can help to keep dust from overwhelming your home, clean air vents can also help to prevent the buildup of dust and allergens in your environment. Even the cleanest homes can still suffer from too much dust if the vents are left neglected, but luckily vent care doesn’t take an overwhelming amount of time or energy. In fact, you can put off vent cleaning most of the time – just try to fit in a deep clean twice a year (we recommend just planning on a good clean around the same time your local HVAC tech comes out to do a bi-annual inspection).

Plan on each vent taking somewhere between 10-15 minutes to clean. You’ll need the following tools:

  • Screwdriver
  • Vacuum with crevice attachment
  • Stepladder for ceiling vents
  • Towels & a baseball cap, to protect your floors and head from any falling dust
  • Spider web duster (or duster of your choice, as long as it can grab and hold fine particles), preferably with an extension rod.
  • Clean Magic Eraser, or microfiber cloth
  • Soap & water
  1. Turn Off Your HVAC System. Trust us, this will make life easier and prevent the sudden, unexpected surprise of a dust cloud flying in your face.
  2. Remove Your Vent Cover. This should be easy enough to do with a screwdriver, although some vents have interior clips that you’ll need to open as well. If you are removing a ceiling vent, be sure to put down a towel first to protect your floor, and you may want to wear a baseball cap as well – there’s likely to be some dust that falls out of the vent.
  3. Vacuum The Vent Area. If it’s been a while since you cleaned your vents (or if you’ve never cleaned them), don’t be surprised to see a herd of dust bunnies. Don’t fret…that’s why we’re deep cleaning! Get your vacuum with the crevice attachment and vacuum all that dust out…you may not be able to reach very far, but that’s ok.
  4. Grab The Duster. Now that you have vacuumed out the big stuff, it’s time to work on the residue. Use your duster to do a final clean on the vent area, and if you have an extension rod, you can probably get a little deeper into the vent (just don’t loose your duster).
  5. Check The Vent Covers. If you routinely clean your vents, it’s possible that they don’t have a lot of surface grime. If that’s the case, you can get away with a quick rub down with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or a damp microfiber cloth, but be gentle…you don’t want to remove the paint.
  6. Are Your Vent Covers Really Gross? If your vent covers are coated in grime, and have a residue buildup, don’t panic – you’re a perfectly fine housekeeper. It’s just that oily residue from cooking can move through your HVAC system, and this can lead to a buildup of dust that’s a little more difficult to remove. In this case, you’ll need to do a deeper clean by letting your vents soak in water with the smallest amount of soap. Watch how long you let the vents soak because, again, you don’t want to remove paint. After you’ve soaked the vents, you can gently wipe off the grime with a sponge. **Pro Tip: If you have plastic, unpainted aluminum, or steel vents, you can put them in the dishwasher.**
  7. Let Your Vents Dry & Reinstall. Don’t reinstall your vents until they are 100% bone dry. If they are damp, you run the risk of creating a space where more dust can develop.
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