What to Know About Air Duct Cleaning

Updated: May 12, 2023

What does an air duct cleaning entail? A professional discusses what to expect with this process.

Adam Bonine, a professional duct cleaner and owner of Fresh Air Vents, used an extra-large vacuum hose to suck all the dust and dirt from my home’s ductwork. I hired him recently because the air ducts in my 15-year-old house had never been cleaned. Here’s how he tackled the job.

Fh22jau 619 06 013 And 003 What To Know About Air Duct CleaningFamily Handyman

Should You Clean Your Home’s Air Ducts?

“Yes. If your house gets dirty, then your ducts get dirty too,” Bonine says. Fresh Air Vents, his residential and commercial cleaning company, is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

How Often Should You Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned?

“That is a personal preference — different people have different sensitivities,” Bonine says. “The National Air Duct Cleaning Association recommends duct cleaning every two to four years. I believe this might be overkill, and more often I suggest that you have your ducts cleaned every three to five years.

“If you have a large family in a smaller home or if you have several pets, have your ducts cleaned more often.”

What Are Indicators of Dirty Ducts?

Fh22jau 619 06 016 And 017 What To Know About Air Duct CleaningFamily Handyman

“If your furnace filter gets dirty more often than usual, your ducts are probably dirty,” he says. “Remove a return vent cover and look inside using the flashlight on your phone. These unfiltered ducts can collect dirt.”

What Tools Are Used to Clean Air Ducts?

“My main tool is a giant vacuum,” he says. “It has a 31-horsepower engine attached to a fan to pull dirt and dust into a bag outside of your house. The vacuum moves 7,000 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air and creates negative air pressure in your home while I’m cleaning.

“Meanwhile, we agitate and disrupt the ducts. We snake tools with compressed air `whips’ on the end into the ducts. The vacuum continues to pull out as we agitate inside. I also use a HEPA-filtered backpack vacuum for precleaning.” Here, find out the cost of air duct cleaning.

What Should Homeowners Expect From Clean Ducts?

“People ask me, ‘Is my house going to be dirty after you’re done cleaning?’ ” Bonine says. “No, not at all. It will look cleaner and feel cleaner, with a noticeable reduction in dust.”

Fh22jau 619 06 014 What To Know About Air Duct CleaningFamily Handyman

Other Tips to Know About Air Duct Cleaning

  • Duct cleaning can help your furnace work more efficiently.
  • Cleaning only some ductwork does no good.
  • Be wary of services marketing chemical biocide treatments.
  • Hire a pro who will explain the process and tools.
  • What’s it cost? From $450 to $1,000.
  • Change your furnace filter often!