What Is Central Air Duct Cleaning and How It Works

Central air duct cleaning clears debris from air duct systems, usually using high-power cleaning and sanitizing equipment. This process removes unwanted or harmful material from your ducts, which can cause a variety of problems in your home and lower your indoor air quality.

While central air duct cleaning is a good way to keep your home air safe, there are only a few situations where cleaning air ducts will make a significant difference. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Mold and Mildew Growth
  • Vermin and Insect Infestations
  • Debris-Clogged Vent Openings
  • After Construction or Home Renovation

It is important to note that, while duct cleaning will help in these situations, there are many exaggerated claims online about the health benefits of clean air ducts. For example, unless mold growth is present, central air duct cleaning will not prevent sickness or bacteria from spreading in your home. In addition, an air duct cleaning will not remove all of your in-home contaminants, which enter our living spaces through outdoor air, cooking, and other everyday causes.

Understanding the right situations for air duct cleaning and knowing how to hire a reputable company is the information we at Filterbuy want you to know. We've put together more detailed information on what a successful central air duct cleaning can do for you.

Does Cleaning Central Air Ducts Really Make a Difference?

When done correctly, a good duct cleaning can make a large difference in your indoor air quality and general home satisfaction. The most notable benefit of proper air duct cleaning is the lower amount of harmful particles floating in the air and into your lungs. In cases where mold growth is present, concrete dust is spilling from your vents, or your ducts have become a nesting spot for vermin, professional air duct cleaning services should prevent more air contamination.

Odor removal is another benefit of air duct cleaning. The causes of contaminated ducts often come with a host of undesirable symptoms, including a peculiar, vile odor. If you notice a smell like this coming from your HVAC system intake vents, traveling from room to room, or not going away with time, you need to check your ducts. In this case, a professional cleaning should restore your home’s original smell.

A professional cleaning will also remove visible debris from your air ducts which may be spilling into your home. While an unnecessary duct cleaning may not significantly reduce the amount of dust present around your house, there are cases where the ducts are so filled with material that HVAC air pushes particles into your home. This is most often caused by duct debris contamination after in-home renovation or construction. Air duct cleaning services will be able to remove the extra debris from your vent, keeping your home visibly cleaner and stopping future particle spillage.

Couple looks at air coming out of air conditioning unit.

Will Cleaning Central Air Ducts Remove Mold?

A professional central air duct cleaning will remove mold and traces of bacterial growth in many situations. Most air duct cleaning services use antimicrobial solutions or biocides to kill mold and prevent future regrowth. Note: Not all sanitizing solutions are the same, and some may contain chemicals that should not be used indoors. Always ask your air duct cleaning company what solution they use and do your own research. Hiring a trusted air duct cleaning service that uses gentle, high-quality antimicrobial solutions is always the best choice when it comes to your home safety.

If you believe your ducts have a mold infestation or are feeling the symptoms of mold exposure and have traced it to your ducts, it’s time to get an air duct inspection. A professional will be able to let you know what is happening in your ducts and remedy the issue. Sometimes what homeowners expect to be mold ends up being animal nesting or rodent infestation. It is for reasons like this that you always outsource your duct inspection and cleaning to an expert.

How Do I Know if My Central Air Ducts Need to Be Cleaned?

There are a few major signs that your ducts need to be cleaned by a professional. If you notice any of the following symptoms for more than a few days, it’s time to look into getting a central air duct cleaning for your HVAC system:

  • Vile, Musty, or Foul Odor - Unusual smells coming from your air vents are usually a sign something is happening in your system. Mold, mildew, and vermin often bring bad odor, made worse by the damp, warm air duct environment. If not treated by an air duct technician, these smells can worsen, linger in your vents, and spread from room to room.
  • Visible Vent Spillage - If you can see it, you’re probably breathing it. Observing any type of visible material coming out of your vents through the air is a sign you need a cleaning. This symptom usually stems from completely clogged or blocked duct openings, which negatively affect your HVAC system and your indoor air quality.
  • Recently Finished At-Home Renovation - During an at-home renovation, dust, debris, and construction-based particles are flung around your home and into your air. If your contractor forgets to seal every air duct intake vent or does not seal them properly, that material can find its way into your HVAC system. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to schedule an air duct cleaning appointment as the final step in any in-home construction.
  • Strange Sounds Coming From Vents - Bumps in the night are never welcome, but when the sounds are coming from your vents there’s a good chance you have a vermin infestation. Hearing unusual noises on a consistent or everyday basis means it’s time to schedule a vent inspection as soon as possible.
  • Mold Exposure Symptoms - Suffering from headache, eye irritation, coughing, and unexpected breathing problems? If these symptoms happen mainly at home and without other medical explanation, you could be experiencing mold exposure. In this case, getting a duct inspection from a reliable service provider can confirm whether or not you need an air duct mold cleaning.

Can I Clean the Central Air Ducts Myself?

While there are many DIY duct cleaning solutions present online, the truth is that duct cleaning should only be done by a trained professional. Amateur duct cleaning can harm you and your ducts, causing you more time and money in the long run. Not to mention that without proper cleaning tools and equipment, your duct cleaning may not accomplish much.

In cases of significant mold growth, for example, a general DIY cleaning may leave behind spore traces and residual microbes. Soon, you’ll be in the same situation as you started when the mold regrows and spreads through your system. Hiring a trusted professional for mold remediation means you’re getting high-quality tools and antimicrobial solutions made to remove mold and prevent future regrowth.

Air duct technician uses vacuum to clean air ducts.

How Often Do Central Air Ducts Need to Be Cleaned?

While many air duct cleaning services may advise cleaning on a monthly or quarterly basis, the truth is that air ducts need to be cleaned as needed or in the situations outlined above. If you are not experiencing symptoms or having problems with your HVAC system and your ducts look clear, chances are you don’t need cleaning. Everyday dust usually sticks to the vent itself, so unless you have severe allergies to dust or pollen, your ducts are probably fine as they are.

That said, if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms or are having issues related to your air ducts, a professional cleaning might just be your answer. When in doubt, getting your ducts inspected will let you know if cleaning is right for you.

How to Clean Central Air Ducts:

If you’re ready to clean your central air ducts, the first thing you need to do is search for a reliable air duct cleaning service. Very low-cost services may sound tempting, but chances are they are also low-quality or unreliable. They may only clean a small portion of your duct system, use uncertified or untrained technicians, or use harmful chemicals to save money. Investing in a trusted air duct professional with a proven track record will help ensure you get the best clean and the highest-quality investment.

After you narrow down your air duct business options, always ask for a preliminary consultation in person or over the phone. This meeting will allow you to ask important questions about the duct cleaning process, including what the company will use on your ducts and how long the cleaning will take. For more ideas on what to ask a potential air duct cleaning service, take a look at our past article on the top questions to ask during an air duct cleaning consultation.

As previously mentioned, never attempt an air duct cleaning yourself or give the job to anyone less than a professional. If the amateur cleaning goes wrong, you could end up replacing part of your air duct or, even worse, your entire HVAC system. To keep yourself, your family, and valuable belongings safe, duct cleaning with a trained technician is always recommended.

Woman sits on the floor and looks at laptop.

How Much Does Central Air Duct Cleaning Cost?

Air duct cleaning cost varies greatly depending on where you live and what the cleaning involves. As we mentioned before, don’t rely on duct cleaning services that charge little or no cost upfront. Many times they either will not clean your whole system, use low-quality tools, or will upsell you with additional fees throughout the process.

Finding a company that offers a no-surprise quote at the beginning of service will help you to plan the cost into your budget. The best way to understand exactly what you will be charged at the end of a service is to know what you will pay beforehand and confirm that no other costs will be added without your consent.

If you’re interested in a trusted, professional service with transparent and upfront pricing, look no further than Filterbuy Local. Our trained technicians are ready to help you and your family with your air duct cleaning needs.

Learn more about Filterbuy Local for air duct cleaning.