ac cleaning

5 Things to Know Before Cleaning Your Home’s Air Ducts

Find out if cleaning the ducts that keep dust at bay will actually improve the air quality inside your home—or if the job may do more harm than good.
By Glenda Taylor
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If your goal is indoor air that’s as fresh and healthy as possible, you may think about hiring a firm to clean your home’s air ducts—the long channels that carry heated or cooled air throughout the house. Ducts lead from the furnace and run through basements, crawl spaces, and walls to reach every room, and cleaning them involves vacuuming up dust and debris from, as well as removing mold (if present).

In certain situations, duct cleaning will indeed reduce harmful contaminants in the air you breathe, but, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it might not make a noticeable difference in homes that don’t have an identifiable duct system problem. Depending on who does the cleaning, in some instances it might actually make the situation worse. Read on for five surprising reasons to skip ac cleaning—and how to know when the job is worth it.

RELATED: 7 Reasons Indoor Air Isn’t as Pure as You Think

  1. Many deals for ac cleaning are scams.
    There are reputable and legitimate duct cleaning services in most communities, frequently offered by professional HVAC contractors, but unfortunately, this service also attracts a lot of scammers. Con artists may send out mailers—or show up on your doorstep—offering to clean your ducts for under $100. Legitimate duct-cleaning services average $500 to $1,500, depending on the size of the home. Once scammers get in the door, they often claim to find mold in the ducts and then demand more money to remove it. According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), these con artists may falsely claim to be members of NADCA or a professional HVAC association. Don’t take their word for it; contact the association and ask if the company is a member.
  2. Duct cleaning may not prevent health issues.
    Dust comes from many sources, including pet dander, dust mites, tracked-in dirt, and blown-in pollen. While it’s true that the ductwork in your home may contain dust, the particulates often adhere to the inside of the ducts and are not dislodged when the furnace or air conditioner is running. Carpeting, upholstery, and drapes may contain higher levels of dust particles, and just walking around the room can stir up more dust than the small amount that comes from your air ducts. Unless a family member is allergic to dust and you want to take special precautions beyond using a HEPA vacuum, cleaning the ducts might not make a difference, health-wise, in indoor air quality. In certain cases, discussed below, duct-cleaning is a good idea.

7 Things to Know About Cleaning Air Ducts


  1. Finding dust buildup on registers doesn’t mean dust is in the ducts.
    A common sales tactic used by scammers is to point out a layer of dust on the return registers (the louvered metal grilles covering return-air ducts). While return-air registers are prone to gathering layers of dust, that doesn’t mean the inside of the air ducts will be similarly dust-laden. Air filters located behind the registers are designed to trap the vast majority of dust that gets sucked into the return-air register, so it never enters the HVAC system. Changing air filters when they become dusty is the best protection against dust entering the system. The register itself is easily cleaned by vacuuming with a brush attachment and then wiping down with a damp rag.