How to Clean Your Ducts by Yourself

It’s natural for dust, dirt, and pet hair to accumulate in AC and heating ducts over time. Occasionally, ducts can grow mold or get clogged with large items such as construction debris, rodents, or bugs. Fortunately, you can clean your ducts out by yourself or hire an HVAC specialist to do it for you! We’ll go over everything you need to know about DIY duct cleaning in this article, including when and how to clean your ducts. We’ll also discuss when it’s time to hire an HVAC specialist to clean your ducts.

How Do HVAC Ducts Work?

Air circulates your ductwork in a continuous loop. Warm air flows from the furnace and cool air from the AC unit and enters the rooms through supply ducts. The existing air is then forced to the central unit through the return duct.

Supply Ducts

Warm or cool air is blown through a filter and into your home through various supply duct registers. Supply duct registers are typically found in almost every room in a house, although certain rooms might not have them. Supply duct registers are installed on the floor, walls, or ceiling and are covered with plastic or metal vent covers.

Return Air Duct

The purpose of the return air duct is to remove all of the stale air from your home’s rooms and return it to the AC unit or furnace. The return air duct is often built in a wall near the main level. The return air duct, unlike the supply ducts, does not have a filter, which is why it is usually much dirtier than the supply ducts.

DIY vs. Professional Duct Cleaning

There are several differences between DIY and professional duct cleaning. The first is price. While DIY duct cleaning can cost anywhere from $50 to $100, expect to pay $450 to $1000 for professional duct cleaning. So, right off the bat, you can see that DIY duct cleaning is far less expensive than hiring a professional HVAC specialist to clean your ducts. This is because AC and heating system specialists use specialized equipment and tools to efficiently clean out ducts. On the downside, you’ll only be able to reach about 10 feet into your ducts if you clean them yourself, making it impossible to remove the debris that is deep within the ducts.

Clearing Debris

Most of the debris in ducts gets stuck to the walls and cannot be removed by air pressure on its own because it is too heavy. It must be physically cleared. Professional duct cleaners use blowguns, air whips, and air skimmers to break up and loosen the debris. For DIY duct cleaning, you’ll need to attach a brush head to 10 feet of flexible nylon rods and then insert it into the supply and return ductwork. Next, you’ll rotate the brush head using an electric drill. Unfortunately, DIY duct cleaning is not as effective as professional duct cleaning since DIY tools cannot reach deeper sections of the ducts and do not use as much power as professional duct cleaning tools. Just be aware that DIY duct cleaning is more of a temporary solution, and eventually you’ll need to hire professional duct cleaners to clean out your ducts.

Removing Debris

Professional AC and heating technicians apply negative air pressure to the ducts to move the debris to the central unit. They may have cut a hole in the sheet metal ducts near the air handler to remove the debris. After the debris is removed, the air duct cleaning professionals will seal up any holes they create. With DIY duct cleaning, the debris is moved to the vents instead of to the furnace or AC unit.

When Should You Clean Your Ducts?

We recommend cleaning your ducts a month before turning on your HVAC system if you use it seasonally. Clean out your air ducts as needed if you use your HVAC system year-round. But how can you tell when it’s time to clean your ducts? If your vents emit a mildewy odor when you first turn on your AC and heating, clean your ducts immediately. Additionally, we suggest that you clean your ducts after you get a new HVAC system installed, have had your HVAC system serviced, or are undertaking a home renovation project that creates a lot of dust.

How to Clean Your Ducts

Materials and Equipment

  • Vacuum cleaner with a 10-foot hose extension
  • Drying vent cleaning brush with a 10-foot extension
  • Brush or sponge
  • Electric drill
  • Flashlight
  • Dish soap
  • Duct tape
  • New HVAC filter


  1. Shut off the fan using the thermostat and the furnace via the service switch or breaker panel.
  2. Remove the supply and return vent covers. Floor supply registers are typically not screwed in, making them easy to remove. For supply and return registers on ceilings and walls, use a drill or screwdriver to remove the screws that are keeping the vent covers in place.
  3. Wash the supply and return vent covers with warm water and mild dish soap, using a brush or sponge to scrub off the grime. You can wash them in your kitchen sink or outside with a hose if they don’t fit in your sink. After washing them, let them air dry.
  4. Connect the rods to create a 10-foot pole. Next, attach the brush head to the end of the rods. This will be your duct cleaning brush.
  5. Use a flashlight to examine the supply duct vents’ layout. Most of the time, ducts will run straight before making a 90-degree turn or hitting a tee with two 90-degree angles.
  6. Insert the brush head into one of the supply ducts, leaving one foot outside the vent. Attach the end of the rod to the drill and rotate the brush head by pulling the trigger forward. While it is turning, slowly remove the cleaning rod. Stop when you have completely pulled out the cleaning rod. If the supply duct is a tee, clean the other side.
  7. Attach the extension hose to the vacuum cleaner. If you’re using a nozzle at the end, attach it with duct tape so it doesn’t get lost in your ducts. Stick the hose in as far as you can, then vacuum the vent. Repeat steps 5-7 for each supply vent.
  8. Clear the debris in the return duct by inserting the duct cleaning brush into it and rotating the drill while slowly pulling the rod out.
  9. Insert the vacuum hose as far as it will go into the return duct and vacuum the vent, slowly pulling the hose out.
  10. Replace the dry vent covers.
  11. Restart your HVAC system and run it for 30 minutes to filter out any dust or debris that was loosened during cleaning. Turn it off, then replace the filter.

When Should You Hire a Professional?

We recommend hiring a professional HVAC technician every two to three years to clean your ducts thoroughly. While you can save a lot of money by cleaning your ducts on your own, you will not be able to remove debris in remote parts of the duct systems or clear large debris such as dead rodents and bugs. Professional HVAC companies have powerful tools and equipment that can dislodge and remove debris that you cannot reach on your own. When you need professional duct cleaning, call Quick Serve Pro!

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