If your house just seems to have an odd smell to it no matter how well you clean, or maybe you just bought an older home, then getting the ducts cleaned is something to definitely consider especially if anyone has asthma or allergies in your family.

Before you hit the back button with the horrors of those spammy phone calls offering this service, there is some merit to having it done professionally.  This service gets a bad rap due to all the unsolicited phone calls to promote this type of service from back door companies.

I phoned my house insurance agent and asked who they contract to clean ducts after any house repairs and she gave me the name of a local firm.  This is the same firm they use for any smoke damage and water damage.  So, you could do the same and phone your house insurance agent or you could look for this type of company locally.Air Duct cleaningCredit: Amazon.com

This firm showed up with a truck and professional equipment.  This is not the guy down the street with a shop vac, this was a very large self-contained unit in the back of this truck and all the equipment needed to do a good job.  A home Shop Vacuum is not going to do the best job; it simply will not get all the bends and turns or scrub away the sticky residue.

16ft USB Waterproof Endoscope Borescope Inspection Camera with 4 LED lights
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(price as of Sep 28, 2013)
this is a great camera to have if you want to inspect your own ducts!

Camera in the Ducts - Embarrassing

The first thing he did was to get into the ducts by cutting a small hole near the furnace (which they cover with a flap so they can do this again later if you wish). He then put in a flexible tube camera so that we could see what was going on in there from the furnace level up.

He had me watch, and as we travelled through each leg of ductwork, we started noticing loads of fur, hair and other nasty things stuck to what he figures was pop or sticky soft drinks that end up down the vents in the kid’s rooms especially over the years as they play on the floors.

Then anything else that gets down there gets trapped on the sticky surface and this creates a nasty pile of debris that stays there as the air from the heat or the air conditioning fluffs over it creating “not so nice” air in the rooms that can aggravate any respiratory ailments.

One room actually had what looked like a dead mouse stuck to something halfway down a vent or duct.  So, this is something you should consider getting done if your house has a traditional furnace with ductwork installed.air duct cleaningCredit: Amazon.com

He cleaned this all out for us.  We found old toys, bits of paper, snack bags, old food debris; it is actually amazing what can get down those vents in the rooms. 

He said heating vents in the kitchen floors can be some of the worse as homeowners sweep their floors, food debris can end up down these vents and basically sit there for years.

Many times it will sit just under the vent but then it can work its way down.  I always thought anything that got down there would simply get blown back up with the rising air, but if sticky liquid and heavier stuff gets down in there, you now have a trap for more debris that can fester especially during the months the equipment (furnace or air conditioning) is not running.

The part going to our kitchen had a lot of pet fur stuck to the sides and had accumulated at an elbow which was also restricting the air.  This was a 70s house, so you are talking over 40 years of accumulated dust, dirt, debris and who knows what else as they had never been cleaned.

After any Renovation and Even a Brand New Build

If you do any renovations to your home you should have this done as the last step to clean out any dust and drywall dust or sawdust that can end up down there.  Otherwise you face it basically sitting there or getting blown out as soon as the heat is turned on or the air conditioning.

If you are buying an older home with ductwork, then by getting this service done you will know your house is clean right down to the furnace.

You just never know what bacteria and debris is lingering down there.

If you have bought a brand new house, put in the contract that you want the ducts cleaned as a last step as it is possible to have all the construction debris from the new build to end up down there too which means dust can be blown out of there as soon as the heating comes on.

Vent Register Filters
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these filters can help to trap dirt and debris coming into the room until you can get the ducts properly cleaned. These would be great to use when the system is off.

Maintenance Tips

It was suggested that if lift the vents in each room and vacuum dust and debris from there each season then this will help to reduce the amount of debris that will get down further. 

He suggested getting this type of service done once every 3 – 5 years.  It cost me 300 dollars and it was the best thing I ever did for that house.  He was able to clean the sticky substance that lined the walls of a couple of the ducts and also removed the dead mouse and the loads of small toys that had migrated down there over the years.  The container was quite full.  I think the house lost a few pounds that day.

This has helped the air flow immensely.  So, if you figure just changing the furnace filter is enough just consider what you find in that filter and consider getting those ducts cleaned.

We also had it done again after a house fire.  If the furnace or air conditioning is running and you have any fire or smoke in the house it will end up in the venting, so this is a good last step after a fire or any damage.

The Air Smells Fresher

If you find that your room smells bad once the furnace first comes on for the season especially if you don’t have air conditioning then you know something has been festering in those dark ducts.  They are actually a great place for bacteria to grow if they are not clean.