Vacuum Cleaner blog post

How to clean air conditioning vents

While air conditioners provide much needed relief during the hot summer months, the vents can become the hiding zone for rodents, vermin, dirt, dust, and other undesirable particles.  

These pose health hazards making your home an unhealthy environment. 

Air conditioning vents act as the lungs of your HVAC system, and just like your lungs, they work best through clean air. This means regular cleaning is required to keep the quality of air circulating in your space high.  

While it’s advisable to enlist the services of professional vent cleaners, DIY cleaning saves you money. So let’s explore and learn how to clean air conditioning vents.

Understanding your AC Vents

Your home’s air system has a lot of ducts that run throughout the house, and they help in carrying the air from and to the HVAC system. 

For clean air to exit and enter the tube, your unit needs to have multiple vents. They include the supply and return vents.

The supply vents act as the arteries of the system, connected to the supply ducts; it allows cleaned conditioned air to flow indoors. 

In contrast, the return vents act as the veins, pulling the air from your indoor area delivering it to the HVAC system. Typically, the return vent comes in a larger size than the supply vent.

To identify the return and supply vent, hold your hand upon the ventilation unit; if the air blows out on your hand, it’s a supply unit. And if your hand feels the suction effects, you have discovered a return vent. 

Tools needed to clean AC vents

To efficiently clean every component of your air vent, you need specific tools to borrow, buy, or rent. Most vital tools include:

  • Vacuum cleaner

The usual home vacuum cleaner will work, and it should have a nozzle and hose attachment to enable it to reach the tight corners. If possible, and for optimal results, use the heavy-duty cleaner.

  • Brush

A standard dust brush like a toilet brush or paintbrush with long handles will work magic. For best results, the brush should have stiff bristles.

  • Screwdriver

Most vents and air ducts have screws used to fasten, use the standard screwdriver to remove the duct cover.

  • Paper Towels or soft cleaning cloths

Paper towels or cleaning cloths are handy for wiping and dusting areas surrounding the air vents. Also, use clean clothes to cover the supply registers while cleaning the vents.

  • Furnace Filter

The effects of dust and dirt can affect the furnace filter. After you finish cleaning, replace the filters.

  • Protective Mask

Although not mandatory, a protective mask is advisable, to protect the user from inhaling dust and debris.

 Steps to Follow

  1. Remove the vent covers

Use the screwdriver to remove the vent covers from the walls. Use the brush to remove dust and grime, and scrub them clean using soapy water. Leave the vent covers in hot soapy water for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse using clean water and air dry them.

  1. Cover the Supply Registers

Cover the supply registers with soft microfiber cloths or paper towels to prevent dust from blowing out and landing on the floor and walls. Also, turn off the HVAC thermostat but leave the fan working.

  1. Loosen the Dust

Use the brush handle to knock around the HVAC sides or the fan to loosen the dust around the HVAC wall and make it move along, thus making the cleaning easier. Additionally, leave the old furnace filter untouched since it helps in catching the stirred up dirt. Replace them after the cleaning.

  1. Vacuum the vent

Start the vent cleaning process by covering vents not being cleaned with paper towels to keep the vacuumed dirt from blowing out and into the clean areas. 

Simply lift the vent cover and place a fiber cloth or paper towel between the floor and vent cover.  

After covering the vents, use the vacuum cleaner brush and nozzle attachment to suck away the dirt in the far corners. For visible vent dirt, use a paper towel or clean cloth to wipe it out. 

Clean the blower compartments of the unit using the vacuum cleaner to remove dirt build-up.  

For the supply and return register, clean the accumulated debris using a soft brush with a more extended handle to access the deeper areas inside the air registers cavity.  

Lastly, don’t forget to clean the debris left on the unit’s walls using the soft fiber cloth.

  1. Replace the Furnace Filter

After repeating the cleaning process on each vent, clean the HVAC furnace cavity using paper towels and vacuum cleaner to suck out dust and accumulated debris.  

Replace the old filters. A malfunctioning filter restricts airflow, making it overwork and reducing the HVAC systems lifespan. It also increases your energy bills as it is less efficient.  

Consider calling Eastern Shore Heating & Air Conditioning professionals to assist in replacing the furnace filter and other HVAC repairs.

  1. Replace the vent covers

After completing the above cleaning process, screw back on the cleaned vent covers using the screwdriver. 


While vent cleaning can prolong your AC system’s life, save you money, and improve indoor air quality and protect from rodent infestations,  enlisting professional services yearly is advisable. However, for routine and regular cleaning, follow our DIY guide. After each cleaning, pat your back for becoming a successful vent cleaner and tackling the scariest homeownership task! 

Author: Rita Purity

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