I hate to say it, but if you’re like me, when it comes to cleaning, the ‘out of sight out of mind’ rule usually applies, and furnace ducts and duct work are definitely in that category. Cleaning those hidden tunnels that deliver air throughout the house don’t often make my regular priority cleaning list…..until I near the end of the third week with a nagging congestive cough that doesn’t seem to be leaving quickly.
With the onset of winter, and furnaces running, the inside air is trapped and re-circulated at best … kind of like a pond without a creek running in and out of it. To improve that air, and your health as well, here are a few essentials to take action on over the winter months!
If you are fortunate enough to have floor vents, then cleaning ducts can be a DIY project. Step one is to move from room to room removing all floor vent covers and return air grates. Most floor vents simply lift off the opening in the floor, but return air grates will most likely require a small screw driver and possibly a ladder if those vents reside up high. Regardless of location in a room, you’ll be surprised at how many of these grates even one small house possesses!
Collect all the grates into utility sink or bathtub, or whatever works best for cleaning purposes. Often times these grates can be caked with dust or spider webs, and a good cleaning will undoubtedly help decrease the amount of dust moving through your house each time the furnace kicks on. I took mine and actually washed them in my kitchen sink 4 at a time, using a sink-full of warm water and Meyer’s, a natural mild dishwashing soap. After I went through my dozen or so floor grates, it occurred to me that I might have been able to load them all in the dishwasher as well. However, some of them did need some scrubbing, and getting dust off from between the slanted vent rows did require a small amount of work. The return air vents were especially dirt covered!
This is by far the most time consuming part of the job, and of course, the most important. I would recommend a shop-vac with a long flexible hose for vacuuming, although I guess you could get by with a flexible attachment to a more traditional sweeper if need be. The long extended tube on the shop-vac, however, really helps suck up the stuff that is further down then our eyes or flashlight beam can see making it most ideal. I was horrified when I turned my flashlight on and peered down into my first floor duct, only to find a maze of cobwebs on top, followed by a thick layer of dirt and dust packing the gradual sloping sides and lowest point. The foundation of my respiratory issues suddenly became clear to me, and shoving my flexible tube attached to the shop-vac down as far as it would reach, I went after all that dirt with a vengeance. Thinking that I might have just hit the worst one first, I directed the flashlight beam down my next vent and found an almost identical scenario. Basically all my vents needed attention – some worst than others, but once I finished cleaning all 12 or so, I almost felt the air was cleaner!
Pretty much the same method used in the floor vents is used in the return air vents, however, my return air vent is much larger than any floor unit, resulting in higher quantities of dust. The return air column in my house runs floor to ceiling with vents on top and below. Using a ladder and holding the shop-vac in one hand while sweeping with the other, I cleaned as much as I could reach on the upper opening and then sucked up the remaining down below. Lots of dusties live in that space for sure!
The entire time I was luring dust bunnies out from their rabbit duct holes, the grates that I washed in the sink earlier were drying, and by the time I finished sweeping, they were all dry. As I went to replace each duct in it’s spot, I took with me my Nixall® Cleanser spray bottle and just sprayed and wiped down the insides of each duct as far down as my hand would reach. Professional duct cleaning services use biocides and other chemicals to spray duct work after cleaning. Nixall® Cleanser is the perfect alternative because it is free of harmful residues and chemicals that would be equally as contaminating to the air as dust! After using the Cleanser, I put the grate back into the floor. Putting back the nice clean grates into the floor over a shiny and dust free duct was surprisingly rewarding! I actually felt like I had a accomplished quite a bit, and definitely felt like I was already breathing cleaner air!
Now that the hard stuff is done, and your ducting system is free of major dust colonies, don’t forget to change the filter in your furnace. I won’t dive into the details of how, or how often in this article. Suffice to say that if the filter is filthy, then change it, and follow the instructions specific to your heating unit! More information can be found here - http://www.filtersusa.com/filterchanging.cfm.
You may already have humidifier, or vaporizer unit, and if so then congratulations, you already have this step completed! My humidifying unit spewed out its final mist last winter, so I went on the hunt for a new one. The less expensive units cover less square footage and/or need to be filled more regularly. Some have both cool and hot humidifying settings, and some have filters built in to capture dirt in the air as water moves through it. You can check out the pros and cons of different humidifiers in the top 10 Humidifiers for 2016 - http://humidifier-review.toptenreviews.com . I settled on a fairly inexpensive one that covers less than a thousand square feet and is without a filter. I recommend no filter because in the next step I’ll show you how to better clean the air with your humidifier.
Every time I fill up my 1.5 gallon humidifier, I add a cup and a half of Nixall® Cleanser to it as well. The Cleanser does exactly what the name implies; it cleans the air removing stale or mildew-like odors and leaves the room smelling fresh. The Nixall® Cleanser mixed with the water sends out a vapor containing hypochlorous acid. The big brother to Nixall® Cleanser, the Disinfectant, contains higher concentrations of this same principle ingredient (hypochlorous acid), and is proven to kill bacteria, viruses and germs. (Check it out for surface cleaning.) With that in mind, using the lower concentrated Cleanser may not kill all the bad stuff, but it still cleans the air, removes odors, and because it is free of harsh chemicals, VOC's or dangerous ingredients, I feel good about using it regularly. Plus, after cleaning all my ducts, and putting the humidifier into action with a regular dose of Nixall® Cleanser, I finally dumped my cold! So, don't put those dirty, dusty ducts out of mind, just because they're out of sight. And, check out the Nixall® products. With 25% off you can try it for yourself. Just head to www.nixall.com and use the discount code NIX25 at checkout plus get FREE shipping.
* Nixall® Cleanser is not to be used as an antimicrobial disinfectant or sanitizer to kill or mitigate bacteria, viruses or pests on any surface - Please use our Nixall® Disinfectant/Sanitizer.