Cleaning 101: The Vents

Hello Readers!  Phew!  I was getting through my Fall Cleaning list a couple of weeks ago and I realized that it’s been awhile since I cleaned out my vents.  And when I started getting to them, they were full of dust!  Of course, I live in a very dry and dusty area, so that didn’t surprise me.  But what did surprise me was how bad they had gotten during the warmer months.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about cleaning the vents because this tends to be something that most people forget to do but it can really affect your health and your home.  Dirty vents can hold on to dust that can trigger allergies, and it can create a musty mess in some rooms as they fill up with stale air.  During the colder months, we are less likely to open our windows for fresh air.  So dirty vents can really be a downer for your family.

First, make sure you contact your HVAC specialist to have your heating system checked for any issues.  This is also a good time to have your chimney checked and swept if need be.  A clogged chimney can cause a slew of issues for a family, ranging from ash on the walls to a house fire.  I would recommend having your vents blown out at this time, as it will clear out the dust that will blow through the vents, but it can be costly.  Nevertheless, always have your HVAC system serviced to avoid a serious issue during the winter months.  Much like a car, your heating system needs to be serviced by a specialist to ensure that everything is operating properly.  If possible, you can also have your air conditioning system serviced and winterized at this time to ensure it’s working properly before it’s needed next year.  Air conditioning systems are liable to be on sale right now, so it will cost less to replace them now rather than in the heat of summer.  And, if it does turn out that you will need to replace your air conditioning system by summer, you have time to save the money from now until Spring rather than getting hit with the unexpected expense later on.

Now, if you live in an apartment complex, they are not likely to check the HVAC for you nor are they likely to pay for it to be serviced.  Still, check with your office and management team to see if they offer this service.  Some complexes will offer to service your system because it can help them lower their own costs by ensuring proper function now and fixing minor issues now rather than having to buy a new unit later.  It all depends on the management team.  I have only encountered one complex that performed this service on their own for each unit when I was in college.  Other than that, most complexes may not do this.

If not, or once you have your unit serviced, I highly recommend vacuuming the vents out.  This is as simple as it sounds.  Simple remove the vent covers and, using your wand attachment for your vacuum, clean out what you can reach.  This will go miles in reducing the dust in your air during the winter months.  If you’re like me and your vacuum does not have a wand attachment, you can also use a lightweight dust vacuum like the Dust Buster or Black & Decker Duster.  Just be sure to empty the chamber after every vent.

While you are doing this, I highly recommend soaking your vent covers in hot soapy water in your kitchen sink.  I would recommend doing one or two rooms at a time rather than the entire house.  And, as always, monitor your kiddos around those vents, especially without the covers.  After letting them soak for a few minutes, take a dishcloth or dusting cloth across the vent slats and ensure they are clean.  Dry them with a kitchen towel much like you would do with your dishes.

Now, before you replace your vent covers, rub the fronts with a clean dryer sheet.  The fabric softener on the dryer sheet will detract dust from sticking to the vent covers and it can help make cleaning much easier on them.  If you want, you can also place a dryer sheet in each vent to help freshen your air.  Then when your heat kicks on and the warm air travels through the vents, it will heat up the dryer sheet and the scent should waft through the vent from time to time to help give your home a fresh odor.

Be sure to reinstall your vent covers properly to avoid injury or damage.  For us, our vents are close to the ceiling, so I need to use a screwdriver to remove them and to replace them.  Also, do forget to clean your return register.  It’s typically a larger vent near your thermostat or your heating unit, and it can typically be found in the common area of your home.  Keeping this vent clean and free from dust will help your unit accurately registering the temperature in your home.  Again, you can soak this in hot soapy water, but you may need to do this in your tub rather than your sink.  Also, practice caution by using household cleaning gloves as the slats in these can be very sharp.

While you clean this vent, be sure to replace your air filter at the same time.  If you live in an apartment complex, be sure to check with the management office about getting your air filter replaced.  This, more than anything, is for your health because the air filters can help reduce airborne pathogens that can lead to illnesses such as the common cold.  Be sure to get the right size of filter.

As always, practice caution when cleaning your vents. Use proper tools and equipment to avoid injury and/or property damage.  And, as always, keep your family members safe.

Until next time,

-BBM

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