If you haven't had a thrill in a while, let us recommend giving your air vents a clean.
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If you, like me, haven't been cleaning your air conditioner vents, now is the time to start the ritual. Air contaminants like dust, pet dander, and chemicals build up in vents and ducts over time. Cleaning them will decrease allergens in your home and also may help your air conditioning unit work more efficiently. The process can be as simple as wiping down all of your vents with a microfiber duster or a vacuum with a brush attachment on a monthly basis. But if it's a deeper clean and healthier air quality you're after, you'll want to set aside a little more time and the right tools for the job.

Full frame of a clogged air vent
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How Often to Clean Air Vents and Ducts

You should have a professional deep cleaning of your A/C system every three to five years, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. But keep in mind that air contaminants are constantly circulating throughout your ductwork, building up on ducts and grille covers, and then blowing into your home. If someone in your home has asthma or is sensitive to allergens, more frequent cleaning will improve air quality for their benefit. You'll also want to consider taking on this job if you have furry pets or a smoker living in your home. A good rule of thumb is to clean your ducts and vents twice a year.

What You Need:

  • Gloves
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Dish soap
  • High-powered vacuum
Heating Vent Air Duct Getting Cleaned
Credit: JaniceRichard/Getty Images

How to Clean Your Vents and Ducts With Soap and a Vacuum

Follow these steps for safely and thoroughly cleaning your air vents:

  1. Turn off your air conditioning unit.
  2. Unscrew and pull out air conditioner vent grilles and give them a good, thorough cleaning using warm, soapy water and a soft-bristled brush.
  3. Set the grilles aside to dry completely.
  4. Use a high-powered vacuum and vacuum just inside the ducts, removing any dust or debris. Before you begin vacuuming, take a look for signs of mold or mildew (see below for information on when to call a professional).
  5. Secure the grilles once dry.

Tips to Keeping Your Vents Clean Longer

  • Dust the outside of your air vents with a vacuum or microfiber cloth monthly or each time you clean your floors.
  • Be sure to replace your air filter regularly, generally every 30 to 90 days. How often it needs to be replaced varies by the type of filter you're using as well as a variety of other environmental factors, so check the filter packaging.

When to Call a Professional

It's a good idea to have your A/C system professionally cleaned every three to five years, but any signs of mold mean it's time to call now. Condensation on your air vents is never a good sign. Where there's moisture, there's often mildew. White or black spots on your vent cover, a musty smell, and/or dampness within the vent are all signs you might have mold in your air vents. The best course of action is to hire a professional team to come and assess the situation. They'll be able to determine if there are signs of black mold or any other type of mold or mildew in your air vents, in addition to being able to give your ducts a good deep clean. If you prefer to do a little research of your own before hiring a professional, pick up an at-home mold and mildew test kit.

If you haven't had a thrill in a while, let me recommend giving your air conditioner vents a clean. It's called instant gratification, and it can be yours in a matter of minutes. That still makes it instant, right?