How to Clean an Air Vent in Your Home

With the constant flow of air through air vents, especially an air conditioner air vent during the summer months, they can become quite filthy. The problem with a dirty air vent is that it decreases the effectiveness of the vent itself and, worse, may recirculate dust and pollen throughout the house’s breathable air. You’ll be surprised at how quickly and easily you can achieve a clean air vent in your home.

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Particularly after a construction project including drywall (as this air vent is), you’ll want to clean the air vent thoroughly.

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If you look up through the air vent cover to the filter, you’ll notice that it’s both the vent and the filter that are covered in dusty debris. It’s (well past) time to take cleaning action.

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Begin by loosening the latch side of your air vent cover. Be careful of the air filter, as it is likely just loose and sitting on top of the cover.

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It doesn’t take a close inspection of the air filter to realize this one is well overdue for changing. Your air filters should be changed out at least every three months, as a general rule, or sooner after projects that release a lot of dust into the air. Take note of the three-number combination printed on the side of your air filter (in this case, 20 x 20 x 1). This is the size of the air filter you need to replace it with.

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You could try to vacuum the air filter, but this will take a long time and won’t clean the filter thoroughly. This is a case where you’ll need to buy a new filter. Find one that matches that three-number combination. These don’t cost much, and it’s worth it to have clean air in your home. (Tip: Buy two or three filters at a time so you always have one on-hand for replacing.) Set the new filter aside.

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It’s now time to clean the air vent cover. Remove completely from the ceiling or wall but unhooking the last two connection points.

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In a bathtub or outside, run a little water over the air vent cover.

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Use a soft-bristle hand brush to scrub away the grime. Wash in the direction of the vents on one side, then flip the cover over and repeat on the other side. Rinse all grime from both sides of your air vent.

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Set the air vent cover in a dry, preferably sunny, place to dry completely.

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While the air vent cover is drying, you can clean the air vent frame. You don’t want to add a bunch of moisture, like in a cleaning spray, because that tends to bunch up the dirt and make it harder to remove because it sticks in cracks and holes. Use a baby wipe or very lightly dampened paper towel and wipe away all dust.

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You might want to use a cleaning toothbrush to get into the cracks that your fingers can’t quite get.

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The entire ceiling area around your air vent is likely dusty from the constant use, and this example is no exception. Bits of dust have attached themselves to the air vent side of all ceiling texture bits.

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Lightly wet your same soft-bristle hand brush, and gently scrub the ceiling in a circular motion to remove the dust. You’re going to have to rinse your hand brush often, or you will be simply displacing dirt from one section of the ceiling to another. Rinse and scrub and rinse and scrub until the ceiling around the air vent is clean.

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Wet parts of the house tend to attract future dust more than dry ones, so once you have scrubbed the dirt free, use a clean, dry, soft cloth to dry the ceiling. Microfiber cloths work well here.

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With everything – the air vent cover, air vent frame, and surrounding ceiling – clean and dry, it’s time to reassemble your air vent. Hook the two hooks of your air vent cover into place, then set the new air filter on the cover, Pay attention to the direction of the air flow arrow on the side of your filter; it should point toward the blower motor.

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Holding the air filter in place, carefully close the air vent cover, then latch into place.

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Viola! A sparkling, and safe air vent that is now more effective and efficient for breathable air than it was in its gross, dirty state.

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Enjoy breathing the fresh air inside your home now, as much as the fresh air outside your home. We hope you found this tutorial for how to clean an air vent helpful.