Duct Cleaning Questions

We built our house 3 years ago and my wife, who is sensitive to sheetrock dust, thinks we should have all of the air ducts cleaned out. While I’m not sure this will really help, she claims that her allergies kick up whenever the heater goes on. Who am I to argue.

I have never cleaned out air ducts before… even in houses that I have built in the past. I assume they use some kind of vacuum device to suck out whatever is in your air ducts.

A few questions:

  1. Has anyone bothered to have all of the air ducts cleaned out and did it help with a dust issue they were having?

  2. The estimate we got for our 4,000 sf house is around $400. Does that sound reasonable?

  3. Is this usually a one time thing or are you suppose to clean out your ducts on a regular basis?

I should mention that we live in Northwest Montana so our windows are shut tight from about November through April.

Any past experiences would be greatly appreciated!

My house is 35 years old, and we did this once, because my wife was insistent on it. I believe we paid in the neighborhood of $100-150 for it, and I don’t believe it did any good at all. My house was dusty before, and is still dusty. The duct cleaning may have helped the dust problem for a short time, but I have a hard time believing it’s something you should do on a regular basis.

It seems to me a cheaper and easier alternative is to make sure your furnace filter is changed regularly. Also use a dusting cloth on a regular basis.

I’d also think that sheetrock dust wouldn’t be a problem in a 3 year old house, but I could be wrong about that. Is she allergic to it, or something else? You two should probably find out what she’s allergic to, if you haven’t already, and then work on eliminating or controlling that.

The people I bought my house from had it done, both they and the house inspector said it was a waste of money. They spent all that time, punched holes in the ductwork and all for a small handful of dust. It makes sense too, the dust that’s in the ductwork is, well, in there. If it was blowing around your house it would be blowing around your house, not stuck in the ducts.

I like to compare it to the dust on a ceiling fan. Sure it’s kinda gross to look at, but if it’s stuck to the ceiling fan, you can’t blame it for making your room dusty.

Anyways, from what I’ve read, the only time it’s worth it to have your ducts cleaned is when you have a noticeable amount of buildup (and by buildup, they were talking about being able to grab a handful, not just make a mark with your finger) at the registers.
Having said that. I could see it being worthwhile if you just had major construction done on your house where inordinate amounts of dust where kicked up.

We do change the filter twice a year, but there are big chucks of sheet rook in the ducts. I know because I have removed some of them with my own vacuum cleaner. Like I said, it’s really not an issue for me, but my wife is convinced it is causing problems for her allergies. When we stay at a relatives house, or a hotel, she doesn’t seem to have the problem. I’m wondering if it’s the bedding… although we have dry cleaned the comforter and washed the sheets weekly without any positive results.

Sheet rock shouldn’t be in the ducts; that can inhibit air flow, just like partially blocking the registers.

But your wife’s problems could be lots of things, as you say, it could be the bedding. It’s best to look at things systematically and eliminate them one by one until you’ve solved the mystery.

Or—she could be allergic to you! (That’s a joke…only a joke…)

Don’t think I haven’t thought of that…

I would do it, just the once, to get rid of the construction debris. I think it could be beneficial to your wife’s allergies. If NOT, well, at least you’ve ruled that out.

As for doing it again, or regularly, I have not read anything that has convinced me it is bad OR good. It’s something I’d consider doing once, in my house, just to see if it makes a difference. But I have a whole-house air filter so I am not especially inclined to do it anymore.

As for the price, I think ads I see around here are cheaper but you don’t see too many 4000 sq ft homes around here either. FWIW Angie’s List just had a “Member’s only special” in our region for $220 for air duct cleaning and it said the regular price was $440.

We did it once at the old house at my wife’s urging; I was ambivalent and I’m the one with the allergies. I don’t think it had much effect. I’d be more concerned with dust in the room, but presumably you have that covered.

What did help my allergies was encasing the pillows, mattress and box spring in hypoallergenic dust bags and lifting them on a weekly (or at least bi-weekly) basis to vacuum under and behind the bed with a hepa filter. Also, vacuuming the mattress & box themselves.

Cost- for a 4,000 sf home I don’t think the quoted price is out of line. It’s probably worth it just for the peace of mind.

I haven’t done it…but one of my co-workers, who I have a ton of respect for did. He watched the process, and says it’s a waste of money. They did a terrible job of sealing the opening they used, and basically used a weak vacuum that didn’t really do anything.

I suppose in theory it could be useful…but in this case, at least, it wasn’t.


How about installing an electrostatic air cleaner?