How to clean your forced air heating ducts

Updated February 21, 2017

Forced-air heating ducts supply the warm and cool air to your home that keeps you comfortable year round. Made out of sturdy, galvanised metal, they last for years with little to no maintenance. However, over time, dirt and debris slowly build up in the ducts. They begin to narrow, and air flow becomes restricted. This will reduce the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling unit significantly. Your unit will have excessive wear and tear, and your energy costs will rise. Cleaning your forced-air heating ducts can help you continue to have the same energy efficiency that you have known for years.

Remove all supply and return registers from the walls. This will enable you to gain access into the duct system.

Power up your vacuum, and attach the extra hoses to it to make it maximum length. Vacuum the duct through the holes where your registers were. Vacuum as far as you can reach with the vacuum cleaner.

Go into your basement, and measure how far your hose reached from each register. Cut an access panel in the duct with snips at that point so you can vacuum farther down the duct trunk.

Keep vacuuming and cutting access panels until all the ducts have been cleaned out back to the furnace.

Cut sheet metal patches to fit over your access holes, and screw them to the ductwork with sheet metal screws. Caulk around the seams of the patches to ensure they don't leak when your HVAC system comes on.

Screw the supply and return registers back onto the walls upstairs. Vacuum them to remove any dust and debris.

Clean out the ductwork once a year as a yearly maintenance plan. You can remove the access panels to access the duct, so subsequent cleanings should be a lot easier.


For the best possible cleaning, hire a professional duct-cleaning company to clean your forced-air heating ducts. They have specialised equipment that is not available to the typical homeowner, and they can clean the ducts without having to cut any access panels into the ductwork. After you clean your heating ducts, check your HVAC filter to see if it is dirty and needs replacement.


Sheet metal is extremely sharp. When cutting or handling sheet metal, always wear safety glasses and work gloves to prevent injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Vacuum
  • Aviation snips
  • Hammer
  • Sheet metal
  • Sheet metal screws
  • Cordless drill
  • Caulk
  • Caulk gun
  • Safety glasses
  • Work gloves
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