Why Air Ducts Get Dirty Quickly and Tips to Keep Them Clean


Typically we recommend air duct and dryer vent cleaning for our Arvada customers every two to three years. In the vast majority of cases, there is no compelling reason to speed up that cleaning cycle. Nonetheless, we sometimes get calls from customers stating that their air ducts seemed to get dirty very quickly. So what gives? In this guide, we'll look at six possible explanations for air ducts that have become dirty quicker than normal.

Six Reasons Your Air Ducts Got Dirty Quickly

Why is it that air ducts sometimes seem to get dirty much faster than normal? Here are six possible reasons.

Construction Work

Almost nothing will clog up your air ducts faster than remodeling or other construction work on the house. Tearing down walls and ripping up floors releases massive amounts of dust and dirt into the air, much of which is then sucked into your air ducts. Even if your ducts were cleaned a week before the construction started, there’s a good chance that as soon as it’s finished, people in the house will start to experience various types of respiratory distress. Always follow up construction or remodeling work with air duct cleaning.

Man in plaid shirt planning construction project indoors beside power toools

A Clogged Air Filter

If it’s been a while since you’ve changed the air filter on your HVAC unit there’s a good chance it’s too clogged with dirt and debris to do its job effectively. If that’s the case then it’s A) not filtering dirt, dust, and other particles out of the air anymore, but instead letting them simply cycle through the system back into your rooms and B) bits of dirt and debris on the clogged filter are coming loose all the time and also being recycled through your house. If it seems like the air quality has taken a sudden turn for the worse, check the air filter.

Dust Storms

Dust storms are an all too familiar event in Colorado and can happen with little-to-no warning. Before you know it the air is choked with dust, dirt, and other windborne debris that forces its way into your house through a million tiny crevices. Most folks don’t think of the impact dust storms can have on their air ducts, but they should. If there was a dust storm recently there’s a good chance you’ll need both air duct cleaning and dryer duct cleaning.

Cloudy desert sky with visible airborne debris after dust storm

Winter Weather

Winters in Arvada can be intense, with biting cold, huge amounts of snow, and piercing winds blowing down off the mountains. But winters aren’t just hard on people, they’re also hard on homes. Those strong winds bring all kinds of debris with them off of the mountains. Some of which invariably wind up in your home. Also, during periods of intense winter weather people and pets tend to stay home with the windows and doors sealed up and as a result, more dead skin cells, human hair, pet hair, pet dander, cooking smoke, and other kinds of residue build up quickly in the air ducts.

Spring Weather

Not to be outdone by Old Man Winter, springtime is another period during which debris can build up quickly in your ductwork. First of all, there's a significant base of debris that accumulates during the winter. But that's just the first act. Now that the snow is thawing plants, bushes, and trees are springing to life releasing unimaginable amounts of pollen, mold spores, and pieces of rotten leaves in the air. And because people tend to open their windows for extended periods during the spring to air out the house after a long winter, all that airborne detritus has a clear path into the house. (No, screens aren't fine enough to stop it.)

Dandelion in wind beside flying pollen

Ineffective Past Cleanings

There are quite a few companies and individuals these days who offer dryer duct cleaning and air duct cleaning services. As is the case with most industries, however, not all air duct cleaners are created equal. Many have never been properly trained in air duct cleaning techniques and don't have the right equipment. They fake their way through seeming to do the job but then six months later everyone in your house is sneezing and coughing again.

"Only qualified HVAC inspection and cleaning technicians can safely clean the ducts and exhaust the air to the outside of your home. In addition, some types of ducts, such as insulated and flexible ducts, can be damaged by an untrained technician, leaving you to pay for expensive duct repairs."

—Glenda Taylor, Staff Writer at Bob Vila

When it's time to have your ducts and vents cleaned make sure you always choose an established company like Steve's Air Duct Cleaning that specializes in home maintenance.

Ten Ways to Keep Air Ducts Clean for Longer

Regular HVAC Maintenance

Schedule routine inspections and maintenance for your HVAC system. This includes changing air filters, checking for leaks or blockages, and ensuring all components are functioning correctly. A well-maintained system is less likely to accumulate dirt and debris in the ducts.

Use High-Quality Air Filters

Invest in high-quality air filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating appropriate for your HVAC system. These filters can trap more dust, pollen, and other airborne particles, preventing them from circulating through the ductwork.

Clean Air Vents Regularly

Regularly clean air vents and registers to prevent dust and debris from entering the ducts. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment or damp cloth to remove dust and dirt from the vents.

Cleaning white indoor vent cover with blue sponge

Change Air Filters Regularly

Regularly replace air filters according to the manufacturer's recommendations or more frequently if you have pets, allergies, or live in a dusty environment. Clogged filters can lead to restricted airflow, causing the HVAC system to work harder and potentially leading to increased debris buildup in the ducts.

Seal Ductwork Properly

Ensure that ductwork joints are properly sealed to prevent dust and debris from entering and accumulating within the ducts. Use duct sealant or metal tape to seal any leaks or gaps in the ductwork.

Follow the instructions in the following video from This Old House to properly seal leaky ductwork.

Control Humidity Levels

Maintain appropriate humidity levels in your home to prevent mold and mildew growth, which can contribute to air duct contamination. Use a dehumidifier if necessary, especially in humid climates or during humid seasons.

Consider UV Air Purification

Install UV germicidal lights in your HVAC system to kill bacteria, viruses, mold, and other microorganisms that can grow within the ducts. UV air purification can help keep the air ducts clean and improve indoor air quality.

Maintain a Clean Home Environment

Keep your home clean to reduce the amount of dust and debris that can enter the HVAC system. Regular vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning of floors, carpets, and upholstery can help minimize the accumulation of airborne particles.

Barefoot woman vacuuming beige rug with red vacuum

Invest in Professional Duct Cleaning

Schedule professional duct cleaning services periodically to remove accumulated dust, dirt, and debris from the ductwork. Professional duct cleaning companies use specialized equipment to thoroughly clean the ducts and improve airflow efficiency.

Before deciding which duct cleaning team to hire, we'd recommend calling a few local companies and asking the following questions to ensure that they're well-qualified to do the job right.

  1. What is Your Cleaning Process? — Understanding the cleaning process is crucial to ensure thorough cleaning of your air ducts. Ask the professional to explain their cleaning methods in detail. Inquire about the equipment they use, such as high-powered vacuums, brushes, or agitation devices, and whether they employ any sanitizing or disinfecting agents. Ensure that their process complies with industry standards and recommendations.
  2. Do You Provide a Written Estimate? — Request a written estimate outlining the cost of the service before scheduling the cleaning. The estimate should include all potential charges, such as labor, materials, equipment rental, and any additional services. This ensures transparency and helps you avoid any unexpected costs or hidden fees later on.
  3. Are You Licensed and Insured? — Verify that the air duct cleaning company is licensed and insured to perform the services. A licensed contractor has met certain requirements and is legally permitted to operate in your area, while insurance coverage protects you from liability in case of accidents or damage to your property during the cleaning process. Request proof of licensing and insurance to confirm their credibility and professionalism.

Monitor Indoor Air Quality

Regularly monitor indoor air quality using air quality monitors or sensors. If you notice a decline in indoor air quality or an increase in allergy symptoms, it may indicate that the air ducts need cleaning.

By following these tips and incorporating regular maintenance into your HVAC system care routine, you can help keep your air ducts clean for longer, ensuring better indoor air quality and the efficient operation of your HVAC system.

Explore Today's Top Air Quality Monitors

Review Consumer Reports' top-recommended air quality monitors to find the best option for your home.

Explore Air Quality Monitors

For Expert Dryer Duct Cleaning in Arvada, Call Steve’s

If you suddenly become aware that something is off with the air quality in your home it may very well be that air ducts need a good scouring. If you’ve recently remodeled or renovated part or all of your house then air duct cleaning is a must.

The experienced service professionals at Steve's have helped Coloradoans keep their homes clean and hygienic for more than 45 years. So if you need air duct cleaning you can rely on search for “air duct cleaning near me” and tap on the link for Steve’s Air Duct Cleaning. Or better yet, just give us a call at 720-419-7792 during normal business hours and set up an appointment.

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Start Breathing Easier.

Your air ducts are the lungs of your home and keeping them clean keeps you and your family healthier and your HVAC equipment working optimally.