The short answer is yes, duct cleaning, done right by a reputable company will help with the smell. It is likely though the smell is coming from another source, ie the crawl space. It could also be that another rodent is dead in the duct work. A visual inspection would be in order to check for any breach in the duct system. A duct pressure test would be able to tell you how much air is leaking from the system over all. A hole large enough for an animal to enter would loses a great deal of air, over 300 CFM. It would be worth looking into having this test done and it should cost around $200. Cleaning the air handler and evaporator coil will greatly improve the performance of the air conditioner. Dirt and dust on the evaporator acts as insulation and reduces the amount of cooling done be the coil. Any quality duct cleaning should include cleaning the air handler and coil, and the tech should allow you to watch him perform the work as it is done.
He proceeded to clean each heat register by removing the grille and blasting it with an air pressure hose toward the duct opening thinking that the dust would magically be sucked inside. In one room this caused a ceiling smoke detector to go off because the excess dust fooled it into thinking there was smoke. I put my hand in front of a register he wasn’t working on and could hardly feel a suction. Although we discussed how I open and close damper doors, I realized later that he never checked, opened or adjusted them during the cleaning. He could have closed all but the one he was working on in order to increase suction results. His next step was to blast air into the duct and then attach a “squid-like” device that slapped around inside the duct as far as he could reach. This is important! In a newer house, ducts have long straight runs from the furnace. In older houses like mine they can turn and twist. In fact, the duct we have a problem with runs straight up from the basement inside a wall and turns 90 degrees into a soffit for three feet then into two 90 degree turns to get into the floor joist area for another two feet and finally a 90 degree turn up to the second floor register. When he cleaned this one he could only get three feet into the register with the hose or squid because of the turns. That was the case with most. Hardly what could be described as a decent cleaning.
All of the products discussed above are registered solely for the purpose of sanitizing the smooth surfaces of unlined (bare) sheet metal ducts. No products are currently registered as biocides for use on fiber glass duct board or fiber glass lined ducts, so it is important to determine if sections of your system contain these materials before permitting the application of any biocide.

Metal is way better than flex duct or ductboard. It gets better airflow, holds up to critters and duct cleaners. I know of no hvac company here that cleans ductwork. (there probably is one somewhere) The mfg's of duct cleaning equipment keep trying to sell us hvac people on their benefits and profit potential but most all hvac people know that unless you have metal ductwork you are NOT doing the customer any favors.
Your cleaning service should involve all aspects of your duct work to maximize energy efficiency and air quality. This includes attending to the heat exchanger, blower, drain pan, plenum and coils as well. In the process, your service provider may find that you're facing larger issues than debris and build-up. The professional may recommend having your furnace repaired if they notice, for example, damage to your heat exchanger or blower motor. Generally, a furnace repair costs between $130 and $500. They may also find that an A/C coil needs to be replaced rather than cleaned and would then recommend A/C repair.
#3 The ONLY time Duct cleaning is needed is when the home had a fire, Bad roof leak on to FIBERGLASS ductwork or house sat vacant for many years with out the air running. And its better to replace than to do “abrasive” duct cleaning. If the duct cleaning has a rotating brush it will remove part of the glue that is holding the Fiberglass in the ducts together, PERIOD no matter how much the say it don’t because the brush is soft.
I guess I should present my credentials first, I am a 30 year veteran of the heating and cooling industry. I started at the bottom and have participated in every area of the trade. Installer, service, maint. Ownership, rep, territory manager and so on. A forced air duct system is a large vacume. Like your vacume it has an air intake (return air) and an exhaust (supply registers). A filter just like a vacume (located next to furnace or air handler). Now I want you to visualize something. Put your head inside your vacume cleaner and breath. Get the picture? This is what your duct work looks like. Do you clean your vacume when it’s dirty? If it’s full and the filter is dirty you lose performance and it starts poluting the air you breathe. It’s common sense. I recommend hiring a duct cleaning outfit that you have researched to be honest, background checked, drug tested, insured, and highly recommended by your piers in the area. The service is a necessity, but like everything, it should be done by a qualified company.

And if you have flex duct and/or fiberglass ductboard in your home- the last thing you want is a big brush or anything abrasive running through it. Even high-pressure air can erode ductboard so I wouldn’t clean it with anything. If it becomes contaminated, get rid of it and install real ductwork. If your ductwork is accessible in the basement – the best thing to do is take it down and manually clean it if it’s full of junk. It’s not going to cost a nickel more to do that than to pay $500-1000 for a ‘duct cleaning machine” AKA big blower and vacuum – to do the job.
When these aren't properly maintained and sanitized, they can build up dust, pollen, and even mold. This means when the air conditioner or heater turns on, the spores are released into the air for you to inhale. While some are less harmful, people who have allergies or sensitivity to certain spores will react negatively. Plus, mold is dangerous for anyone to ingest and should be avoided by regular maintenance.
Sounds like your first hvac company was ripping you off. Ask your new company to go to your coil and see if there is a leak. If there isn't the last company was just lining their pockets. If you have had ducts unhooked for a long time I would recommend duct cleaning, trust me I'm not a fan of duct cleaning myself. I have done hvac for 20 yrs. in GA. When I just bought a home built in 1996, we had all the ducts replaced immediately.
We are all getting migraines several times a month. I have asthma but not ever as bad as it has been and my 2 year olds dr just informed me she potentially has asthma too. We all get sinus infections regularly and eczema and contact dermatitis. None of us have been this way until recently in our apartment. A roof leak with mold was repaired recently mold was sealed off not removed. We also had lead paint removed from a few window trims this year. I wasn’t here to see if they covered the vents. We had mice too. I vacuum everyday we have hardwood floors no one wears shoes past the font door and I’m getting over a cup full of dirt every time I vacuum. Dust on everything daily. White dust. It’s a 4 room apartment with 1 intake. They are filthy from what I can see when I change the filters. The filters are black after a few months. I feel bad to ask the homeowner to get the system cleaned, can’t afford to move (we live in the city & it’s expensive). I am going to try the shop vac to remove what I can. Any experienced hvac people please give your opinion. Should I just get it done and pay for it myself? We have lived here for 13 years. It’s never been cleaned since ive been here. Is it something I can do with a shop vac? Can i use a wet rag to get the powder dust on the inside of the vents off. One vent has what looks like chunks of dry wall or thick paint sitting in the vent and none of the vents screw into the wall, the screws just fall out. No one ever reinforced the area so the wall just basically crumbles. Kind of useless to spend the money on filters since the air and dust just blows out around the sides of the vents and one of the vents just falls right out of the wall when the heat is turned on. I don’t know why the owner doesn’t fix it. He’s been here to replace filters and saw the condition.
It’s 11 years plus in the industry I have only had to sanitize two systems both were slab systems that were in concrete and could be cleaned with a different method than normal duct cleaning. We were able to use water to rinse out the disinfectant. Would you use a chemical on anything else you use to eat or drink with and not rinse it off? The ducts in your home should be thought of as your homes heart and lungs and breathe the same air that you do. And just like us we wouldn’t use bad chemicals in our lungs and heart.
As one of the duct cleaners that do it right it disgusts me to hear the horror stories some of my past customers have had with the companies using scare tactics, bait and switch schemes, and just plain intimidation to make a fast buck. The Ductz franchise as a whole has gone behind other "duct cleaners" in the last year to the tune of almost three-quarters of a million dollars. All of this expense could have been avoided had the customers been able to do some background research before hiring. NADCA is a great organization and should be a minimum requirement for finding a duct cleaner. Other great questions include "How long does the service take?" (2 techs, 4-5 hours for a small house, 7-9+ hours for a two system house), "Do you clean the entire system including all trunk lines and the air handler (blower motor and evaporator coil)?", "How do you validate the job you have done?" (before and after picture reports work great). Beware of duct cleaners that say their process will solve all your air quality concerns. Duct cleaning is one of several steps to take to rid your home of unwanted dust, dirt, mold, and other allergens.

I just had my blower module replaced because my AC coil was frozen over. The underside of my coils had a thick mat of dust because I had never had it cleaned. I cleaned it myself by using a soft brush attachement on a shop vac. The inside of the blower appears to have a white/green growth, and I am sure the ductwork of my 30 year old house can’t be in good condition.
I read your article with interest and think it is a good start. One service that is always talked about is fogging ductwork for sanitizing. Many companies offer this service for disinfecting or adding a clean smell to the ductwork. Before any chemical or disinfectant is used, please read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). You might be surprise on what you are putting into the air stream. This is a high profit service and should be explored thoroughly before purchasing,
Interesting. Giuliano Cuete and Carlo Olcese have the exact same post about pretenders and being NADCA certified, word for word. So how do you become NADCA certified? And does that mean you are not a scam artist or a "blow and do" ripoff? hmmm, interesting. The EPA says that under normal conditions, a properly maintained system should NEVER need it's ducts cleaned.
2. If air quality is so important and duct cleaniliness is so uncertain, why not adopt doubling filtering; that is, in addition to the existing main furnace filter, add a filter at each air outlet. I understand replacing so many filters would be a burden, but air outlets can be designed for easy filter replacement. The builders and home design engineers should bear responsibility to provide good and low maintenance homes, rather than prioritizing on fancy or costly featuers for homes.
I spent a lot of time reading all these posts and frankly I can’t believe the way some people think. 1. If there is dust and dirt of any kind in my HVAC system I want it out, the mentality that it can stay there and it’s fine is fulish as the system turns on and off microscopic particulates will move in and out of your living space and you will definitely breath them in. The air quality of your home or office will only be as clean as the system that produces it. We don’t not clean things simply because we can’t see them, it’s what we can’t see that can do the most harm. Dust will build up in a system fairly quickly and will get damp at times allowing mold to grow and mold releases spores without any movement as part of its defense meconisam so don’t tell me that when your system turns on it won’t blow the spores out into the living spaces of your home. A build up of dust will cause failures to your system over time, equipment that works harder to do its job will run hotter with more strain and this will lead to brake downs and until then the system will run less efficient then it should. The system was engineered to move a certain volume of air through a specific duct size, when that duct size starts to become narowed down with dust build up your system has to work harder to move that air this is why you will end up with a loss of efficiency and eventually breakdowns or failures. I have seen systems develop a significant amount of dust build up in as little as two years, just look at how fast the filter gets clogged up and it isn’t all that hard to believe. As for all the scams that are out there they hurt the industry because people can’t decipher between them and the legitimate companies, BBB is helpful. Recommendations from HVAC contractors will be a good resource and a good company will provide a written estimate with a complete brake down of what they are going to do and why, most of which is comen sence once they explain it to you, then if you spend about 5 minutes watching them once they are set up you can see they are doing what they said they would do and let’s get real would you do a job that should take approx 3 hours per system for $29/$39/59 or something close to that, if you think you are going to get a good job from a comp that has to make money at that price you shouldn’t be mad at anyone but your self for trying to get quality work at a scam price. If it’s done right it will be very beneficial and depending on the size of your system and where you are in the world it’s going to cost you approx $300 to $600 per system large and or older systems may cost even more. Remember a quality job isn’t wasting money but a lousy job is, even if it’s only $29. I’d rather spend $600 on a quality job then $29 on a lousy job!! Good luck..

A do-it-yourself approach will only scratch the surface because it is hard to reach some of the ventilation running underneath the floor or into the wall. Although it may help in clearing some of the dust and debris, you really need a professional to guarantee your system is truly spotless. The proper procedure involves the use of a powerful vacuum system with multi-brush attachments designed to loosen debris and feed into the suction. Particles are then blown outside of the house or passed through a HEPA filter inside.


The next step was cleaning the cold air returns. He found a good spot to drill an 8” hole for his vacuum hose. The procedure matched the other air ducts except that when he finished at the two cold return registers he drilled several holes in the cold ducts in the basement and blasted air into them. Because of our houses age and the upgraded return system, I noticed that the main sheet metal return duct had no top but was just butted up against the ceiling in the basement. When he blasted air in, dust and crap shot out the edges along the ceiling. Once he finished that he removed the filter and “swept” out anything at the bottom of the return with his hand into the 8” hose.
I have a white gritty dust throughout my whole house. Dust and it comes right back. We have central air. In 2013 had all the air conditioning tubing in the attic replaced. Old ones were completely clean. Why?? Thought dust would be in there. Put everything in plastic containers. Furniture everything is always covered with this. Problem is always there year round. Furnace people said it is not coming from furnace. We built house in 1971. Only started with this @ 19 years ago. Thinking when air conditioning went in. We cough all the time and sneeze. I do not have friends come here because I hate how dirty my house looks.

In reading through all this about duct cleaning, THE ONE preventative measure people need to realize is that a poorly installed HVAC system that is not sealed and air tight to ensure that ALL indoor air passes through a GOOD air filtration system IS THE best means of ensuring your ducts remain clean. Duct cleaning does not now and will NEVER improve an HVAC systems efficiency. Proper maintenance and installation are the key just as improper installation practices allow for dust infiltration into the duct system. I am a state licensed contractor in Texas, and unless people have their hvac system sealed and/or properly installed, duct cleaning is an absolute waste of money. My duct system is 12 years old as is as clean today as the day I installed the system with ductwork. SO before ANYONE jumps on the bandwagon of duct cleaning, get with your hvac professional FIRST.


I think that the coding and permit industry is a joke!! They will not allow the homeowner to apply for the permit it has to be the licenced contractor. It would make since to allow the homeowner to apply for this. But it is all about money!! They really don't care if its up to code because if they did then they wouldnt care who applied and payeed for it, but they want the contractor to do it so if they do something wrong they can fine them instead of just pointing it out and allowing them to do it right.
In addition, the black dust was found in most of the heat registers. He could rub it off on his fingers but did nothing but spray compressed air on it which didn’t make it disappear since it wasn’t loose. Also, in the register in the basement he described the black dust as being oily. The reality of that situation is that I had the AC on until the morning of the service and minutes after he snaked the hoses in my back door it started raining. The basement register had condensation from the humidity all over it. It was not oily but wet. He asked for an old towel and wiped it out. Never saw anything so black – because I never had to clean soot. That is what I have in my ducts. Soot from years of the old coal furnace.
A thorough visual inspection is the best way to verify the cleanliness of your heating and cooling system. Some service providers use remote photography to document conditions inside ducts. All portions of the system should be visibly clean; you should not be able to detect any debris with the naked eye. Show the Post-Cleaning Consumer Checklist to the service provider before the work begins. After completing the job, ask the service provider to show you each component of your system to verify that the job was performed satisfactorily.
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