Looking at your home’s heating vents, you may think they look just fine. After all, warm air blows through them regularly in the winter, so that will obviously remove any dust or debris that might otherwise cause problems, right?
Not necessarily. Heating vents take a lot of use and abuse during the entire year, not just winter. Although warm air circulates through the house only during the cold months, the vents become targets for flying objects like shoes, they attract and hold pet hair and dander, and they may become a depository for a curious toddler’s small toys, coins, or vitamins.
To keep your vents operating efficiently and to deal with problems like those outlined above, here are a few tips for cleaning these important areas of air exchange in your home:
- Keep the vent areas free of clutter. Don’t’ stack boxes, magazines, or other items in front of the vents, and don’t push furniture in their way, either. The vents promote the ventilation of warm air throughout each room in the house. When not in use, close one or more vents, but never cover or obstruct them when in use. Encourage family members to keep personal items away from the vents in all living areas.
- Dust, mop, or vacuum around the vents weekly. If you look closely, you may see a thin trail of dust or furnace debris around the exterior of the vent. Wipe the surrounding wall space. On light surfaces, you may be able to see dust particles. Keep the external areas wiped clean to prevent an accumulation of grit or grime.
- Unscrew the vents and carefully remove foreign objects. These may include the above-mentioned coins, pills, toys, or other small objects that have been accidentally or deliberately tossed into the vent grate. If something cannot be reached by hand, look for an appropriate-size handle-type object with which to retrieve the lost item. Be careful not to get burned or shocked, depending on the structure behind the grate.
- Gently vacuum inside the vent. Look for the largest clumps of dust and get these first. Then sweep the air generally to get rid of particles, dust bunnies, pet hair, and other debris that may be collecting inside the vent. Since warm air will push out these minute items into the air that family members breathe during the winter, you want to get rid of as much as you can to keep it from circulating throughout the house. Do this for all the vents you can safely reach.
- Clean the grates. Wipe them clean with a damp cloth, watching for rusty metal areas so you don’t get scratched. Replace the grates when you are done, screwing them in tightly so they will not come loose, but not so tightly that you strip the bolts. Clean up the resulting debris, if any, that may have jarred loose as you removed and cleaned the grate. You may want to wash nearby curtains or wipe off the furniture if the vacuuming and cleaning caused some of the dust to swirl around.
Clean vents can help to purify the air that everyone breathes when the house is closed up in cold weather. Take care of the vents routinely and replace those that are worn, chipped or broken. You may even be able to sense cleaner air in each room!