Weekend Projects

One Under-Appreciated Thing You Should Clean Before it Gets Really Hot Out

published May 7, 2021
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Apartment Therapy Weekend Projects is a guided program designed to help you get the happy, healthy home you’ve always wanted, one weekend at a time. Sign up now for email updates so you never miss a lesson.

Air conditioning units are among the costliest home repairs. As with any appliance, regular maintenance prolongs the life of the unit and prevents premature repairs and replacements. Making sure it’s in top shape before summer temperatures soar might help you skip some hot, muggy days at home with an out-of-commission unit. Consider this your reminder to schedule an air conditioner tune-up from the professionals.

But this weekend, you’re not going to do anything more with the mechanical parts of your air conditioning units. (Go ahead and exhale that sigh of relief like I am.) Instead, you’re going to focus on the almost-always-overlooked part of your HVAC unit: the vents.

With central air, you have two different kinds of vents in your home, intake vents and supply vents. Intake vents pull air from inside your home into the duct system and supply vents push the air into your home. (Incidentally, keeping vents and even doors in your home open and unblocked ensures that proper pressure is maintained in your HVAC system.) These vents can get dirty, and this weekend, you’re going to clean them.

This Weekend: Clean your air vents.

To clean your air vents, the first thing you need to do is turn off your HVAC unit. First turn off the thermostat and then switch off the unit itself.

Next, go around the house and take note of all of vents. They may be in the floor, on your walls, or in the ceiling. Notice which ones need to be cleaned. Gather your supplies, including a vacuum cleaner with the duster attachment, dryer sheets (or a cloth), a soft-bristled brush, and a screwdriver.

Begin with the least dirty vents and run a dryer sheet over them (you can use a regular cloth for this, but dryer sheets have a static cling that helps your efforts). Then vacuum where necessary. You may need to use the brush to loosen the dust and dirt a bit before vacuuming. Vacuum inside the ducts attached to floor vents; they tend to collect dust, dirt, and crumbs. Remove vents that are still dirty with a screwdriver and wash them gently with soap and water. Rinse and dry thoroughly before attempting to replace them. After everything has been replaced, turn your HVAC unit back on.

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Remember: This is about improvement, not perfection. Each week you can either choose to work on the assignment we’ve sent you, or tackle another project you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s also completely okay to skip a weekend if you’re busy or not feeling the assignment.