Is Duct Cleaning A Waste of Money?


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) writes that “duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing.”


There is a lot of misleading information about duct cleaning on the internet. It’s easy to get confused by or misinterpret what you’re reading. The first question you may be asking, is if duct cleaning is a waste of money. It’s a very valid question to ask, and the answers you will find online may vary wildly. It all boils down to one thing. Duct cleaning is a waste of money only if you use the wrong company.


If you have ever received a flyer in the mail advertising a whole-home special for $99, or $79 or any other deceptively small number, you are not alone. The companies behind these advertisements make the entire industry look bad, and make duct cleaning a waste of money for many unfortunate homeowners. This is because these company’s version of duct cleaning does not utilize proper techniques. The advertisements for a whole-home cleaning for $99 are called bait-and-switch advertisements. When they arrive for the cleaning, they will most likely only clean twelve or so ducts for the initial $99, and then surprise you with a quote of an astronomical sum to clean the rest of the ductwork. They baited you with the promise of a small cost and then switched it out at the last minute.

As for their actual process, a lot of companies, even those who don’t participate in bait-and-switch scams, use a shop-vac to clean the ducts. A shop-vac will only reach 3ft or so of ductwork behind each vent cover. They are not long enough to clean every inch of the ductwork down to the main trunk line. Even if you find a bait-and-switch company that cleans ductwork properly, if you don’t pay their hefty sum to clean all the ducts, the cleaning will have been a waste of money. The second you turn the air back on, all the dirt and debris that remains will recirculate back into the clean ducts, and it will be as if the cleaning never happened.

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The companies that don’t make duct cleaning a waste of money are those that follow the National Air Duct Cleaner’s Association’s preferred process of cleaning. The National Air Duct Cleaner’s Association (NADCA) sets the highest standards for HVAC cleaning. Unfortunately, there is no governing body for air duct cleaners, which is why bait-and-switch scams can exist. Therefore, it is important to use a company that freely follows NADCA approved techniques.

The NADCA’s preferred process will include using negative air pressure and high-pressured air whips to clean every inch of all your ducts going down to the main trunk line. The process is highly effective, will not let anything escape into the home, and produces the best results.


A cleaning every 5-7 years by a company that doesn’t make the duct cleaning a waste of money can provide relief from a whole host of problems. Proper duct cleaning can reduce the amount of dust being pushed out into the home by the HVAC system. If you find yourself needing to dust multiple times a week, and it’s been a long time since you’ve had the ducts cleaned, this may be a great solution.

If someone in the home has allergies, duct cleaning may help relieve the severity of some of their symptoms. Every time you come in from outside, you are bringing in allergens and even harmful particulates. They are taken in by the return ducts and circulated around the home by the HVAC system. A regular duct cleaning can help reduce the number of these particulates building up and being pushed back into the home. Additionally, if there is suspected mold spores or growth in the ductwork, a thorough cleaning will remove the mold and keep it from spreading into the rest of the home.

Another reason for duct cleaning, is renovations to the home. Whether you’ve just bought the home and are fixing it up, or you’ve been there for a while and it’s time to update it, duct cleaning should always be done after you’ve finished the renovations. Think of all the dust, debris, and contaminants that are released during the renovation process. When the air is on, all those particulates are picked up by the HVAC system. This is not something you want to breath in, and duct cleaning after the work is a fantastic way to finish the process.


More info? For answers to more frequently asked air duct cleaning questions, check out our post: Air Duct Cleaning: Duct Cleaning FAQs.

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