Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cleaning Ductwork Redneck Style

****Warning this post is long and picture heavy****

Progress has been slow for a couple of reasons. First we both came down with some sort of crud. So a whole weekend was shot and we were both down and out and basically lived on this therapeutic combination:

Thankfully we recovered, and the following weekend was wonderfully spent getting to know our newest granddaughter. I am SO in love!!!

After a weekend of snuggles and kisses with baby Jane, we decided the first thing we would get done up at the homestead in the making was to clean out the duct work. We only have a couple of weeks before it will be too hot here to work on the place without some sort of air conditioning. The unit that is there is basically kaput. In fact I'm quite sure it hasn't been operating in many, many years. The previous owners had some window units in place, and had even covered the floor vents in a couple of rooms with laminate flooring so if I had to guess, I would say it had been at least 7+ years since the AC had been in use. 7+ years of ick and possibly critters living in the duct work.

While at least one of the window units is still working, the windows themselves are pretty rotted and there are huge gaps where the units don't quite fit properly so one of the first things we will do is get a new AC unit. But until we get the cash flow for that type of repair, IE.... until we sell the house in the burbs... we will continue to do the least expensive items on our need to do list. Hence the decision to clean the duct work.

Now I have to say the duct work in manufactured homes is pretty straight forward. Basically it runs in a straight line from one end of the house to the other on each side of the home. This no frills set up makes it pretty easy for the average DIY person to clean them on their own. I definitely recommend getting a partner for this job as it will speed things along. Also, I highly recommend using a mask while doing this and I'm pretty sure this method only works on metal duct work. I don't think it would work with flex duct. Here is the cast of characters we thought we would need when we started the project:

It turned out that some of the items where not going to work, but fortunately I married Macgyver, and he can pretty much figure out and fix anything and he came up with a much better solution using some of the old garbage that was lying around the place. Just a side note....my hubs ( Macgyver) is basically a genius when it comes to figuring out stuff. Proof positive that opposites attract since I can't even figure out the TV remote, and don't even attempt it. But I digress....

Here is our unorthodox slightly redneck way that we cleaned out our ducts:

First we removed the old rusted vent covers and vacuumed the vent with a shop vac that had an extended hose on it. I would be lying if I said this was not the least bit yucky because in reality it was very yucky! There were bugs, spiders, numerous Popsicle sticks (?) one fork, one earring, twenty two cents in change and clear cut evidence that some sort of varmint had made a home in there out of insulation and leaves. Macgyver rigged up the vacuum so that most of the filth would go out the window because he knows what I don't see won't freak me out.

Next we planned on using a mop head to run through the duct to loosen and collect any stuff the vacuum didn't pick up. However we realized a mop head wouldn't get the job done so Macgyver found an old cushion on the trash heap outside and came up with a clever way to clean the inside.

First he cut it so that it would fit snugly in the vent.

Then he cut a slit in the center so that he could fit a paint roller that he had cut the handle off of into the center. He also cut a portion of the foam so that the handle would poke out.

It's hard to see in this photo but the roller portion fit in the middle of the foam and he cut a little channel so that the end of the handle that he cut off would poke out so that we could attach the fish tape to it.

Here is the fish tape which incidentally has nothing to do with fish or tape. Who knew? It's basically a ridged wire with a hook thing on the end. I'm told it's used a lot by electricians for feeding wire and such in walls. We picked ours up at Home Depot.

Starting from the vent on the end of the house, he ran the fish tape until it made it to the next vent. This is where your partner comes in. Once the end of the fish tape was through the vent we attached the foam block to it.

Here is the foam block attached to the fish tape:

Then Macgyver stuffed the foam block into the vent while I pulled the end of the fish tape. As the foam was pulled from one vent to the next, it effectively pulled all the gunk with it. When it reached the vent, it had a bunch of yuck with it that we just sucked up with the shop vac. Here is a picture of the foam as it is being pulled through the vent.

You can just see the edge of the foam peeking out.

We continued this using the dry foam block going from vent to vent until there was no more stuff that was being pulled through. It took a couple of sweeps until we felt we had gotten all of the big stuff out. Now it was time to actually "clean" the ducts. I got online and ordered the big gun stuff.

When I was researching cleaning stuff, this got good reviews for effectiveness, but a lot of bad reviews about the smell so that had me a little worried but it turns out I actually like the smell. It's clean and slightly minty. We poured this into a bucket and then saturated the foam block in it. We wrung it out pretty well and then repeated the fish tape/drag through the vent technique. (Which we had down to a science at this point). We did have to rinse the foam with water after each pass as it got pretty dirty each time. We were just sure to wring it out really well so that the vents didn't get saturated. All in all it took us about 6 hours, but I feel so much better knowing that they will be clean when we finally get some air blowing through them.

* This post was shared on http://www.theeasyhomestead.com/homestead-blog-hop-23/ *
Fluster Buster


  1. Great post! The ductwork can get really dirty... and it is expensive to clean professionally.... what a great way to "think outside the box"! :)

    1. Thanks Joy! After seeing what was in there, I will definitely be more proactive to keep them clean!