Cleaning your ducts

Having the  air ducts in your home cleaned is apparently something you can do. I never have. The idea has always fallen into the category of vibrating weight-loss belts, colon cleansers, and healing magnets for arthritis. Aspirational for sure. Things we all want. But really? A clean duct?

But my wife is nothing but persistent. She tells me we’re getting clean ducts. She argues that they haven’t been cleaned since 1935. (So what’s the rush?) She says it will solve all the dust problems in our house. (How about we get rid of a dog or two and trade-in the cat?) She says it will help our allergy-prone adult kid who is living with us. (How about the kid moves out and gets a job to support her aging parents?) I suspect what is really going on is that my wife is going through a list in her head that has “clean air ducts” as item-number 46 and then further down the list is “divorce lame-o husband.” I get it.

And, of course, it turns out that I was wrong. About the ducts that is.

Dustin Kistler and Tom Brown are the two technicians that appear for Clear Air, a company on the north-east side of Des Moines.

Professional, friendly, and nonplussed by my snoopiness, they work around my questions.

What’s that big machine? Are there really two vents in every room? Won’t the old ducts explode when you suck out the air? And what is “negative” air? Is that like a house with a bad attitude? Have you ever found anything weird in a duct before?

You get the idea.

“We found bath towels, cigarettes, UNO cards, toys, half of a cheeseburger, a syringe, a dead bird, five bucks. One of our coworkers found a stack of nudie mags once.”

Dustin, with his boyish grin, shakes his head and continues:

“Once we went to a woman’s house, they didn’t have all their returns and supplies covered, and so Tom went through and sealed them. We turn on the compressor and this lady comes flying out of the house, ‘My cat’s in the ducts.’ Sure enough, the cat was in the ducts trying to get out, but we had sealed it up.”

“He had some trauma, but he was all right,” says Tom with deadpan delivery.

And negative air?

“You’re not the first one to ask that,” says Dustin. “The negative air speaks to that machine. It is a negative-air machine. It puts your whole system under pressure. In layman terms it essentially creates a giant suction. We then use our air wands to push down each vent. Anything airborne gets pulled out. It is like a big sweep.”

“Imagine a giant shop vac,” says Tom.

Dustin then shows me pictures of a before and after look at one of my ducts they just cleaned.

I scream.

Some people are embarrassed by all the dirt and debris,” Dustin says. “But it is what it is. We aren’t judging.”

“You might as well claim responsibility for a forest,” Tom says.

“I prefer them dirty. It justifies what we do. It’s much more beneficial for the homeowner. It just promotes indoor air quality. It really does help,” says Dustin, “you never know what you’re going to find.”

And that’s that. They pack up their giant negative-air machine. Take away all the garbage they collected out of our ducts. And get ready to leave for the next job.

“Every day is a new adventure,” says Tom.



2 thoughts on “Cleaning your ducts

  1. Okay – so this is something I’ve avoided doing forever. Now I’m feeling like I need to get it done. Especially since I have 4 cats. I think I have furniture in front of some of my ducts. I don’t think I want to think about how dirty they are. Egad.

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