Over time, cold air return grilles collect dust and dirt. Cleaning these intake vents not only removes any dust bunnies and cobwebs that have collected, but it also reduces the amount of debris that will collect on the vents’ slats. Dust and grime tend to only collect more dust and grime. Here’s how to clean out your home’s cold air return grilles.
Locate and Remove Your Home’s Cold Air Return Grilles
You’ll likely find your home’s cold air return grilles up high, possibly on the upper portion of a wall or maybe on the ceiling. They tend to be larger than supply grilles, and your home may have one or several.
If your home’s cold air intake grilles are secured with screws, remove any screws holding the grilles in place. This may require a screwdriver or hex driver. Once the screws are taken out, the grilles should easily lift from their place. A few models aren’t secured with screws and simply lift out at an angle.
Clean Your Home’s Cold Air Return Grilles
To clean your homes cold air intake grilles, place them in either a sink or bathtub (depending on their size) with some warm water and mild dish soap. While the grills are soaking, clean out the ducts they cover:
- Remove any large debris you see by hand.
- Vacuum out the duct as much as possible using your vacuum’s brush attachment. (You can secure the attachment with duct tape so it doesn’t come off in the vent.)
- Vacuum the duct out again, this time using just the hose — without a brush attachment. (The brush attachment can help loosen debris, but it also can limit how far into the duct you can reach.)
- Wipe as much of the duct as you can see and reach out with a damp cloth.
By the time you’re done with the ducts, the grilles should have soaked long enough. A damp cloth should easily take off most of the dust. If needed, use a wet foam paint brush to reach between the slats and a toothbrush to reach in crevices. Just be sure not to scrub too hard if the grilels are painted, as scrubbing can cause paint to chip and peel. It’s better to let the grilles soak a little longer if any debris is hard to remove.
Put Your Home’s Cold Air Return Grilles Back
Once the cold air return grilles are clean, rinse and dry them off. Then, put them back in place with the screws you initially removed.
Not only is clean just generally a Good Thing for the air you breathe, but a cleaner duct and grille puts fewer particulates in the air for the furnace/air conditioner filters to deal with. For machinery that moves air, fewer particulates make for more efficiency to help save on energy costs.
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