How to Clean Vent Covers: A Quick Guide

It’s easy to overlook cleaning your vent covers. But with air constantly moving through them, it doesn't take long for them to get dirty.

Luckily, getting them clean and keeping them clean is easy. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help improve air quality and maintain the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Gather your cleaning supplies and set aside a few minutes per vent cover and you’ll be on your way. Here’s how to clean floor registers quickly and easily.


Removing Vent Covers

While you can wipe and vacuum your vent covers without removing them, deeper cleaning required the cover to be removed. 

For floor vents this may be as simple as lifting the vent cover up. If it's in the wall or ceiling, you'll need a screwdriver to remove the screws first. Be prepared for a little falling dust when removing ceiling vent covers. 


Turn Off HVAC System

Turning off your heating or air conditioning isn't necessary for cleaning, but it does make it easier. It's not a pleasant experience to have air blasting on you while you try to vacuum out the vents.

Many people choose to clean vent covers in the spring or fall, when the HVAC runs infrequently. 



For a quick clean all you need is a rag or sponge and some mild cleaner. If the vent covers are really dirty, you might want to consider placing some plastic beneath ceiling vents to catch falling dust and dirt.

Wet your rag or sponge with the cleaner, then simply wipe away dirt. If you’re cleaning a vent in the kitchen, the dirt might be a bit sticky. Use a degreaser or rubbing alcohol if that's the case. Climbing on a ladder and reaching over your head to clean ceiling vents can be dangerous so be sure to have someone nearby to steady you.



Another approach to cleaning vent covers is to vacuum them. This will get rid of dirt and dust buildup without the risk of spreading grime to walls and floors. It also decreases falling debris when you’re cleaning ceiling vents.

Some people like to combine the vacuum and the wipe methods for a comprehensive cleaning. Vacuuming gets rid of loose dust and wiping gets the rest. Be aware that vacuuming is not as effective on kitchen vents where grease might make dirt sticky. Use a degreaser or rubbing alcohol and wipe method for kitchen vents.



Vacuum hose cleaning an open vent.



At least once a year, you should give your vent covers a deep clean. Go ahead and vacuum them then remove them from the wall, floor, or ceiling. Ceiling vents will have screws that need to be removed but you can do this with a screwdriver.

Prep a sink or bucket full of warm water with some mild detergent (dish detergent is fine). Give them a scrub down on both sides of the vent cover. If you’re cleaning a larger vent cover, you can use the bathtub or take it outside to use the hose. Let them dry thoroughly before replacing—particles moving through the vents will stick to the wet surfaces.


Change Filters

Vent covers tend to get dirty on the outside when you’ve gone too long between filter changes. A lot of the dust and dirt will come through the vent cover and get stuck on the filter until the filter is full. Then the dust doesn’t have anywhere to go and will start showing up on the outside of the vent.

Filters should be changed several times throughout the year. It depends on the type of heating/cooling system you have and the type of filter. Read the manufacturer recommendations for the type of filter and how often it should be changed.


Clean Surrounding Area

While the vent cover is off, take the opportunity to vacuum or wipe down the inside of the duct and the area surrounding the vent to remove any loose dust or debris.

If you find that the duct has accumulated a lot of dust and grime, it might be time for some duct cleaning. You can hire this out to someone who has the proper equipment and experience to clean your ducts. This is something that should be done regularly to ensure the air quality in your home.


Reattach the Vent Cover

Carefully reattach the clean and dry vent cover back onto the wall or ceiling. Make sure it's securely in place. Reapply screws if these were used previously or if you want to add them now for better stability.


Regular Maintenance

Consider cleaning your vent covers regularly, at least once or twice a year, depending on how quickly they accumulate dust and dirt. Each time you replace filters, check your registers as well. 

Cleaning your vent covers is a snap, especially if you do it regularly. Take the time to give yours an overhaul this season.

Want to do more to keep your home cleaner? Get our quick guide to improve your indoor air quality.

Improve Indoor Air Quality

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