How to Disinfect Forced-Air Vents

"Dust in the Wind" is not just a song -- it's also what can happen if forced-air vents are not periodically cleaned and disinfected. Bacteria also can build up on the surfaces of registers, grilles and air diffusers, both inside and out. Traces of mold dispersed from an air vent can cause health problems. Disinfecting your air vents also lets you breathe a little easier knowing that the air coming from your vents is not passing over a layer of germs en route to the rooms in your home.

  1. Put on your mask, gloves and eye protection. Remove the forced-air housing, grilles and vent covers with a screwdriver. Remove any ceiling diffusers. Place these parts on newspapers or rags that you can throw away later.

  2. Mix 1 gallon water with 1 cup household chlorine bleach or 1 cup distilled white vinegar. Beware of splatters when working with bleach.

  3. Wipe down all surfaces associated with the air vent with the bleach or vinegar solution, frequently soaking the sponge. Refill the bucket if the water gets too cloudy. Allow the parts to air dry for at least 10 minutes before replacing.

  4. Pour the dirty water down the toilet, and flush several times. Seal the sponge in a plastic bag with the newspapers or rags the vent parts rested on, and discard.


  • Always ensure your work area is well ventilated. Never mix other cleansers, including vinegar, with bleach, as this can trigger the release of toxic chlorine gas. Don't use a vacuum cleaner on vents that contain mold, as this will only blow hazardous mold spores into the air.

About the Author

Canadian journalist Bruce Whitehead has been writing for newspapers and magazines throughout British Columbia since 1991. His articles have appeared in the "Vancouver Sun," the Victoria "Times-Colonist" and "The Undercurrent." Whitehead received the Scott Schill fellowship in 1990 and holds a diploma from the Langara journalism school in Vancouver.