Fight the evil lurking in your air ducts!

Before-After Duct CleaningKyle Ashcraft has asthma, and his 13-year-old son, Ethan, has multiple allergies that sometimes keep him up at night sniffling and coughing.

Ashcraft, of Marion, asked his family doctor whether he should consider cleaning the ducts of his 1930s house. He knew that previous owners had pets, and Ethan is allergic to pet dander.

The doctor said it wasn’t a bad idea, so Ashcraft hired Pringles, a Columbus company, to clean his ducts in December. Since then, he said, his son has had more restful sleep and considerably less sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes.

“I was shocked at what was in there, but once I saw what was in there, you could definitely see how it would make a difference,” said Ashcraft, who paid about $400 for the cleaning.

The research on duct cleaning’s potential to reduce allergies, asthma and other health problems isn’t strong. For that reason, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it can’t offer blanket recommendations on duct cleaning.

Many consumers (and duct cleaners) say they’ve seen benefits. Some doctors, such as Ashcraft’s, tell patients to go for it. Others aren’t as sure.

“I’ve had people practically rebuild their house,” said Dr. Donald McNeil of Midwest Allergy and Immunology.

He doesn’t typically recommend air-duct cleaning because what settles in the ducts isn’t necessarily circulating through the air. For most people, better investments are removing carpet from the bedroom, replacing mattresses every seven years and replacing furnace filters frequently, McNeil said.

The EPA does recommend duct cleaning if there’s substantial mold growth, or a rodent or insect infestation, or if the ducts are clogged with excessive dust and debris.

In some cases, duct cleaners will suggest applying a biocide to the inside of the ducts to kill germs and mold. The EPA says that might make sense in some situations, but research hasn’t proved the effectiveness of biocides or their potential health effects.

Many people misunderstand allergies and think that dust itself causes them, said Dr. Nabeel Farooqui, an allergist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Dust can be an irritant, but it is not an allergen. The waste from dust mites, which live in mattresses and pillows and feed on dead skin, is an allergen.

“I’m not going to say that there’s not benefit” to removing accumulated dust, he said. “Dust can act as an irritant, just like strong scents can.”

If there is pet dander in the ducts and it is blowing out, it could aggravate allergies, he said.

Jerry Black, general manager at duct cleaner Atlas Butler, said cleaning can help tremendously if done properly.

“A lot of people suffer from (allergies to) pet dander and just the normal pollen and things that you can carry in from outside. When you’re running the air conditioning and furnace, it’s pulling every bit of that into the duct system. … It sits there, and you have to breathe that over and over.”

Good filters replaced frequently can help, as can duct cleaning, Black said. Thoroughly cleaning all the ductwork is like getting a new system, he said.

To avoid scams — for example, by companies that just vacuum near registers but don’t clean the entire system — both Black and Joseph Richardson, Pringles’ service-operations manager, recommend that customers do business only with companies certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.

They’re supporting legislation in Ohio that would require duct cleaners to register with the state Department of Commerce and follow certain rules.

Richardson recommends that all duct cleanings include a furnace cleaning. He said some of his customers with allergies and asthma have their ducts cleaned every couple of years. The top allergens in ducts are mold and pet dander, he said.

His company’s charges range from $250 to $750 for residential jobs, Richardson said.

For more information from the U.S. EPA, including a consumer checklist, visit For information on the duct-cleaning industry, visit the National Air Duct Cleaners Association at

To learn more about how to keep your home’s air clean, or to learn more about duct cleaning, call us today at 888-DUCTSOK! You can also visit us on Facebook & Twitter!

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