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Jay 78 01-03-2013 12:09 PM

NASTY Buildup in Cold Air Return
I will be having all my ducts professionally cleaned as soon as I can, but in the mean time I've been pulling off all the covers as I refinish each room and simply fishing the Shop Vac hose as far into the ducts as I can. I have no clue if/when the ducts of my 1943 home have ever been cleaned, but as expected, they have all been pretty gross immediately behind the registers. Today I pulled off the return cover in the dining room and discovered this:

This is by far the worst offender - none of the others have been nearly as bad. What the hell is this? It looks almost like fur, and it's white on the surface and black on the other side. I'd like to know if this is just a thousand years of regular crap built up, or perhaps something more/worse.

Is there any chance that, with mask and gloves on, I could pull this stuff out by hand and immediately bag it and dispose of it, then suck out the rest with the Shop Vac?

I'd appreciate any input, because as of right now, I wouldn't even touch this with someone elses ten-foot pole....

joecaption 01-03-2013 12:17 PM

Where the filter that was suppost to be on the grill to prevent that?

Jay 78 01-03-2013 01:02 PM

What you see in the photo is all there is. Honestly, I have never heard of any type of filters for this.

Are you suggesting that this is 'normal' buildup that would be expected from an unfiltered return over the course of many years?

techpappy 01-03-2013 01:51 PM

Normal build up from carpet fibers, dog/cat hair or whatever. Some people do put small foam filters on the supply air and return air registers but most rely on the furnace filter to catch all that stuff. Return air grilles do get a lot of debris on them because all of the air that is supplied usually returns via only one or two return air grilles. Just clean it out and vacuum duct as far as you can. I'll leave it to the domestic pros but, except for extreme circumstances, I think duct cleaning is way over rated. If you do get them cleaned make sure they use a wash brush type of application. Just vacuuming only removes loose dust. I have seen a system once that was heavily contaminated with grease from excessive use of oil cooking in kitchen.:eek:..I had to remove fan and clean with hot water and detergent to remove the build up. The owner was ecstatic and said no one had ever done that before. He rewarded me with a tall glass of home made wine that tasted like vinegar..yuk! BTW that's the only time I ever recommended duct cleaning..FIRE HAZARD!!:eek:

jagans 01-03-2013 02:51 PM

Man I thought I was lazy re preventative maintenence. You could start a sweater factory. Dust mask on run shop vac near the mess to pull in airborne dust out of the air. Glove bag as much as you can, and shop vac the rest.

1943. If dust could only talk :huh:

What does your furnace return air plenum look like??? And your blower wheel???? and your closet????? and your....................................

I would die from the dust mites. Dust mold kills my lungs.

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