HVAC Duct Cleaning with a Power Brush

A Complete Guide To Air Duct Cleaning Tools

The importance of cleaning air ducts cannot be overstated. Clogged air ducts can reduce the energy efficiency in a property, as well as cause dirt and contaminants to spread through the living areas. Proper cleaning is required to avoid these issues – and to achieve good cleaning; you need the right tools.

Below, we have put together a simple guide to the tools necessary for cleaning air ducts to a good-as-new finish. Read on to find out more…

No “one size fits all.”

One of the issues people experience when trying to clean their air ducts is that there is no perfect set of tools that are suitable for every job. Ductwork is often individual to the property itself, with a wide variety of different types and sizes used in residential properties. As a result, you have to focus on finding the right air duct cleaning tools for the property you are cleaning rather than seeking to find the best tools overall.

To do this, you first need to select the level of cleaning that you are hoping to achieve. There are four levels to choose from:

  • Level One: Air washing. This involves the use of high-pressure air to clear the ducts of dirt and debris. A compressor is connected through an air hose to a nozzle, which is then attached to the ductwork in order to deliver the stream of air required to remove foreign particles from the overall system.
  • Level Two: Air whips. Air whips work with high-pressure air also, but with the addition of a whipping action inside the ductwork. This whipping helps to dislodge more stubborn dirt and debris and is generally considered to be more effective than air washing alone.
  • Level Three: Brushing. This level of cleaning can be achieved both manually and via electronic devices. The inside of the duct is effectively brushed, helping to remove dirt and debris that may be clinging to the sides of the ductwork. This is similar to air whipping, but brushing is more in-depth and involves a higher degree of physical contact, which leads to a cleaner result.
  • Level Four: Contact vacuuming. The most powerful and effective choice, contact vacuuming involves physical contact with the internal ductwork and effectively removes dirt and debris found throughout the system.

When you know which level of cleaning you wish to achieve, you are able to select the right tool for the job.

Level One: Air Washing

  • These tools blow a stream of high-pressure air through the ductwork.
  • The system should include a forward skipper line which blows debris forwards, a reverse skipper line to blow debris backward, and a blowgun for a more precise application.
  • The forward and reverse skipper lines available vary in length, with a standard of around 25”.
  • The blowgun tends to feature a copper tube between 10”-14” in length and features an on/off control.

What to look for:

  • Air compressor capable of producing up to 175 psi.
  • A 20-gallon receiver tank.
  • 18 cfm of air.

Suitable for:

  • Light to medium dust .
  • Small and medium residential ductwork.

Level Two: Air Whipping

  • High-pressure air is sent from the compressor to the rods and then to the whip head itself.
  • The system consists of a number of whip heads, 5’ rods, forward and reverse nozzles and an on/off control.
  • A single whip provides the most thorough whipping action; an octopus head provides the least.

What to look for:

  • Air compressor capable of producing up to 175 psi.
  • 20-gallon receiver tank.
  • 18 cfm of air.

Suitable for

  • Light to medium dust.
  • Small to medium ductwork.

Level Three, Option One: Flexible Cable Brushing

  • The brush attaches to a cable, which then attaches to a portable drill. When the trigger on the drill is compressed, the user pushes and pulls the cable and its attached brush through the ductwork.
  • Systems include a flexible cable of between 15 and 25”, three nylon brushes (for any surface), and three silica carbide brushes (suitable for hard surfaces only).
  • The brushes provided are usually 8”, 12”, and 18” in size.

Suitable for:

  • All types of ductwork, including sheet metal and flex.
  • Small to medium size ductwork.
  • Ducts that are smaller than 16”x16.”

Level Three, Option Two: Solid Core Brushing

  • Features the same basic principle as flexible core brushing systems; a brush attaches to a cable, which is then connected to a portable drill. The user controls when cleaning commences by depressing or releasing, a trigger on the drill.
  • The key difference is the cable that connects the brush to the portable drill is more rigid, which gives the user more control over the moment of the brush head.
  • These systems usually include the same types of brushes – nylon and silica carbide – at the same size points as you will find with flexible cable systems.

Suitable for

  • Small and medium ductwork
  • Ductwork that is relatively straight

Level Four: Contact vacuuming

  • With these systems, cleaning tools are attached to a hose that connects to the vacuum.
  • You can then access your ductwork and vacuum as far as you can reach.
  • These systems usually feature a HEPA filtered portable vacuum, along with a set of cleaning tools.
  • Of all the available options, contact vacuuming tends to produce the best cleaning results.

What to look for:

  • 10 to 15-gallon capacity vacuum, preferably HEPA filtered to ensure the most efficient cleaning.
  • A set of attachable cleaning tools.
  • A hose suitable for ductwork you will be cleaning; hoses are available in lengths between 10-50.”

Suitable for

  • Large ductwork.
  • Air handlers, furnaces, grilles, and rooftops.


  • Can be difficult to use on smaller systems due to the need for direct access to the internal ductwork.

In Conclusion

By choosing a tool that is suitable for the type of ductwork you are working on, and the level of cleaning required, you can be sure of achieving the best possible results every time.

When it comes to duct cleaning, we are specialist so visit our site or contact us to be assessed or hire our services. We want to help you get what you need!