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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Karen B. Gibbs

The dust bunnies surrounding dirty air conditioning/heat vent covers not only call attention to no-dusting zones, they also tell the world that you haven’t been changing the filters enough.

But getting rid of those tattle tales is easy!

All you have to do is regularly maintain the vents — the small ones and the main intake vent.

Green cleaning coach Leslie Reichert offers simple steps that will not only keep vents looking great, but also reduce allergens and increase the efficiency of your A/C and heating unit at the same time.

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Monthly

  • Change the filter

“If you pick a standing date to change your filter, say the first of every month, it will be easy to remember,” Reichert told TODAY Home. “If not, write on the filter the date you changed it. That way, nothing’s left to guesswork.”

  • Clean the vents

Before cleaning vents, turn off the heat or A/C. If ceiling vents are particularly dirty, protect furniture by covering the area below the vent with a sheet. “You also may want to wear a baseball cap to keep falling dust out of your eyes and hair,” she added.

Next, vacuum vents using a dusting brush attachment or a microfiber extendable duster. Don’t have either? Simply wipe with a dry microfiber cloth or a slightly damp Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

“Do not use water or other cleaning products because they can easily smear the dust onto the walls or ceilings and you’ll end up with an even bigger mess,” Reichert warned.

Twice a year

Before cleaning vent covers, turn off the heat or A/C.

Remove the smaller vent covers by unscrewing each corner. The covers will probably be full of dust on the inside and the outside. To clean, place the covers in a sink filled with hot, soapy water and wash with a microfiber cloth.

“Use just a small amount of dish detergent,” Reichert advised. “And don’t soak vent covers too long or rub too hard as the paint could come off. Then you’ll have a much bigger project on your hands.”

Some of the dirt may be oily, depending on the type of heat you have in your house, if you burn lots of candles or if the vent is in the kitchen. “Cut through oily residue with rubbing alcohol. Just remember to rub lightly so you don’t damage the paint.”

Because of its size, you may have to clean the larger intake cover outside or in the bathtub. “Just follow the same directions,” said Reichert.

One last point: Make sure the covers are completely dry before re-installing them, otherwise dust particles will cling to the vent slats.

“A final light wipe with a microfiber cloth will remove water spots and have vent covers looking perfect,” Reichert said.

This article was originally published on Aug. 18, 2015.