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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What’s the best way to set up a consultation or an appointment with a house cleaner during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The best way to set up a consultation with a house cleaner during the COVID-19 pandemic is by using virtual, online tools. Start by performing an online search for local house cleaners. Message them to set up either a phone call or video call to perform a consultation. During this call, they can give you recommendations and may be able to estimate the cost of their services. Be sure to discuss whether they accept virtual payments and any precautions they can take to perform the job safely.

How often should you get your air ducts cleaned?

How often you should clean your air ducts depends on your situation. If you or someone in the home has asthma or is acutely allergic to certain airborne materials or pollen, regular duct cleaning may be helpful. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have an official position on the necessity of air duct cleaning unless the ducts have been contaminated by rodents, insects or mold, or you are aware of particles blowing out through the vents. The EPA recommends you have your air ducts cleaned on an as-needed basis. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) suggests having air ducts cleaned every three to five years.

Be cautious with companies that offer “whole house air duct cleaning,” urges the NADCA. The company may be using unscrupulous tactics to upsell you once they get started. Before any work begins, always clarify in writing what the job entails and what the cost will be. To protect yourself against fraud, read customer reviews and verify that your HVAC cleaning service has applicable licenses and certifications.

Do you need to clean your air ducts?

Air duct cleaning is done by heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals. The pros use industrial-strength, truck-mounted vacuums and powerful brushes and hoses to clean inside the metal ducts that make up your forced air heating and cooling system. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends duct cleaning if there is “substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface ducts, ducts that are infested with vermin such as rodents or insects, or ducts that are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.”

You should also have air ducts cleaned after recent water contamination or water damage to prevent mold; after renovations or remodeling to ensure debris and dust didn’t settle in the vents and ducts; if you are having problems with allergies or asthma; or when you are moving into a newly purchased home, especially if the previous owners smoked or had pets. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends getting your air ducts cleaned every three to five years, or every two to three years in regions where homeowners use their air conditioning and heater for many months of the year, while the EPA suggests homeowners have duct cleaning done as needed.

Can I use digital payments to pay for house cleaning?

Not only do many house cleaners accept digital payments through platforms like Zelle, PayPal, Square Cash, Google Pay, Venmo and more, but this may become more common as the COVID-19 pandemic pushes more service workers to digitize. This means you can pay your house cleaner without making physical contact or handling money. 

If cleaning is absolutely essential during the current crisis, consult with the house cleaner beforehand to ensure a safe monetary transaction that complies with current government guidelines and recommendations for social distancing.

How can I find out if a house cleaner is considered an essential COVID-19 service provider?

A house cleaner is generally not considered an essential service sector during the coronavirus pandemic. To find out which services are considered essential, visit your city and state government, and read their guidelines. A national list of essential service providers can be found on CISA’s Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19 site. This webpage lists 16 different infrastructure sectors considered to be essential. However, not all jurisdictions follow CISA’s definitions of critical infrastructure.

How much does it cost to have your air ducts cleaned?

If you’re concerned about dust, allergens or mold, it may be time to have your air ducts cleaned. The national average cost for air duct cleaning ranges from $190 to $250. Air duct cleaning costs will vary based on a number of factors such as your location in the country, the age and condition of your air ducts, the number of linear feet to be cleaned, and any repairs your ducts may need. HVAC cleaning companies should clearly outline what is included in their services and at what rate, so always make sure you understand and have a written agreement before work begins. Here are some examples of average air duct cleaning costs:

  • Tiered pricing for different levels of service:
    • Standard cleaning: $100, which may include truck-mounted industrial vacuums, high-pressure air wands and air snakes to clean all supply and return vents, branch lines, and main trunk lines.
    • Advanced cleaning: $200, which may include standard cleaning services, plus rotobrush or viper clean sweep in the main trunk lines.
    • Ultimate cleaning: $400, which may include advanced cleaning, plus insertion of a viper microline into all vents to force debris down the branch lines and into the main trunk lines, to be handled by the viper clean sweep. Typically, all ductwork surface is contacted, before-and-after photos are provided, and the furnace is cleaned.
  • A flat rate for unlimited vents: $289.
  • Additional fees for larger houses: $20 for each additional 500 square feet over 2,500.

How long does it take to get your ducts cleaned?

The amount of time air duct cleaning takes can depend on how extensive your duct system is, how old your air ducts are, and whether they have ever been cleaned. On average, expect a standard size home (between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet) to take 2-5 hours for one to two technicians to clean. Here are the proper protocol and equipment you should expect from a professional duct cleaning service, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • All doors and access ports opened to ensure the entire duct system is inspected and cleaned.
  • Thorough system inspection prior to cleaning to identify possible asbestos-containing materials. If asbestos is present, specially trained and equipped contractors must do the removal.
  • Use of approved vacuum equipment that exhausts particles outside of your house. If the vacuum exhausts inside your home, it must be HEPA equipment.
  • Furnishings and carpet covered and protected.
  • Soft-bristled brushes only on fiberglass duct board and sheet metal ducts internally lined with fiberglass.
  • Ductwork properly protected.
  • Adherence to guidelines and practices set down by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.

How much does it cost to have someone clean your dryer vent?

The national average dryer vent cleaning costs range from $190 to $260. Dryer vent or duct cleaning costs can vary based on where you live in the country and what ductwork repairs may be required. Duct cleaning pros will use a brush cleaning method, a forced air vacuum, or a combination of the two to remove lint and other debris that can collect in your dryer duct, lint trap housing and vent. If left unchecked, this buildup of highly flammable debris can catch fire and lead to a home fire, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In addition to home safety, a great reason for regular cleaning is the money you’ll likely save on energy bills and improved indoor air quality. Pros may offer a lower rate on their dryer duct cleaning costs when you also hire them to clean your entire HVAC duct system. To ensure you’re working with a pro who will keep your home as safe as possible, read their reviews and check whether they have been certified by a reputable organization such as the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) or the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Many duct cleaning pros will also show you before-and-after photos as proof of the cleaning.

Does a house cleaner need to enter my home?

Yes, in almost all cases a house cleaner needs to enter your home. However, a cleaner may not need to enter your home if they are solely cleaning outside areas. 

There may be some cases in which a cleaner is necessary. If so, take precautions — avoid being in the same room, make no physical contact, sanitize any surfaces and pay through a digital service instead of using cash.

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