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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

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.

How much do you pay for house cleaning?

Hiring a professional house cleaning service is a helpful way to have a healthy home even when your work and personal schedule is packed. House cleaning prices vary based on how many square feet your home is, how dirty your house gets, and how often the cleaning service comes. Some companies charge a set amount — such as 5 cents — per square foot, with a minimum amount, such as $100. The national average cost for house cleaning ranges between $110 and $150. Prices can be lower in areas with a lower cost of living, higher in big cities or affluent regions. You may save money by increasing the frequency of your house cleaning visits. Often a company will charge you less per cleaning when you schedule more cleanings per month. The cost advantage rewards your loyalty, and also reflects the fact that more frequent cleanings make it easier to maintain a high level of cleanliness in your home. A housecleaning service may charge more for the first visit or for one-time services than for recurring cleanings.

Why is it important to clean your gutters?

Rain gutters, those easily-forgotten trenches that hang off the edge of your roof, protect your roof, walls and foundation from excess rainwater. When they get clogged with leaves, sticks and other wind-blown debris, they can no longer direct water away from your walls and foundation, and may become homes for pests and insects. They also become heavy enough to pull away from the house, preventing proper rainwater drainage and spoiling the appearance of your home. Experts recommend inspecting and cleaning your gutters twice a year, once in spring and once in fall, as part of your regular landscaping schedule. Gutter cleaning and maintenance is a fairly easy DIY job for some homeowners, especially on one-story homes. However, professional gutter cleaners have ladders tall enough to safely reach rain gutters, as well as the necessary tools to clean out the downspouts. Most gutter cleaning professionals can also make any necessary quick repairs.

Who cleans area rugs?

Like your carpets, area rugs should ideally be cleaned at least once a year to remove dust and dirt and help them last longer. In general, carpet cleaning professionals also clean area rugs. Some rug cleaners bring their cleaning equipment to your home, while others remove your area rugs and clean them at their facilities. Either way, the rug should be cleaned with the solution most appropriate to its specific fabric and construction. It should also be completely dry before you return it to the floor.

How often should carpets be steam cleaned?

Dirty carpets can be unhealthy for the people living in the home, particularly those who have allergies, so it’s important to have them cleaned regularly; simply vacuuming once or twice a week isn’t enough. Carpet cleaning should be done by a professional carpet cleaning service at least once a year to remove grime and help extend the life of your carpet. Most carpet manufacturers recommend professional steam cleaning, which penetrates deep into the carpet fibers and lifts out both dirt and the pollutants that get tracked inside. Steam cleaning also removes most of the moisture, so carpets dry quickly enough for homeowners to resume using them the same day. Between professional carpet cleanings, your carpet may need an emergency spot cleaning. Pet accidents, food or drink spills, and more can often be effectively cleaned with some water and a drop of white vinegar, although many cleaners will also make house calls for smaller spills and hard-to-clean spots like wine or grease stains.

What is upholstery cleaning?

From your carpets to your drapes to your furniture, all fabrics need to be cleaned. Cleaning upholstery, or the fabric on your furniture, removes the dirt and oils that are transferred to couches and chairs through regular use. Because furniture upholstery can be delicate and colors can fade easily, it’s often a good idea to let professional sofa cleaners handle the job. They’ll determine the type of fabric — usually cotton, linen, wool, suede or microfiber — and the appropriate method for cleaning it, either steam-cleaning or applying a dry-cleaning solvent. In general, cleaning an entire piece of furniture includes a pretreatment, cleaning, and neutralizing rinse to the body, plus removing and cleaning all cushions and cleaning all crevices.

An upholstery cleaner may clean the entire piece of furniture, on a regular schedule or by request, or do spot treatments to remove pet, food, drink, or oil and grease stains. Furniture can also be deodorized to remove the smell of pets or tobacco smoke. Furniture that’s used often, like that in your family room, should be cleaned once a year to keep it fresh and extend its life. Sofa cleaners often also offer repair services to mend tears in fabric or patch holes in leather.

What does carpet cleaning cost?

National average carpet cleaning prices range between $100 and $130. Carpet cleaning prices depend on how many square feet of carpet you want cleaned, how many rooms in one house or building will be cleaned, how stained your carpet is, how much the carpet cleaning company charges, your ZIP code, and the type of carpet you have. Cost per square foot can range from 20 cents to $1 or more, based on the above variables. Synthetic carpets are typically the least expensive to clean; natural fibers like wool cost more, as they require more care and attention, as well as more drying time. Excessive stains, challenging locations such as stairs, and accessibility also factor into your carpet cleaning price. Companies may charge a minimum service fee for cleaning a small carpet to cover their business expenses (paying employees, transporting the special equipment to your home). If your pet has repeatedly saturated the carpet with urine or if the fibers are extremely matted down, it may make more sense to completely replace your carpet than to continue to have it cleaned.

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.

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