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Use of Chemicals in Cleaning HVAC Systems: Part 1-Safety

Posted on June 07, 2012
by Wendy Stackhouse


Earlier this week we celebrated our 10th Anniversary as members of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). We are proud of our membership and the proof of competence and professionalism that that membership conveys.

The NADCA has published a new Position Paper on the use of chemicals to clean and sanitize HVAC systems and we thought you might be interested in some of the highlights. Today I will be talking about safety considerations. In later parts, we will discuss the many uses of chemicals, the efficacy of chemicals and alternatives to using chemicals for these projects.

The NADCA holds the opinion–and we agree–that the very best way of cleaning ducts is removing the source of any contamination directly. However, there are times when chemicals can be used in the process of cleaning. We will get to whether that is a good idea in a later post.


What kind of contaminants can be found in HVAC systems?

  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Bacteria
  • Debris from outside
  • Fire damage residue
  • Dust
  • Animal hair and dander
  • Vermin and their droppings

This is not a comprehensive list, but it does indicate that there are different types of contaminants which need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, depending on the contaminants a duct cleaning professional is dealing with in a particular situation.
What is Source Removal?
Source removal is defined as “the physical removal of contaminants and debris” and is certainly the best way of decontaminating an HVAC system. Using chemicals is not source removal, it is killing any organisms and making any organic material less dangerous. It is not the same as removing it entirely. Unfortunately, although using chemicals can be a quick fix, it also brings risks.
What are the risks of using chemicals to clean HVAC systems?
Because some people are highly sensitive to the chemicals used in duct cleaning, when these are being used, the building may have to be evacuated during the course of the work. Some products require mandatory evacuations.
The professionals who work with these chemicals must wear protective gear and be trained in their safe and proper use.
Irritated eye
Possible risks of exposure to cleaning chemicals:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Respiratory irritation
  • Eye irritation or injury
  • Poisoning from chemicals or their fumes
  • Exposure to cancer causing material

Clearly, there are risks associated with use of chemical cleaning products in duct cleaning, but do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Come back and find out!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and our affiliate Alliance Environmental Group. We welcome your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on environmental services like mold remediation, lead removal and pest control including bed bugs, Like us at Alliance Environmental on Facebook or follow Alliance on Twitter!

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