Fabric Air Ducts – How to clean fabric air ducts
by Nate Hollembaek, Service Manager
This past couple months we have ran into an entirely new duct system that I have never seen before – Fabric Air Ducts! A property management company called Air-Care and inquired about having these fabric air ducts cleaned.
So I went out to this large commercial building to look at these ducts and how I was going to clean them. I was able to identify the manufacturer as FabricAir (www.fabricair.com). I told the customer that I would have to do some research and get back to him on how to clean these ducts.
I was able to get in contact with FabricAir quite easily. They quickly pointed me to the maintenance link on their website. I was actually shocked by the way you clean these air ducts. You simply remove them from their hangers; take them to a laundromat, wash them in cold water with a fragrance free detergent, spin dry them and hang them back up. The air blowing through the ducts after hanging them back up is what dries them and keeps them from shrinking. The manufacturer recommends that these ducts be cleaned up to twice a year.
The steps to cleaning these ducts are as follows:
Step 1: If you’re working in an occupied building and there are ducts over the top of their desks, kindly ask them to leave the area for 10-15 minutes. When you take these ducts down they can produce some small dust particles and people will complain.
Step 2: There’s two ways the ducts can be mounted to the hard ducting (Hard pipe). It will be strapped to the hard ducting only, or strapped to hard ducting with a zipper for quick removal and replacement. If there is a zipper don’t remove the strap. Just unzip it from the strapped piece, it is much easier to replace when you put it back.
Step 3: At the end of each run, there is a small cap with two screws that have to be removed from the rail so you can slide it off of its mount. Once this cap is removed, you can pull the entire run off the rail. If it gets hung up, don’t force it. These rails have seams in them that aren’t very strong. If you force it, it could come apart and you will most likely have to order another one from the manufacturer.
Make sure to mark them with a marker that won’t wash off in the washing machine (Marks-A-Lot marker works great). I recommended marking on the tag, not on the duct. Write that some number or letter on the inside of the hard duct so you will be able to locate where the ducts go when you get back from the laundromat.
Step 4: Take the ducts to the laundromat where you can use a large commercial washing machine. The commercial washing machine we used had four bins where you can put detergent, fabric softener, bleach, etc. I don’t recommend putting more than 25 feet of ducting in the washer. If you put too much in the washer, the ducts will not get thoroughly clean. The ducts call for a detergent free pre-rinse. The wash cycle is where you want the detergent to be introduced. Keep in mind you want the entire wash cycle to be cold water. After the wash cycle is done, you want another rinse and then spin dry. DO NOT PUT THE DUCTS IN THE DRYER! After the cycle is over, remove the ducts from the washer and fold them up so as not to wrinkle them during transport back to the jobsite.
Step 5: Re-hang the ducts the same way you took them down. You can put the entire duct up on the rail before you extend it down the rail. Be careful with large runs as these can be very heavy on the rail and bend it; especially when the ducts are damp from washing them. It is handy to have a second person help when replacing the ducts. As you re-hang the duct, the other person can start extending the duct down the rail to reattach the fabric duct to the hard duct. Make sure once you reconnect the fabric duct to the hard duct that they are straight and fully extended. Think of it as hanging a picture. If your customer see’s that the ducts are crooked or not all even, they’ll probably be calling you back to straighten it out.
I don’t predict that these fabric air ducts are going to change the air duct cleaning industry. The only place I can really see them using this style of duct is in a large open commercial setting where large spiral ducting would be used overhead they put in these fabric ducts instead. It’s a great idea as long as they’re accessible to be removed and cleaned. If not, it could be a problem, because this style of duct does require frequent maintenance.
Air-Care is working on a training video on how to clean these Fabric ducts. If and when you run into these, you will be able to tell your customer, “Yes, I have seen these before and we’ll be able to get these cleaned for you. No problem!”
Cleaning these ducts was probably one of the simpler and easiest jobs to do, and it pays exactly the same as regular duct cleaning. I would encourage you to take advantage of this type of duct cleaning and don’t let it be intimidating because it is a very simple process. View the picture gallery we created to get a close up view of the fabric air ducts.