Mold Removal from Your HVAC System: How to Do It

To remove mold from your HVAC system, you can use a homemade solution of baking soda and household detergent and a scrub brush or wet cloth.
Written by Katherine Duffy
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Mold can grow just about anywhere humid and warm—including in your air conditioning! To remove mold from your HVAC system, you can use a homemade solution of baking soda and household detergent and a scrub brush or wet cloth.  
Are you constantly getting whiffs of musty, sour air in your home, no matter what room you're in? Or worse, have you started to notice mold growth around your HVAC ducts for no apparent reason? Chances are, you’re dealing with a mold problem festering in your HVAC system. 
But what are the best tips for mold removal from HVAC systems?
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What causes mold to appear in your HVAC system? 

Mold starts forming in your HVAC system because of two factors: a warm environment and high water vapor concentration. This is why your HVAC system is prone to mold if you live in a warm, humid climate (or during the summertime if you live somewhere with seasonal humidity). 
When cool air is sent through your system’s ducts, moisture forms on the sides, which creates the perfect storm for mold. If moisture continues to form, mold will eventually appear and feed off of the dust, dirt, dead skin cells, and pet dander circulating in your air. 

Signs you have mold in your HVAC system

Watch out for these signs of mold forming in your HVAC system: 
  • A strong
    or musty smell throughout a few rooms in your house, especially if these rooms are adjacent
  • Itchiness, burning, or general irritation in your eyes, nose, and/or throat when you turn on your HVAC system 
  • Headaches with no apparent cause that disappear once you leave your home 
  • You experience nausea, general fatigue, and dizziness acutely when you’re home 
  • Visible signs of mold growing around your intake vents and air ducts 

How do you clean out mold from your HVAC system? 

Thankfully, cleaning mold from your HVAC system is something you can try yourself. You can get started with a few tools, protective wear, and the materials outlined below.
  • One tablespoon of household detergent
  • Half a tablespoon of baking soda
  • One cup of water OR an
    mold removal product 
Tools and protective wear: 
  • Mask
  • Industrial-grade gloves
  • Coveralls
  • Safety goggles 
  • Wet rag
  • Scrub brush 
  • Garbage bags 
Once you have everything gathered, it’s time to get to work. Here’s what you’ll need to do: 
  1. Put on all of your protective equipment. If you’re making your own detergent, mix the household detergent, baking soda, and water together to create your mold cleaning agent. 
  1. Turn off your HVAC system. 
  1. Remove any grates or barriers to the air duct where you think the mold is. Make sure your mask is on properly, then reach inside the duct with a cloth damp with your cleaning detergent and scrub the moldy area. If the mold is stubborn, use a scrub brush. 
  1. Check other air ducts to make sure you’ve removed all visible mold. 
  1. Turn your HVAC system back on. If you’re still experiencing symptoms of mold growth in your HVAC system after 24 hours, you may need a professional to clean your air ducts. 

When to call a professional

Sometimes, your mold problem is too serious for a DIY fix, and you’ll need to call a professional air duct cleaning company to remove the mold for you. If your home still smells musty and any physical symptoms persist after you’ve tried to remove the mold from your HVAC yourself, it’s time to call a professional. 
In the same vein, if you tried cleaning your ducts but the mold was too stubborn and didn’t completely come off, you should also call a professional. 
Professionals are equipped with the knowledge, tools, and chemicals required for advanced mold growth in your HVAC system, so they’ll be able to eliminate it and prevent future growth. 

Does homeowners insurance cover mold removal? 

Homeowners insurance may cover mold removal, but only in certain circumstances. Your insurance policy will likely cover some or all of your mold removal expenses if the mold is a direct result of a
peril covered by your homeowners insurance policy
Common perils covered by your policy include rain, snow, fire, lightning, or windstorms. Unfortunately, flooding (which can be a major cause of mold in your home) is usually not a covered peril. 
On the other hand, your insurance provider is unlikely to provide coverage if your mold growth is due to negligence or general wear and tear. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check your ducts every year or as soon as you smell mold in your home. Eliminating the problem quickly can help mitigate any related costs! 

How to easily find homeowners insurance 

Mold removal from your HVAC system can be quite the headache, but protecting your home with the right insurance doesn’t have to be.
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Yes! Mold can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as itchy, irritated eyes, sore throat, sudden headaches, nausea, dizziness, and breathing problems. In some cases, mold can have serious effects on your health.
You don’t always need a professional to remove mold from your HVAC system, but this depends on the severity of the problem. If you deal with your mold problem as soon as you notice signs of mold, you can probably get rid of the mold on your own. Stubborn or advanced mold growth will likely require professional air duct cleaning.
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