The business of cleaning air ducts is a messy one. Because of the HVAC system's tight, enclosed spaces coupled with moving parts, it's not a welcome environment for small creatures. Sensitive readers may want to skip this article.
With that said, sometimes it's better to let the technicians do the talking, so here they are:
Steve E: "We were in the process of cleaning a cold air return located in a customer's basement bedroom. Attempting to place a whip into the vent, I had difficulty moving it entirely into the cavity above to reach the trunk line. Several attempts later, I decided to reach in with my hand, and I quickly pulled out a revolver-style handgun that had been hanging on a nail lodged into the wall. When we notified her of our discovery, very nonchalantly this customer replied, 'Oh yeah, I had a crazy ex-boyfriend at one time who used to hide guns all over this house—don't be surprised if you find more!'"
Dave C: "These pictures are just an example of some of the things we see in venting. The first one is a dozen cookies, a PBJ sandwich, and toys that a small child put in the vent. The customers had been complaining of a weird smell in the house."
DC: "In newly constructed homes we often find 'cutoffs' in the vents, such as Sheetrock, 2x4 ends, nails . . . and garbage."
DC: "This customer was getting ready for work and had a diamond earring sitting on the end of the counter. She heard it fall into the vent but couldn't reach far enough down to grab it. I was about an eighth of an inch from not getting it, but in the end I did."
DC: "Never put mouse traps near vents! In this case a mouse got caught and dragged the trap further into the vent, then got away. It died further down the vent."
Ben S: "Commercial ducts are a lot larger than residential ducts, so discoveries there get a lot weirder. At a college in Minneapolis, a homeless person had bent back a fresh-air grate that led into the duct system and had been living there for many weeks. During that time they acquired a full bedroom set, a couch, and a five-gallon bucket for use as a bathroom. The occupant was not present when we made the discovery, so we are unaware of where they relocated to."
BS: "At a technical college, when cleaning out the exhaust system for the bathrooms, below the exhaust fans we found 24 decapitated birds. It appeared they had flown into the fan, as their bodies were severed from their heads, and some of the bodies remained on the roof."
BS: "At a correctional facility, while cleaning out supply vents that feed into the inmate cells, we found contraband that they had stuck down the vents before their cells were raided. We found prophylactics, used needles, homemade knives, razor blades. homemade alcohol, etc."
Seized by a sudden urge to have your air ducts cleaned? Learn more about the process on our air duct cleaning service pages.
Wanna dig deeper? Download our free tipsheet: 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Air Duct Cleaning Company.
Many thanks to our technicians Ben S, Dave C, and Steve E for lending their expertise to this article.