How To Clean Out Air Vents In Your Car: The Quick and Easy Way

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how to clean car air vents

If you ever detailed a car, you know what struggle it is to clean air vents. Sometimes, it’s just impossible to clean them thoroughly. To make it easier for you, I decided to write this article and show you how to correctly clean out air vents in your car.

Car air vents are usually full of dust and dirt that attracts mold, which can cause health issues and respiratory problems

You clean your vehicle, and then you see that awful dust and dirt in the vents. It happened to me so often, and I decided to learn the proper way of cleaning them. Now, I always manage to clean them correctly, without any dust left.

I’m going to show you all my tips and tricks to get the best results and the cleanest air vents possible.

How To Properly Clean Car Air Vents

So, here are the steps you should take to clean vents properly. Some detailers do it differently, but in my opinion, this is the quickest and simplest method.

What do you need?

1. Vacuum The Vents

Many people don’t do this, but I like this step a lot. Some car vents are filthy, and I want to vacuum some dust and dirt with a vacuum.

If I don’t vacuum car vents, I’ll have too much dust and dirt to clean with brushes and microfiber towels, making the job harder.

Using a vac, I’ll clean some dust initially, and it’ll be easier to clean vents later on.

The stronger the vacuum, the better. With more suction power, you’ll manage to clean the dust that’s trapped deep inside ventilation slots.

2. Spray Some APC on The Longer Brush

It’s important to spray some APC on the brush with longer bristles that can get deeper into car vents.

A brush sprayed with APC will pick up the dirt easily. If you don’t spray APC on your brush, it will just spread the dust and dirt, not clean it.

3. Agitate Vents With The Brush

Now gently agitate the vent slots with the long-bristle brush. Make sure to be thorough and don’t rush.

Try to get as deep as possible. You want to clean as much dirt as possible. 

Also, make sure to slide vents in all directions. That way, you’ll clean more dust from all “hidden” places.

4. Clean The Excess APC With a Microfiber Towel

After you thoroughly cleaned the vents with a long-bristle brush, it’s time to clean all the excess APC and some leftover dust.

Make sure to pick up as much dirt and APC as possible. Try to put the microfiber towel as deep as possible. 

You won’t be able to dry the whole area thoroughly, but we’ll go through that in step 5.

5. Use Second Brush To Dry Vents

As I said, there will be some leftover APC on the vents, which you can’t clean and dry with a microfiber towel.

I like to use a second (thicker) brush and dry out the vents. Just agitate the whole area once more, and make sure there’s no APC or dust left over.

EXTRA TIP: Use a Steam Cleaner For Very Dirty Vents

steam cleaning the vents in the car

Here’s an extra tip if you’re dealing with filthy car vents that have been neglected for a long time.

Neglected car vents will be hard to clean without the use of the steam cleaner. 

Make everything the same, but after vacuuming, use the steam cleaner first, and then continue with the rest of the steps.

If you don’t have the steam cleaner already, I highly suggest you buy one. It’ll help you in so many things when detailing a car, and it’s not an expensive product. This is my recommended steam cleaner (check the price on Amazon now)

How To Remove Bad Odor From Car Vents?

After you have successfully cleaned car vents, there might still be some bad odors coming out of them.

Although this is a pretty common problem, it’s easy to fix it. 

If you’re a professional car detailer, this is a great way to earn some extra money by adding this option for your clients.

For this, you’re going to need some high-quality odor remover. I recommend you use this Turtle Wax Odor-X Multi-Surface Cleaner (check the price on Amazon now).

Follow these steps to flush the AC system:

  1. Turn on the car, turn the AC and press the Recirculation button
  2. Close all the windows
  3. Put the can between front seats – usually, the armrest is the best position.
  4. Open the can, and push it – it will lock automatically.
  5. Close the car doors, and let it work for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, you have an odor-free car that smells great. And air vents are entirely cleaned from any bad smells. 

However, don’t forget to remind your clients to change the cabin filter. I realized that many people don’t change it often enough, and usually, it’s the most common reason for bad smells coming out of air vents.

Why It’s Important To Clean Car Air Vents

Let’s see some essential reasons why you should regularly clean the air vents in your car.

Dirty air vents in the car may:

  • Ruin the overall look of the car’s interior.
  • Plastics could fade (uncleaned plastics are more likely to fade).
  • Dirty vents can also damage your health and cause breathing problems. Every time you turn on the AC, all that dirt and dust will spread all over the car, and you’re going to inhale it.
  • Smoke and pet odors are often kept in the air vents, and without cleaning them, you’ll always smell smoke or pet odors in the car.

Even if we forget about the car’s look and the bad odor, we can’t forget about our health. 

It’s essential to clean the vents properly. That way, riding is entirely safe for your health and won’t cause any respiratory problems or allergic reactions. 


By following the tips in this article, I hope that it will be easier for you to clean the air vents in your car. The most important thing is not to rush and reach those deep areas with your brush.

It’s just a 5 minutes extra job when you’re already detailing your car, but it will make that appealing look and make your vehicle healthier in the end.

How do you clean the car vents? Please share your experiences with us down below in the comments.

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