All these pro duct cleaners answer with "it's common sense, everything operates better when cleaner" etc. But your explanation is correct. Especially so with flex tube ducting where dust gets "stuck" between the lowest valleys (between wire coil supports) where air flow is drastically reduced -- which is more than 50 pct of the entire interior surface area of the flex ducting. That sounds like a bad thing but also has a good effect of trapping dust from escaping.
We are all getting migraines several times a month. I have asthma but not ever as bad as it has been and my 2 year olds dr just informed me she potentially has asthma too. We all get sinus infections regularly and eczema and contact dermatitis. None of us have been this way until recently in our apartment. A roof leak with mold was repaired recently mold was sealed off not removed. We also had lead paint removed from a few window trims this year. I wasn’t here to see if they covered the vents. We had mice too. I vacuum everyday we have hardwood floors no one wears shoes past the font door and I’m getting over a cup full of dirt every time I vacuum. Dust on everything daily. White dust. It’s a 4 room apartment with 1 intake. They are filthy from what I can see when I change the filters. The filters are black after a few months. I feel bad to ask the homeowner to get the system cleaned, can’t afford to move (we live in the city & it’s expensive). I am going to try the shop vac to remove what I can. Any experienced hvac people please give your opinion. Should I just get it done and pay for it myself? We have lived here for 13 years. It’s never been cleaned since ive been here. Is it something I can do with a shop vac? Can i use a wet rag to get the powder dust on the inside of the vents off. One vent has what looks like chunks of dry wall or thick paint sitting in the vent and none of the vents screw into the wall, the screws just fall out. No one ever reinforced the area so the wall just basically crumbles. Kind of useless to spend the money on filters since the air and dust just blows out around the sides of the vents and one of the vents just falls right out of the wall when the heat is turned on. I don’t know why the owner doesn’t fix it. He’s been here to replace filters and saw the condition.
All of the products discussed above are registered solely for the purpose of sanitizing the smooth surfaces of unlined (bare) sheet metal ducts. No products are currently registered as biocides for use on fiber glass duct board or fiber glass lined ducts, so it is important to determine if sections of your system contain these materials before permitting the application of any biocide.
A do-it-yourself approach will only scratch the surface because it is hard to reach some of the ventilation running underneath the floor or into the wall. Although it may help in clearing some of the dust and debris, you really need a professional to guarantee your system is truly spotless. The proper procedure involves the use of a powerful vacuum system with multi-brush attachments designed to loosen debris and feed into the suction. Particles are then blown outside of the house or passed through a HEPA filter inside.
Your HVAC unit and air ducts deliver heated or cooled air throughout your home year-in and year-out. The air your HVAC unit produces travels through your ductwork and heats or cools your home via the air vents in each room. The dust and other particles in your home’s air are known as particulate matter, which the EPA defines as "a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets." The EPA also notes that "particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles." Having clean air ducts means fewer of these particles moving through your home. If you remove your furnace filter and hold it up to the light, you can probably see several hundred of these minuscule particles floating in the air. 
One of the best ways to know if your ducts or vents need to be cleaned is to just check them. Your eyes will be able to check for indications of mold, dust or pollen buildup. You might also be able to smell the presence of mold, which would be a clear indicator. Ductwork will have some buildup of dust, since the return registrars pull air back in. However, this doesn't mean your ducts have too much debris, and you can easily clean them with a duster or vacuum.
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