Have you always wanted to own and operate a hood and duct cleaning business but aren’t sure what the steps are to get there? Your first step is to become a certified hood and duct cleaner! Not only will you learn the proper techniques to cleaning kitchen exhausts, ducts, pipes, and other equipment; but by becoming a CHDC (certified hood and duct cleaner), restaurant owners can rest assured that by hiring you, they are hiring a kitchen exhaust cleaning pro.

Questions to Ask Yourself First

Before embarking on the road to becoming a certified hood and duct cleaner, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions to make sure you are up to the task.

  1. Can you handle the physical requirements of the job? There’s no way around it; being a kitchen hood and duct cleaner is a physical job. You will have to be climbing ladders, walking on roofs, making your way across greasy or wet floors, and carrying large or heavy loads. Due to the numerous hazards that come with this job, it is critical to ensure you can handle it and that you get properly trained.
  2. Do you have or can you obtain the equipment for the job? Running a hood and duct cleaning company will require you to buy your own equipment. This includes cleaning equipment and trucks to get you, your gear, and your employees to and from the job sites.
  3. Do you have or can you obtain the right gear for the job? You can’t forget about uniforms and other proper attire! You’ll want to make sure you and all your employees are equipped with proper gear to ensure safety and identification when on a job site. This includes but is not limited to steel toed boots, eye protection, and clothing with a company logo.

Certification Requirements

Getting certified first required you to find a reputable and trustworthy Hood Cleaning School, preferably one that is teaches using CHDCA (Certified Hood & Duct Cleaners Association) regulations and requirements. The CHDCA and all hood and duct cleaning schools associated with it teach and certify based on the NFPA 96 standards. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 96 is a set of codes and standards for hood, duct, and other ventilation control as well as fire protection for commercial cooking operations like restaurants. These are the standards that fire marshals follow and that commercial cooking operations are required to adhere to.

Here are several excerpts from the NFPA 96, which is what you’ll need to know how to do in order to become a certified hood and duct cleaner.*

General Requirements

  • Cooking Equipment used in processes producing smoke or grease-laden vapours shall be equipped with an exhaust system that complies with all the equipment and performance requirements of this standard (NFPA 96), and all such equipment and performance shall be maintained per this standard during all periods of operation of the cooking equipment. Specifically, the following equipment shall be kept in good working condition:

Cooking Equipment
Ducts (if applicable)
Fire Suppression Systems
Special effluent or energy control equipment

  • All airflow shall be maintained. Maintenance and repairs shall be performed at intervals necessary to maintain these conditions.
  • Cooking equipment used in fixed, mobile, or temporary concessions, such as trucks, buses, trailers, pavilions, tents, or any form of roofed enclosure, shall comply with this standard unless all or part of the installation is exempted by the authority having jurisdiction (i.e. fire dept.)
  • A drawing(s) of the exhaust system installation along with a copy of operating instructions for subassemblies and components used in the exhaust system, including electrical schematics, shall be available on the premises.


  • Hoods, grease removal devices, fans, ducts, and other appurtenances shall be cleaned to bare metal at frequent intervals prior to surfaces becoming heavily contaminated with grease or oily sludge. After the exhaust system is cleaned to bare metal, it shall not be coated with powder or any other substance. The entire exhaust system shall be inspected by a properly trained, qualified and certified company or person(s) acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction in accordance with Table 8-3.1.

Table 8-3.1 Exhaust System Inspection Schedule

  • Cleaning to bare metal does not mean removing the paint from a painted surface of an exhaust system.
  • Upon inspection, if found to be contaminated with deposits from grease-laden vapours, the entire exhaust system shall be cleaned by a properly trained, qualified, and certified company or person(s) acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction in accordance with Section 8-3.
  • When a vent cleaning service is used, a certificate showing date of inspection or cleaning shall be maintained on the premises. After cleaning is completed, the vent cleaning contractor shall place or display within the kitchen area a label indicating the date cleaned and the name of the servicing company. It shall also indicate areas not cleaned.
  • Flammable solvents or other flammable cleaning aids shall not be used.
  • At the start of the cleaning process, electrical switches that could be activated accidentally shall be locked out.
  • Components of the fire suppression system shall not be rendered inoperable during the cleaning process. (Exception: Servicing by properly trained and qualified persons in accordance with Section 7.2)
  • Care shall be taken not to apply cleaning chemicals on fusible links or other detection devices of the automatic extinguishing system.
  • When cleaning procedures are completed, all electrical switches and system components shall be returned to an operable state. All access panels (doors) and cover plates shall be replaced. Dampers and diffusers shall be positioned for the proper airflow.

*This material is not the complete and official position of the National Fire Protection Association, on the referenced subject which is represented only by the standard in its entirety. You can buy a full copy of NFPA 96 here.