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Busting bad guys, dust bunnies

This summer, Bob Swenson traded in his Wadena County sheriff's deputy badge for a dust protector and an air duct cleaner powered by a Ford 300 six-cylinder.

"This is not your mother's vacuum cleaner," he said about his duct cleaning truck. "And it would make your father proud."

Swenson retired after 28 years in law enforcement, more than 22 of which he spent serving Wadena County.

"It was a very rewarding career," he said. "I got to meet a lot of nice people, put a few bad guys in jail."

Age 50 is too young to retire completely and too old to get health insurance, he said. Swenson said he enjoys being able to supplement his retirement and take time to ride his motorcycle.

"I had part of my mental health and most my physical health [left]," he said with a grin about his decision to retire.

The opportunity to start a business presented itself last fall when Ackerman Laney Plumbing and Heating did not have the manpower to operate a duct cleaning machine it owned. Swenson decided that would be a good business to begin. The company sold him the truck and taught him how to clean air ducts.

The business allows him to keep up good contact with the community and meet some nice people, he said.

"When I used to show up at your door, you were having a really bad day," Swenson said from the doorway of Vic and Jan Nardini's home, as he set up to make the ducts as clean as the rest of their tidy home.

Clean ducts are important for maintaining a clean home and healthy air, he said. Swenson can remove five to 10 quarts of dust bunnies from ducts during a typical cleaning. His machine also sucks out items that have fallen down the ducts, he said.

The main heat run of one home he serviced was "literally glittering with pieces of jewelry, nuts, screws and nails," he said.

Swenson even found a small sweatshirt and a vest lost in the ducts during one job, he said.

These objects are not likely to get airborne, Swenson said, but they create a collection point for dust.

"When you look in there, the dust is hanging like stalagmites," he said.

One customer told him that she gets two weeks worth of dust in her home after the first day she turns the heat on for cold weather, Swenson said.

Dust is not only a housekeeping hazard it can also affect people's health. Ninety percent of household dust comes from dead skin, he said, which attracts dust mites. A lot of people are allergic to dust mite feces. Dander from animals can also accumulate in air ducts, causing allergic reactions.

For estimates call Bob's "Mighty Duct" Cleaning Service at (877) 425-6177. Swenson can usually estimate the cost of the job over the phone, he said. Swenson does residential and commercial cleaning. He charges a $70 call fee and $17 per opening, although he does not always charge for all cold air returns when they are back-to-back on a wall. Most duct cleanings take four to five hours, he said. He does not clean furnaces, but he will clean blowers for an extra cost.

Swenson has taken calls as far away as St. Cloud and the Princeton area, he said.

"I will pretty much travel to wherever anybody asks me to," Swenson said.