I own a small mechanical company. My main work is service and system replacements. I have never been a believer in duct cleaning. The company I worked for before had our duct man come out and do my house. I saw no difference. Preventive maintance is what I recomend. Remove fan and clean, seal fan compartment to prevent dust from being pulled in, filters I install media filters, they are 5″ thick and pleated. I have tested them to make sure static presure was not a issue. Heat exchangers and AC coils need to be cleaned. I will tell you this to do a good cleaning I usually spent 1-2 hrs, When I’m finished I would not have a problem eating my diner on the system. Good filters, clean system and properly tuned up are my recomdation to anyone. I’ve included my email feel free to contact me with any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
The cooling coils the air comes into contact with appear to need UV-C lights on them in humid climates. That's the biggest thing. If the ducts have never been cleaned, then getting that done goes without saying. But those coils need to be cleaned, disinfected, and then UV-C light(s) installed to prevent mold & bacteria build-up in the future on them. That appears to be chiefly responsible for the dirty laundry and/or sour milk smell coming from forced-air AC systems in humid regions.
Professional cleaning involves getting the dust and debris outside, so they use outdoor ventilation equipment. It is so important that homeowners make sure the professional contractor is using good equipment then, as they could otherwise spread the spores into the home and further agitate sensitive family members. In the case of mold, a cleaner will only be able to tell you it is there, followed by needing an additional mold professional to come out and test or remove the mold. Air duct cleaning industries do not require state licensing, so make sure to check for a company with references.
You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.