The cold air return in this house is in the floor, in the most-trafficked part of the house. It has a heavy grating over it.

My kids' toes are small enough to fit in the gaps, which is very painful when it happens. In the summer I cover the grating with a rug, but in the winter we have to keep it clear.

This is a rental, so relocating the cold air return isn't an option.

alt text

  • 13
    What about buying the kids some slippers?
    – Tester101
    Jan 21, 2011 at 13:04
  • 2
    slippers are good! Jan 21, 2011 at 13:17
  • 2
    If the kids are running around barefoot in the Winter, have you considered that perhaps you have the heat set too high and are wasting a lot of energy anyways? :-) Jan 21, 2011 at 14:41
  • 3
    @Brian I keep the house at 62 degF. The adults wear warm clothes, but kids like to strip off clothes spontaneously. Young people and their weird fashions...
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Jan 21, 2011 at 20:01

5 Answers 5


If the grate is easily removable, simply lift it up and wrap it in a thin, loose fiber fabric like a muslin, cheese cloth or nice smooth burlap. (not the rough course kind). Even a piece of regular fiberglass screen would do the same thing. This will look nice, let plenty of air through, keep excessive amounts of dirt out of duct work and help protect little piggies. Check out the fabric dept at Wally World, bet you can find what you need for a couple of bucks.

  • 2
    I would go with some type of screen, as a piece of cloth will work similar to the filter on the furnace and become dirty. Screen should catch less dirt, and is probably easier to clean.
    – Tester101
    Jan 21, 2011 at 13:02
  • 2
    Of course, using the rough burlap might encourage them to wear their slippers. :)
    – Niall C.
    Jan 21, 2011 at 15:13
  • 2
    I bet the cloth would get dirty from being walked on long before it would get dirty from filtering dirt out of the air.
    – tnorthcutt
    Jan 25, 2011 at 13:08

The problem of that grating is it has cells big enough to accomodate a kid toe. Just replace it with one with smaller cells or find a wire mesh with smaller cells and put it over the grating - something made of 3 millimeters steel wire will do, but you'll have to cut it to size and carefully process the wire endings along the perimeter.

  • 1
    Maybe could cover it with like a window screen?
    – rogerdpack
    Feb 17, 2023 at 21:21

Buy a rubber outdoor floor mat that has a hollow scrolled pattern and put over it. This works well for me as I have one too.


One thought because my 10yo daughter plays outside in the street a lot is the more your kids run around barefoot, the tougher their feet will be and the grating may not bother them as much when they step on it.


If you can remove it, you may consider cleaning and coating it with a plastic product (such as plastic-dip).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.