What is Dust?

Dust surrounds us everywhere – in our houses, workspaces and pretty much all other places. Although most people might hate seeing dust sitting on the surfaces in their homes such as bookshelves or countertops, there is a worse downside, since certain types of dust can have an impact on allergies, or cause various health problems.

Luckily humanity has come up with ways to combat the dust and provide clean air solutions. In the sections below, we will focus on dust, and try to answer most common questions such as what is dust, what is dust made of, and what can we do to purify our air from dust.

What Is Dust

Simply put, dust is made of tiny particles of solid matter that can float through the air freely, or land on surfaces. Those particles are usually not bigger than 100μm in size, but there are also larger particles that are not airborne, but are still considered dust.

Dust can be generated anywhere, and it’s typically divided into three key categories:

  • Environmental (mostly soil erosion, pollen and dead skin)
  • Household (mixture of skin cells, hair, clothing fibers, microplastics, dust mites…)
  • Industrial

Industrial dust is generated through manufacturing processes using metal, wood, cement or plastics (any industry that operates with dry materials). Here’s a list of industrial operations that generate the most dust:

  • Painting
  • Welding
  • Dry grinding
  • Laser and plasma cutting
  • Sand blasting

How Is Dust Made

Dust consists of fine particles of solid matter. Normally it’s made of atmospheric particles that origin from soil, pollution and volcanic eruptions. Around half of the dust at homes is made of dead skin cells. In other surroundings it can also consist of paper fibers, meteorite particles, animal fur, plant pollen, human hair and many other particles. Dust is the combination of all those particles, both from indoors and outdoors, that floats through the air and lands on surfaces.

What Makes Up Dust?

As mentioned before dust particles come from all around. Studies say that about 60% of home dust originates from outdoors and comes inside through doors, windows and last but not least – shoes. In the following paragraphs, we’ll get into more detail on the main ingredients that make up dust.

Soil, Pollen and Particulate Matter

Pollen is known as a cause of a number of allergies, and it can enter your house on ones’ clothes, shoes or even hair. Normally, you’ll move around the place, and so spread the pollen, which keeps floating in the air and then it lands on surfaces. The same goes for soil, hard particles of smoking, as well as any other contaminants that come from outside.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic pests with natural origin that need humid environments to live. This doesn’t mean that your home has to be unusually warm, since it’s rather normal to have dust mites living on your bedding, curtains and carpets. As mentioned before, dust is partially comprised of pet dander and dead skin cells, which dust mites feed on, so, obviously – more dust means more dust mites.

Pet Dander

Pet dander is made of small bits of skin that animals shed. It is another allergen present in dust. After it gets in the air and lands on a surface, it starts gathering dust and dust mites, and therefore worsening the situation. Keep in mind that not having a pet doesn’t mean that your home is pet dander-free, since your guests might bring pet dander on their shoes or clothes.

Dead Skin

Dead skin particles are commonly mistaken to be the biggest part of dust. Although dust usually does contain some dead skin, it’s important to note that its’ percentage is not as big as thought. Why are we talking about the dead skin then? It’s simple, similar to pet dander, dead skin can also attract dust mites and other air pollutants.

Food Debris

Everyone enjoys a meal in front of a TV every once in a while, therefore we all know we drop a few crumbs on the floor. This doesn’t call for a problem for those who clean up that food right away. However, most of us simply forget about dropping anything, or we’re just too lazy to clean it up immediately, so the food debris becomes a component of dust.

Insects and Insect Droppings

Another important element usually found in dust are dead insect bodies/body parts as well as their fecal matters. This especially goes to cockroaches, since this can trigger the allergic reactions to those allergic to cockroaches. Cockroaches don’t waste much time on choosing the place to live, so even if your home is all tidy and clean, they might find a way to come inside. This can even happen through plumbing works, in case your neighbour’s apartment is infested with cockroaches.

Risks of Dust

We stated earlier that not all types of dust are harmful to humans. Let’s take some time to focus on those that are, and learn about the potential health risks caused by dust.

Dust can impact one’s respiratory passages. Naturally, elderly people and those with respiratory diseases tend to suffer from the most serious effects. Some particles can carry carcinogenic substances, or can be carcinogenic themselves.

Particle size, type of dust and type of other substances in the dust are some of the most important factors that determine how harmful the dust is.

If we inhale a particle larger than 10μm, it will usually end up in the nose’s cilia, without ever reaching the lungs. Smaller particles, sized between 2.5 and 10μm usually settle in the upper respiratory tract and they can cause asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia. A number of studies has proved the link between increased particle content in the air and an increased number of deaths or hospital admissions.

The influence that dust has on health can be divided into three groups:

  • Respiratory tract diseases
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular diseases

Many people are allergic to some of the components of dust, so here’s a list of potential symptoms of allergy reactions:

  • Rhinorrea
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal speech
  • Coughing
  • Itchy throat

Dust can also carry poisonous particles, such as heavy metals or organic toxins. It can also cause dusting and air pollution, and further leave a negative effect both on the soil and the water.

How To Fight Dust

There’s a few steps that can be made in order to reduce the amount of dust in your home. To reduce the dust coming from your clothes, it’s best to start with a thorough cleaning of your closet. The next step is to wash the clothes that you haven’t worn in a while, since dust particles can hide in the fibers of your clothes.

Following that, you should clean your bed, since the mattress is usually the place in the home that’s the richest with dust. First note here is clear: if your mattress is older than 10 years, get rid of it. If it’s less than 10 years old age, make sure to change and wash your sheets weekly, and clean the dust from under the bed often. You should also vacuum the mattress every 3 to 6 months. Keep in mind that dust might hide in more sneaky places such as electronics, blinds, ceiling fans and light bulbs, carpeting, tops of doors and windows…

In addition, our cats and dogs, as well as our other furry friends,can bring more dust particles from outside on their fur and paws. Luckily, these are easy to resolve, just by vacuuming and mopping your floors weekly.

Last but not least: one or more air purifiers will help clean up the air and keep down the number of dust particles. This is a great step, since we spend most of our time either at home, or at work, so having a device that keeps air clean and healthy is of a big importance.

Air purifiers don’t only protect you from dust, but are also great against tobacco and other types of smoke which remain in the air and can also cause respiratory issues. To learn more about air purifiers, and what can they do, check out our article on what air purifiers do.

Final Words

This completes our explanation of what dust is. We hope that you found it to be helpful. If you have some more questions that we haven’t answered, check out the rest of our blog or post a comment below, and we’ll be happy to answer.