Are you sick and tired of seeing new layers of dust on your furniture only a couple of minutes after wiping it off? If you or people you live with are suffering from dust allergies, it must be exhausting to clean it over and over again in such short time intervals just to stay healthy.
Furthermore, you don’t need to be allergic to simply want your home to be clean and dust-free. It doesn’t look or feel nice, and it ruins your indoor air quality. This can negatively affect your health even if you are not allergic to dust, as it can irritate your lungs and sinuses.
The amount of dust in a home depends on many factors, the biggest being life in the city. Besides that, having pets, being a smoker, the age of your furniture, or the cleaning methods you use can also influence the amount of dust you have at home.
Although we all know what dust is and what it looks like, and we all have at least some basic knowledge of how to clean it, many of us don’t know that dust is actually quite complicated. Even science doesn’t have all the answers to our questions about dust.
In this article, we’ll share everything we know about dust, why it piles up in your home, and how to get rid of it the most efficiently.
Let’s dig in.
Dust Origins: Where Does It Come From?
The amount of dust can vary from one has to another, as we mentioned, depending mostly on where you live. However, dust comprises different types of particles, from skin cells to animal hair or basically anything that dries and flakes off.
All kinds of objects we keep at home are considered dust contributors. E.g. having a fireplace contributes to dust much more than electrical heaters. Also, large book libraries, rugs, carpets, and pets.
A lot of dust comes from outside: exhaust gasses from motor vehicles create particles that stick in the air, and we basically let them in whenever we open our windows. There are also different types of dirt, smoke (especially cigarette smoke), exhaust, pollen, etc.
Having a dusty home is problematic for several reasons, not only because it doesn’t look nice. For example, bacteria, mold, and special types of termites called dust termites are inhabitants of dust. They also need it to reproduce and proliferate. Basically, dust contains particles of so many different origins it would be impossible to create a finite list of elements.
Led by that thought, we can conclude that having dust at home certainly does matter. However, what dust is made of, matters as well. Although the content and structure of dust are majorly unpredictable, and we can’t for a comprehensive and finite list of elements, we can list the “most common components”.
The Most Common Components of Dust
Here is a list of several most common components of dust particles. Knowing more about them might make it clearer what dust is and how to deal with it.
If you are afraid or disgusted by insects and bugs, you are lucky, because hundreds and thousands of these disgusting microscopic-sized pests that live and reproduce in dust are invisible to the human eye. These usually also require a certain humidity level to survive. However, even if you don’t live in the tropics, it is still very likely that dust mites are hiding around your home in places such as curtains, carpets, rugs, or wooden furniture. They love to snack on other organic compounds that comprise dust, such as dead human and animal skin and hair. Basically, the dustier your home is the more mites you have, and the more mites you have the more dust you have. It’s a perfect dust spiral.
One of the most enjoyable guilty pleasures of snacking with Netflix on the sofa is something you’ll have to start avoiding big time if you don’t want to collect as much dust in your home. The food debris that remains on the floor and furniture becomes a tasty food for mites and a very common component of dust.
We all love our furry friends very dearly. However, their hair and skin also become dry and are prone to shedding, making them a very common allergen found in the dust. Sometimes you might not even have a pet, but you visitors who have them might bring in these particles on their clothes and shoes. The problem grows when pet dander settles on the furniture, joins other dust particles, and becomes food for mites.
Our Dead Skin
As we mentioned above, organic dust compounds are the worst as they work in two ways: they both feed dust mites which leads to them reproducing, and they create dust. So does our dead skin. However, one of the most common misbeliefs about dust is that it’s mostly comprised of dead skin particles. Yet, skin particles don’t really form a large percentage of dust particles, but it does float around your home, feeding mites and attracting other outdoor pollutants.
Pollen and Soil
The majority of particles that form dust in our homes come from outside. Many of these are potent allergens, which is why you might have a strong reaction to dust in your home in the form of a rash, running nose, or cough. Pollen is one of such dust components that many people are allergic to.
Droppings from Insects
Another disgusting element of reality when it comes to insects is that their droppings, usually in feces and their body parts, are commonly found among dust particles. Cockroaches are the most common type of insect whose leftovers are being detected in homes since these animals don’t really mind where they infest and reproduce. This means that even a spotless house can be in danger of these kinds of insects, as your neighbors may not be as mindful and clean as you are.
How Am I Drawing Dust into My Home?
Here are some possible reasons why it’s hard to keep your home dust-free.
Cheap or Dirty HVAC Filters
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system usually require appropriate filters to function properly. While filters are the first line of defense from dust, not all of them are equally good. If you purchase a cheaper filter that has larger holes, there will be a higher probability of a larger number of dust particles entering your home through the ventilation system.
Usually, we rate filters according to their efficiency. A scaled value ranging from 1 to 16 has been developed, and higher numbers on the scale mean that the filter is being more efficient. The best price-quality ratio is for filters with a value between five and eight. Those with a lower value are usually cheaper, but they are not doing a good job, while those that have a value higher than 8 are usually used for large objects (commercial objects, schools, hospitals).
However, even if you purchase a good quality filter, it is still possible to fill it up with dust. The more you use the HVAC system, the faster the filter clogs. Every couple of months, you should either clean or replace your filters (depending on what’s recommended), if you are using the HVAC system excessively. If you are using it occasionally, every year or two should be enough.
Carpet, Upholstery, and Drape Dust
Whenever we walk around the house with our shoes on, we spread dust particles around the house. Our pets also do that if we don’t wash their paws after going outside. These particles then settle into our carpets, especially if we use thicker ones. While frequent vacuum cleaning might help with that, you risk recirculating dust back into the carpet if you don’t have a proper vacuum cleaner. By choosing a vacuum cleaner with an efficient dust trapping system, also known as HEPA filter, you can significantly reduce the amount of dust in your carpets.
You can also encourage your guests and family members to take off their shoes when they’re entering your home, or you can simply remove the carpets.
Other textile products in our homes are also known to accumulate dust, such as upholstery, curtains, and drapers. These need to be dry cleaned from time to time and also vacuumed with special attachments for upholstered furniture.
Gaps around the windows and doors cause not only unnecessary losses in energy, but they also let in the outdoor dust elegantly walk into your apartment every time the air outside moves. If you live in a polluted city, or nearby any kind of dirt source, the situation will worsen for sure.
If you are not in a position to change your windows, you can use caulk to close the gaps around the windows or try to see with a local handyman how the existing windows can be fixed for a cheaper price.
What Happens When You Breathe Dust Particles In?
While dust is best known to leave an impression of an unclean home, it also negatively impacts our health.
The most important parameter determining the toxicity and respiratory target of a dust particle is its type and size. The larger the particles, the higher the probability that they will get caught by your mouth or nose. Smaller and finer dust particles pose a greater risk as they may enter your lungs.
Among other factors that pose a health risk are:
- The amount of dust that moves through the air;
- The length of exposure to the dust.
Small amounts of dust are sometimes enough to trigger an allergic reaction, but this usually holds for people who are already suffering from dust allergies. However, even if you do not have an active dust allergy, you may be allergic to some of the many dust components.
Finally, even those who are free from allergies can have a bad health reaction to dust after being exposed to larger amounts for a prolonged period of time.
If you’re unsure of whether you have a dust allergy, here are some of the symptoms that might help you determine whether you have an issue or not:
- Leaking nose and frequent sneezing (especially sneezing in a row);
- Constant nasal congestion (regardless of how much you blow your nose, the feeling of congestion always remains);
- Frequent coughing;
- Scratchy, watery, and/or red eyes;
- Itchy throat, nose, and ear canals.
Some people can even suffer from asthma that gets triggered by dust allergy, and in such cases, the symptoms can become much worse. E.g. trouble to breathe, chest pain and tightness, wheezing, etc.
Regardless of whether you suffer from dust allergy or not, dust creates an unhealthy environment to be in, so it’s important that you minimize exposure to this contaminant.
Hidden Dust Spots
We have already mentioned some of the most common pieces of furniture and interior design that may cause a dust problem in your home. However, there are also some hidden places that not everyone always checks, where dust frequently piles up, and we fail to notice until it’s already too much and difficult to clean.
Dust can gather basically anywhere. From bookshelves to room corners and hidden kitchen spots, thin layers of dust tend to persist and pile up in virtually any spot in our home.
Although you might not see it at first, you know that some layer of dust is being collected in many places in your home even as you are reading this.
Lucky for you, common places where we spend most of our time are places where we collect the most dost. However, these areas are usually easy to reach and visible, so you probably clean them often enough. What poses a higher threat are hard-to-reach and easy-to-forget-about places. These will collect lots of dust over time, and then you might have a problem cleaning them properly.
Here are some examples:
- Doors and windows tops are usually out of sight, and we rarely think about them.
- Lighting chandeliers and ceiling fans. These we use probably every day (fans during hot seasons), but we rarely think about dusting them.
- Blinds. The window blinds also collect dust, and if you forget to clean them for a longer period of time, it will become clear to you how filthy they can become.
- Electronic appliances. If these collect dust their functionality is severely compromised. Make sure to regularly clean your computer, TV, radio receiver, video game console, AC unit, etc.
How to Get Rid of Dust?
Finally, what is it that is in your power to reduce the amount of dust in your home? While it is impossible to live a dust-free life completely, you can improve your quality of air and therefore life, by changing some of your habits and routines that have to do with dust. Knowing the origins of dust, most common places, and hidden places of its accumulation is a very important first step. However, here are some additional tips on how to change your habits to get rid of dust from your home more efficiently and long-lasting.
Dust with a Damp Cloth
There are many products out there being marketed as efficient against dust. For example, every family at some point had (or still has) a feather duster. Yet, many of these tools are actually just moving the dust from one spot to another.
A good old-fashioned damp cloth and a chemical surface cleaner or polisher should do the job. If the cloth is dry, then you are imitating the feather duster. If it’s wet, the cloth will pick up the dust, and you will then send it to drown the drain leaving your surfaces completely dust-free.
If you begin your cleaning by vacuuming and wiping the floors first, only to continue with dusting, your floor will be filthy again by the time you are done. Since dust falls down from top to bottom, we strongly recommend taking the same direction when cleaning. That way, everything that falls off the upper surfaces will likely end up on the floor, and you can simply vacuum it with a vacuum cleaner, in the end, making sure that dust from all levels is cleaned up.
Change Your Sheets Frequently
The place that collects the most of your dead skin, hair, pet dander (if you let your pet up), and food crumbs (if you eat there every once in a while) is your bed, of course. Ergo, an ideal spot for collecting dust mites.
While washing your sheets once a month may seem like a more attractive and easier option, we would strongly advise you to opt-in for the once-a-week option, as this will help you reduce the number of pollutants in your home.
Clean the Electronic Appliances Frequently
Just like you regularly pay attention to cleaning other surfaces in your home, electronic appliances also require some attention. Keeping your appliances free of dust will both reduce the amount of dust in your home and make your appliances work better and longer.
Take Shoes Off
As mentioned before, we bring so many dust particles from outside, mainly on our feet. If you want to dramatically reduce the amount of dust in your home, start removing your shoes before entering the living space. If you can’t leave them out fully, at least take them off at the entrance. Require so from other people you share living space with and guests.
Lower Your Indoor Humidity Levels
If the humidity is high, there is a much higher chance that dust mites will feel much more comfortable to nest around your living space. If the humidity is below 40%, your home will be a less desirable place for them.
Change Your Air Filters Regularly
Filters’ role is to filter out the things you don’t want to be present in the air you breathe. This means that all these things stick to the filter. Eventually, the filter will clog and become less efficient, which can also harm the way your appliance works. Make sure to clean and/or replace filters in your home regularly.
While most cats and dogs have a way of preserving their own hygiene, that’s not really enough once they start living with us. This means that you need to invest additional efforts into grooming your furry friend. A well-groomed pet will cut down the amount of indoor dust and mites.
Say No to Clutter
Collecting things that just stand around and collect dust is basically – collecting dust. Of course, you are not expected to throw out everything you are not using. There is a more elegant solution: pack things into boxes and inside cupboards and closets. The more organized you are and the less clutter is lying around, the less dust you will collect.
Dust is an inevitable part of life, especially if we are talking city life. There are so many different origins of dust particles, it’s impossible to list them all. Dust is collected in commonly used areas where we usually easily spot it and frequently clean it. However, we should also pay attention to less visible and used areas and try to act upon them.
Dust elimination is important because it helps keep you and your family members healthy. There are many things you can do to combat the presence of dust and its negative health consequences. You can change the interior of your home in such a way that less dust is being collected (carpet removal, decluttering, etc), but you can also change your habits around cleaning (using a dry cloth, a proper vacuum cleaner, and grooming your pets).