Out of all the types of household cleaning homeowners take on, dusting ranks somewhere near the top of everyone’s list. It’s something everyone has to deal with regardless of how clean you keep your home, as these particles can find their way into almost any space.
While everyone realizes that dust can be an eyesore, it can also cause health issues when left unchecked. Dust can potentially damage a variety of appliances in your home as well, including electronics and even your HVAC system. In this guide, we’re going to talk about the cause behind dust in homes and how to combat it throughout the year.
What is Dust?
Dust is something that is easy to recognize around your home, but you might be surprised by what it’s made from. A quick search on the internet would lead you to believe that most indoor dust is comprised from over 60% of skin cells. Well, it’s true that we do lose skin cells that eventually turn into dust, but that’s far from the only reason you find this substance in homes across the globe.
Every time you enter a house from the outdoors, contaminants from outside come along for the ride. It could be as simple as something like dirt on the bottom of your shoes or pollen or other microscopic hitchhikers that are commonly found outdoors. Do you like to open windows and let your house breathe during the summer? Well, that’s a good way for dust to find its way into a home as well.
The funny thing about dust is that it’s not nearly as inert as it may seem. While you can pick up a rag and “dust” something off, its fine nature makes it easy for it to be redistributed. If you’ve ever shaken a rug outdoors and watched the dust fly, the same thing happens on a smaller scale every time you sit on a dusty cushion or disturb it in your home.
The Top Causes for Dust in Homes
Understanding what dust consists of is only half the battle if you have a dusty home. Whether dust particles are largely made of skin cells, dander or dirt you need to find out how they are getting into your home. With that in mind, these five areas are the biggest problems in residential and commercial settings alike.
Carpet and Hardwood Flooring
Flooring comes in many formats from soft floor coverings like carpet and rugs to harder material including luxury vinyl tile, hardwood, and laminate flooring. Throughout the day, these surfaces will collect dust and dirt as you walk about. The more people in your home, the quicker the problem can grow until you have dust bunnies luring in corners every few days.
A good cleaning routine is the best defense against dust that collects on floors. For harder surfaces, you’ll want to use a high quality broom or vacuum cleaner without a beater bar. Suction is key on vacuums designed for hardwood flooring whereas you’ll want a vacuum with adjustable height for carpet.
Carpet and area rugs can harbor dust mites and other allergens, but a poorly designed vacuum can actually make matters worse. Bagged systems are the best choice if you suffer from allergies, and a high-quality HEPA filter can help keep the air clean after you vacuum. You don’t have to switch to hardwood flooring to get rid of dust, but you should set a regular cleaning routine using proper tools of the trade.
If you have a central heating or air system in your home, you have an air filter. These filters serve two purposes as they work to protect your HVAC system or other appliances from dust and dirt, but also pull contaminants from the air as it circulates through your home.
Whether the air filter in your home is for a furnace or an air conditioning system, it needs to be changed frequently. When these filters become full or clogged, they become ineffective which can let dust into your home. It can also cause your HVAC system to work harder than it needs too which can result in parts failures along with a myriad of other problems.
While we won’t delve into air filters and what separates the best from the rest, you can read more about them in our guide. What’s important to keep in mind aside from changing these filters frequently are the ratings, which can be measured in MERV, FPR or MPR. The latter is a scale strictly used for filters produced by 3M while the FPR filter is used at Home Depot.
Other filter manufacturers use the MERV scale which has a range of 1-20. The higher the rating on the filter regardless of the company, the better it will keep dust from and other particles out of your home. Budget-friendly fiberglass filters are typically in the 1-5 range while high efficiency filters like this one from 3M are capable of capturing up to 81% of fine particulates from the air.
No matter how much you stick to a cleaning routine or scrub your home spotless, there are just some areas you can’t reach. One of those would be the ductwork of a central heating and air system, something that’s typically cleaned by professionals – not homeowners.
Ductwork can be installed in attics, basements or crawl spaces beneath homes. All of these areas are known for being dusty and dirty in their unfinished forms, and not locations that are easy to keep clean. Anywhere along the HVAC ductwork system where there is a leak or damage, there is an opportunity for dust to get into your system.
As dust gets drawn into these damaged areas, it will enter the ductwork and be blown into the living areas of your home. When the system is off, that dust settles in the air vents and ducts before being picked up and recirculated again. Thankfully, the fix is relatively easy if the damage is minor or it's simply an unsealed joint.
Aluminum tape, not duct tape, is used frequently in HVAC repair as it doesn’t dry out and is perfect for obtaining an airtight seal. Mastic-based sealer is also used by professionals or you could need to replace a small section of ductwork depending on the extent of the leak. If you are unsure if your ductwork has leaks, you can call a certified HVAC technician from our list to run a pressure test on your system.
Leaky Windows and Doors
As mentioned, one of the quickest ways to bring dust and dirt into your home is through doorways and windows. Opening the window to freshen up your home can bring dust inside along with pollen and other allergens. The same goes for entrances in a home as the best doormat still won’t keep your floors completely clean.
Gaps around windows in a house will let dirt in, and the caulk that helps keep things sealed deteriorates over time. We’ve seen plenty of remodeling jobs where window casing was replaced, but not properly sealed which can cause issues quickly. Regardless of the issue, most window gaps are something a trip to the hardware store and a few tubes of caulk can remedy.
The same rules apply to doorways or any other entrance to your home. Make sure you have proper weather stripping around all doors and windows. It’s also important to install door sweep on exterior doors. They are ideal at stopping drafts and keeping dirt from blowing in under doors, but can also keep rodents and insects away as well.
Millions of people around the globe have pets at their homes, and for every outdoor dog or neighborhood cat, there are dozens of animals that stay indoors. Our furry friends are great companions, but also bring something called dander with them which are dead skin cells that turn into dust.
As dogs and cats shed, dander finds its way into your home. While you can see fur lying on carpet or hardwood flooring, dander isn’t quite as easy to locate. To combat this, you’ll need to set up a cleaning routine for your pet involving regular brushing. Doing this outdoors instead of inside is the best choice, and we highly advise investing in a high-quality vacuum cleaner as well.
As you can see, there’s more to dust than most people realize, and it can be tougher to get rid of than simply using a dust rag and a can of cleaner. The best defense against dust is a solid game plan, which involves regular cleaning of carpet and floors in your home. It’s also important to remember to change filters in furnaces and air conditioners and seal any gaps that let air into your home.
Q: Why do I see black marks on the wall around my air vents?
A: Unless you have a fireplace or burn something that produces soot, that’s dust and dirt on the wall from excess moisture in the airflow.
Q: Will opening windows help air dust out of a house in the spring?
A: While that’s been common practice and is a great way to freshen up the air, opening windows can actually let pollen and dust into your home.
Q: Why is there more dust in my bedroom than other areas of my home?
A: That’s largely due to the size of bedrooms and what’s in them. Everything from bedding to clothing to your hairbrush can contribute to dust in these small areas.
Q: Can I use an air purifier to remove dust from the air?
A: Yes, and millions of homeowners turn to these devices to improve their indoor air quality every year. If you’re interested in an air purifier for dust, we have you covered with this guide.
Q: How do you kill dust mites?
A: If you find bedding or other items with dust mites, heat is the best defense. According to the Mayo Clinic, sheets and other fabrics should be washed at a temperature of at least 130° to kill the mites.