Household Dust: Origins and Prevention

Posted by on December 14, 2016 in Household Enemies

What is Household Dust

Image By NIAID (Microscopic House Dust) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If there is one thing on this planet that we cannot escape after death and taxes, it’s surely dust. Just look around you – the shelves you’ve wiped just a few hours ago are perhaps already marred by small fuzzy particles of various shape and size. And just a gentle sigh from your air conditioner is enough to send them flying to the farthest reaches of your domain. But what is household dust exactly and how can you keep it from coming back? Let’s have a peek through the magnifying glass and find out everything about this small, dusty kingdom right under your roof.

There Is More to Dust Than Meets the Eye

Sooner or later, all forms of matter that we know of break down into their constituents. And flake after flake, hair after hair, fibre after fibre, these particles eventually gather in large, cloud-like clumps. Clumps that go by the name of dust. There are many types of dust, depending on the environment. For instance, atmospheric or aeolian dust terrorises the planet’s arid regions and is carried on the shoulders of fast winds. There’s also road dust that mainly consists of industrial exhausts and dirt. Coal dust contains, well, powdered coal. And then there’s household dust.

You may have heard that household dust is primarily made up of shed animal and human skin which, in itself, is quite disturbing already. However, recent research has revealed that these dust bunnies act as storage for a whole bunch of other stuff. Those may include fibres from your bed pillow, strains of fungi that you have unwittingly picked up on your way home, dead insect remains, pet hair, a dozen types of fecal bacteria… you get the picture. Dust may even contain the powdery remains of a meteorite (although the chances of that happening are pretty slim).

What Are Household Dust’s Favourite Lounging Spots?

Diminutive in size and incredibly lightweight, blankets of dust particles can be found on top of pretty much every surface or within any crack and crevice in your home. Among the more obvious hang out spots are the surface of your bookshelves and between the pages of the books themselves, your work desk, and clumped along the edges of your skirting boards. Naturally, you can expect to bust a large amount of dust bunnies (sometimes even entire conventions) in those areas of your property that receive the least cleaning attention.

In case you’ve missed them:

You know which places we’re talking about. For instance, the areas behind and under your household furniture that you haven’t moved since you’ve settled in. Your personal computer box (or any other piece of electronics, really) can also trap quite a lot of dust inside, causing your equipment to overheat. And just walking on your carpet is enough to stir up a whole dust storm. A few other sneaky spots for these woolly gremlins that you should keep in mind include, but are not limited to lampshades, blinds, door frames, bathtubs and yes, your upholstery and mattress.

The Negative Effects of Dust on Your Health

The pet dander, dead skin flakes, and cockroach bits contained in most dust bunnies are bad enough. But what really makes people allergic to dust is its “native” inhabitants. Enter the dust mites. Invisible to the naked eye, these small spider-like crawlies tend to inhabit the warm and damp regions of your home. Dead skin is their favourite meal on the menu and, since we shed a few grams worth of flakes every single day, they never run out of supplies. Their largest colonies are often found in carpets, upholstery, and bedding due to the latter’s dust-retaining nature.

As we walk around our homes, we often send small clouds of dust flying into the air. Due to the mites being incredibly lightweight, they can remain airborne for several minutes on end before landing back on their feet. Which is more than enough time for us to inhale them and potentially develop the so called “dust mite allergy”. The symptoms are very similar to those of the common cold and include itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, and frequent sneezing. In people suffering from asthma, the creepy crawlies can even incite coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Minimising the Dust Pollution in Your Home

House Dust PreventionHow do you fight that which always comes back? The answer is – be as persistent as dust itself! Set aside some time each weekend to thoroughly wipe the surfaces of your furniture and home appliances with a slightly damp cloth. Make sure to also bust out your vacuum cleaner and clean as much dust from your TV, blu-ray player, and other electronics as possible, but don’t forget to turn these off first. Wash away the dust bunnies from your carpets and the filters of your air conditioner. And finally, use damp paper towels to tackle dust on your ceiling fan blades.

As far as prevention goes, there is unfortunately no way of completely getting rid of dust. However, you can take extra precautions to minimise its presence. Equip your vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency particulate air filter as these trap much more dust mites than “standard issue” hoovers. Get a rubber doormat. Keep your home’s humidity level up to about 50%. Install blinds that are easier to clean, for example ones made of wood or metal. And, most importantly, avoid dry dusting to stop dust particles from spreading over to other areas of your home.

Not everyone has the luxury of chasing dust rabbits around their house all day long. If you are one of those people, give our regular cleaning a go and let a trained and diligent expert free your home from pesky dust mites and clutter on a daily, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly basis.