You know the feeling.  You’ve spent hours cleaning your home from top to bottom, even moving the furniture and wiping down the knickknacks.  Finally, you take a big breath and sit down to enjoy your clean home. But then, moments later you see it…. a fine film of dust floating through the air, settling back down onto your furniture, your bedding, and your floors.

The truth is no matter how often or how well you clean, you will never completely get rid of all the dust in your home.

But, is that really a problem?  Isn’t dust more of a nuisance than anything? You may be surprised at the answer.

What is dust made out of?

The dust in your household holds the history of everyone who has ever lived there.  Because homes are tightly sealed environments and dust gets trapped in crevices and carpets, your home probably still contains dust from its first occupants.

Most household dust is a mixture of sloughed-off skin cells, hair, clothing fibers, bacteria, bits of dead bugs, soil particles, pollen, and microscopic specks of plastic. Older homes may even retain pollutants that have been banned, such as DDT.

And, of course, don’t forget the dust mites.

What exactly are dust mites?

Wherever you find dust, you’ll find dust mites. Hundreds of thousands of dust mites live in the bedding, mattresses,  furniture, carpets, and curtains in your home.

Dust mites are microscopic insect-like pests that feed off of dead human skin cells.  Dust mites aren’t parasites. They won’t bite, sting, or burrow into your skin. But, they can trigger allergic reactions and asthma in many people.  That’s because of the fecal pellets and body fragments they leave behind wherever they go.

While dust mites are pretty gross to think about, they are far from the most problematic component found in dust.

Is dust harmful?

While dust is known to aggravate allergies and asthma, there is still much about the link between human health and dust that we don’t yet understand.

Research does indicate that infants and toddlers are especially vulnerable to exposure to pollutants from dust because they spent 90% of their time indoors, put everything into their mouths, and are more sensitive to pollutants. But, scientists still don’t know which particular components in dust may be most harmful and how much exposure to them is needed to be problematic.

“The few to a hundred compounds that we know are in dust don’t encompass the universe of chemicals in commerce, which number in the tens of thousands to over a million,” says P. Lee Ferguson, an environmental chemist at Duke University.

An analysis by the National Resources Defense Council identified these 10 harmful compounds in 90%-100% of United States dust samples.

  • DEHP, found in vinyl flooring and food contact materials: causes reproductive system toxicity, developmental toxicity, hormone disruption
  • DEHA, found in vinyl flooring and food packaging: causes reproductive system toxicity, developmental toxicity
  • HHCB, found in scented products: harm unknown
  • BBP, found in vinyl flooring: causes reproductive system toxicity, developmental toxicity, hormone disruption
  • TPHP, found in treated furniture, baby products, carpet padding, electronics: causes reproductive system toxicity, nervous system toxicity
  • TDCPP, found in Treated furniture, baby products, carpet padding: causes cancer
  • DIBP, found in Vinyl products, personal care and beauty products: causes reproductive system toxicity, developmental toxicity, hormone disruption
  • HBCD, found in Polystyrene building insulation: causes reproductive system toxicity, nervous system toxicity, hormone disruption
  • MeP, found in cosmetics, lotions, deodorants: causes reproductive system toxicity, hormone disruption

How can you reduce dust?

Now that you know how potentially dangerous dust can be, what can you do to get rid of it?

Banish shoes: About 60% of household dust comes from outside. It gets in through windows, doors, vents and, on the soles of your shoes. The simple act of removing your shoes before walking indoors will drastically reduce the pollutants you bring in.

Wash bedding frequently:  Dead skin flakes, dander, and dust mites are constantly building up on your mattress, pillows, and linens. Reduce bedroom dust by vacuuming your mattress seasonally, and laundering your bedding regularly.

Keep floors clean: Much of the dust that you bring into your home settles onto floors. To minimize dust, avoid carpets and rugs whenever possible. Clean all your floors thoroughly at least once a week.

Use the right tools: Vacuum cleaners are excellent at dusting curtains, mini-blinds, and baseboards. Use a lightly wet cloth to remove dust from hard surfaces

Use an air purifier with a True HEPA filter: Perhaps the most important thing you can do to keep dust out of your lungs is to purchase an air purifier. Most dust particles are 5 microns or less. High-quality air purifiers with True HEPA filters eliminate up to 99.95% of particles down to .1 microns from your indoor air.

What are the limitations of air purifiers?

Air purifiers with HEPA filters are excellent at removing pollutants from your air. But, no matter how effective a purifier is, the size of your home, the airflow, and the doors and walls will all affect its ability to get to all the air in the house. Also, because dust is constantly being brought into the home and re-circulated, it’s impossible for any purifier to keep indoor air completely dust-free.

While no purifier will get rid of all the dust in your home, a combination of regular cleaning, limiting the dust that you allow into your home, and an air purifier with a True HEPA filter will make your home as dust-free as possible.