10 Ways to Fight Dust at Home

What to know about dust and how to fight it.

There’s really no easy way to discuss dust. It’s one of those things that makes even the toughest of people just a bit squeamish. But it’s important to know what’s lurking in your house even at a microscopic level, especially if you’re one of every five people who suffer from household allergies. Besides, this info might finally get you dusting and vacuuming on a regular basis.

“House dust is a mixture of materials, some potentially allergenic — different fibers; dander from cats, dogs and other animals; dust mites and bacteria; mold and fungus spores; and pollen,” says microbiologist Karen Hall, who works at Dyson, the company known for its high-powered cylindrical vacuums.

We hear about dust mites all the time, but because we can’t see them, most of us don’t really give them too much thought. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, perhaps knowing that dust mites are part of the arachnid family, like spiders, and live in your mattresses and pillows in such mass numbers that they actually add weight to these items, should be enough to keep them in your mind for a long time.

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but if someone says they're allergic to dust mites, technically that's not accurate. It’s actually their feces that people are allergic to. “It’s not the dust mites themselves, it’s their nasty droppings that cause an allergic response," Hall says. "They contain highly allergenic proteins that trigger asthma or other allergic conditions."

Allergist James Sublett, who’s chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Indoor Environment Committee, says colonies of dust mites and their excrement are most concentrated in bedrooms and bedding, as well as heavily upholstered furniture. “You can have a lot more dust absorbed in those settings, which then gets stirred up into the air with activity," Sublett says.

That means that modernists might have an advantage over dust. Flat, solid surfaces, especially flooring, and slick leather furniture are more ideal for keeping dust at bay. A simple wipe-down takes care of a lot of settled dust. If anything, Sublett recommends removing wall-to-wall carpeting in bedrooms.

Here are more ways to keep dust in check:

Terrene Homes, original photo on Houzz

Get a dust-tracking mat. Look for something that says "anti-microbial." This will help remove some of the bad stuff you track in on your shoes. The best solution, though, is to remove your shoes before entering the home. “Otherwise you will be bringing in nasty chemicals, pollen, dirt and dust straight into your home,” says Hall.

Put small items in a plastic bag and freeze them. This is good for things like children's toys. You'll want to freeze them for about two days, says Hall, then let them thaw naturally. This will kill off all the dust mites.

Keep pets out of the bedroom. Sorry, but it’s best to keep animals out of your bedroom and especially off your bed. Dogs and cats tend to track in lots of dust and dander from the outdoors and shed it around your house. You might want to also consider vacuuming your dog often with special appliances like the Dyson Groom tool.

Dufner Heighes Inc, original photo on Houzz

Wash your pillows. People remember to wash pillow cases, but the pillow itself often gets neglected. Ever notice how your pillow seems to get heavier? Congratulations, you're harboring a colony of dust mites and their feces. Wash them every six to 12 months or replace them.

Here’s a shocker: Don’t make your bed. That’s right, Hall recommends leaving the blankets off to let the mattress cool. This can prevent dust mites from breeding so quickly.

Bryhn Design/Build, original photo on Houzz

Protect your mattress. You'll want to regularly vacuum your mattress itself to pick up skin cells and dust mite feces. You might also consider encasing your mattress and pillows. Be sure to get a fine woven encasement with a sealed zipper, Sublett says.

Get all the nooks and crannies. “It’s important to get the areas you don’t see as well — high shelving, air vents and mattresses,” Hall says. Also, vacuum intensively around beds and under beds if possible, because dust mites can be disturbed and fall to the floor as covers are thrown back. "And don’t forget to vacuum under the sofa; the perfect hiding place for dust mites," Hall says.

stilesquinn, original photo on Houzz​

Dust and vacuum one to two times a week. You won't ever be able to get rid of all the dust, Sublett says, and dusting and vacuuming kicks up some dust anyway, so performing these tasks one to two times a week is sufficient. Also, invest in a dust mask, like an N95 NIOSH, so you're not breathing in all the disturbed dust. (It takes two hours for dust to settle, Sublett says.)

Get a vacuum that’s allergy and asthma certified, and one with a HEPA air filter. A central vacuum system, like the one shown here, should be considered. They are designed to deposit the vacuumed debris outside the living space, usually in containers in the garage or basement.

Keep humidity out. Humidity plays a big role in dust mite proliferation and other potential dust allergens like mold. Sublett recommends you try and keep the humidity below 50 percent. Installing a dehumidifier might be right for some people.

Wash bedding weekly. This is a given. It doesn't have to be super hot, either. A warm water cycle will kill adult dust mites.

Also, purifying the air inside your home is one of the best ways to prevent dust buildup.

This article was originally published on Houzz.com
For related posts see:
How to Control Dust During a Remodel
Cool Down Without Opening Windows to Dust and Pollen
Find a Couch With Legs to Make Vacuuming Easier

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