Dangers in House DUst (& How to Get Rid of It)

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What your Grandma taught you about a weekly dusting routine, may not have been all bad.  

I’ll be honest with you, I HATE dusting.  I know it’s bad when my five year old mentions we should probably dust that thick later off of our dark-toned dresser.  

But, it’s not just an annoyance or a trivial problem within our homes.  Dust is a component of poor indoor air quality.  Have you ever stopped to think what is IN the dust bunny under your bed?  Or what that layer of thick gray dust is housing on top of your woodwork?  Mostly we just hear people say it’s skin cells (for the record, this is still gross, right?).

But unfortunately, it’s often time even more.  Studies have shown traces of cleaning chemicals, pesticides, bacteria and dustimes in the dust within living spaces.

WHY DUST IS HARMFUL

First, it’s important to understand the composition of dust and where exactly it comes from.  In 2009 the American Chemical Society set out to answer this very question.  Their study determined that yes indeed, dust is composed of dead skin cells, but it wasn’t the main component within the dust.  They estimate that 60% of dust was mostly comprised of airborne particles blown in or tracked in from outside.

Dust Made Up of Indoor Chemicals

It also contained fibers from carpets and upholstered furniture.  If you’ve hung around my site for any amount of time, you may be wondering if this means Formaldehyde, Flame Retardants and other Chemicals are being housed in dust as well.  It’s safe to say that yes, the chemicals used in carpets and within upholstered furniture are also within the house dust found in living spaces.

Veena Singla, at NRDC.org published an incredibly in-depth look at exactly what chemicals are found within the dust in our homes.  She lists out flame retardants (from furniture), phthalates (from soft plastics and vinyls), PFCs (from stain repellents in carpets) and Environmental Phenols (from cleaning products) just to name a few.  

These chemicals have been labeled as carcinogenic, endocrine and hormone disruptors as well as creating reproductive problems.  And to go back, these are just the chemicals coming from within our homes.  I haven’t even shared the outdoor bacteria, pesticides and chemicals that make up the majority of the dust in our homes.

Bacteria & Pesticides Tracked Indoors

First, it’s important to know HOW the dust enters your home from outdoors.  The number one way dirt and dust enter a home from the outdoors is on shoes.  Second would be from pets entering the home from outdoors and third would be blowing in from windows and doors and through natural ventilation of the home.

Knowing that most dirt and bacteria come in on shoes means that this problem can be largely corrected by leaving shoes in a foyer or outdoors.  A no-shoe policy can minimize the amount of bacteria that enters your home.

The bacteria entering the home from outdoors includes Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species as well as fungal strains of microbes as stated by the BMC Microbiology 2008 Study.

KIDS ARE THE HIGHEST RISK GROUP

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Children and babies not only play on floors where dust tends to settle, but their hand-to-mouth habits put them in the highest risk for ingesting the problematic components of dust.  Toys and other objects often end up in their mouths, allowing them to ingest bacteria and chemicals on a fairly regular basis.

Children who are exposed to higher levels of dust are also at a higher risk for developing asthma and eczema.  Dustmites are the large contributing factor when it comes to these problems.  A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology breaks down the correlation between the increased cases of childhood eczema and dustmites found indoors.

Childhood Asthma is also on the rise due to many contributing factors.  But one factor that can be more controlled than others is by removing the exposure to dustmites within homes.  Immunological Reviews published a 2011 study showing early-onset asthma is often linked to an allergic response from dustimtes.

HouseDustMite.com shares a vast array of scientific studies on their website that link dustmites and dust to a variety of health concerns ranging from allergies to asthma.  They also have some great resources for minimizing the exposure in your own house and how schools are at risk too.



HABITS TO HELP

Now that we’re all crawling in our skin, let’s talk solutions.  Dust accumulates over time from our living habits and our lifestyle.  The materials and decor styles can also determine just how much dust settles in the corners of our living spaces.

Lifestyle Habits

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No Shoes: Removing shoes at the door and creating a no-shoe policy in your own home can help reduce the amount of dust and dirt comes into your house in the first place.  Utilizing a rug to help catch the particles before they get tracked around your home is another great idea.  *Check out my Pinterest Boards for some great ideas*

Pets:  Wipe off your fur baby’s paws when you come inside and you’ll keep a lot of bacteria and pesticides from being tracked around the house.  Keep an old hand towel near the door so you can easily wipe off paws.

Humidity: Dustmites thrive in humid environments.  If a home is around 35%-40% humidity, dustmites will not be able to reproduce, therefore eliminating many of them from your home.  You can check your indoor humidity with a simple hygrometer or if you have a smart thermostat such as the Nest, you can check on your app.  

If you’re finding you need to reduce your indoor humidity, check out my blog post about Indoor Air Quality and scroll down to “Reduce Moisture Inside”.


Cleaning Routines

Vacuum: A vacuum with a HEPA filter is going to be your BEST friend in removing dust.  A good quality vacuum will help pull dust out of carpet fibers and rug fibers.  You can also use a vacuum to clean off registers and duct vents if you have them as well as vacuum your upholstered furniture.

Wet Mop:  If you have hardwood floors or hard surface floors, a wet mop like Rubbermaid’s Reveal Spray Mop (which you can fill with any solution you wish) will help remove the dust from corners and entry ways.  By switiching from dry mopping to wet mopping you ensure you are picking up and removing more of the dust as opposed to pushing it around and creating dust to enter the air.

Regular Dusting:  As much as it pains me to say it, regular dusting is the best way to minimize the dust around most homes.  Dust is inevitable, so there is some element of cleaning involved.  There is a better way to dust, however, which can not only remove more dust, but prevent dust from landing on the wooden surfaces of your home.

By using a natural dusting spray and a microfiber cloth, you can avoid moving dust around and moving it into the air.  A natural dusting spray also uses oil to help deter dust from certain surfaces.

Non Toxic Dusting Spray Recipe

What You Will Need


Routine Maintenance

Constant monitoring of the systems within your home is a great way to keep on top of maintenance.  There are some maintenance items in homes that can help prevent dust from taking over.

Furnace Filters:  Replacing the filters within furnace systems and whole house fans is a great way to make sure dust isn’t getting spread throughout your home.  I tell my customers to purchase a large box of filters and keep them near the furnace.  This way they’re more likely to replace the filters more frequently. NordicPure filters get an A+ in my book for top notch furnace filters.

Duct Cleaning: If you have pets, this routine maintenance is a MUST.  Getting your vents cleaned every other year will help keep dust at bay within your home. If you’re moving into a new home, I always recommend you get the ductwork cleaned out before moving your family in.  This is especially true if anyone in your family has allergies or asthma.

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