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Why do rooms get dusty? How to prevent?

Dusting TV stand in the living room

Have you ever felt like your home is dustier than normal? There are many factors that contribute to dust production and accumulation. Fear not, however, there are also many things you can do to prevent this, and to keep your home feeling fresh and clean throughout the year. 

While you may get to the point of frustration and just want to put plastic covers on all your possessions to keep them dust-free, I don’t think that will actually solve your problems. There are plenty of ways to increase air circulation, keeping it fresh and dust free, or at least dust minimal. We do have to recognize that dust is a part of having bodies and living in enclosed spaces. We track a lot of dust in from the outdoors, but even without that our bodies produce particles that create dust in the air. This is inevitable, and it’s great to try to reduce it, but you also need to recognize it’s a part of life!

What is Dust?

To better combat dust, it’s important to know what it is made of-which is a lot of things. The clumps you find in your home are composed of moderately gross particles from inside and outside. Dust is made of fine particles of solid matter. On Earth, it generally consists of particles in the atmosphere that come from various sources such as soil lifted by wind (an aeolian process), volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in homes is composed of about 20–50% dead skin cells. The rest, and in offices, and other human environments is composed of small amounts of plant pollen, human hairs, animal fur, textile fibers, paper fibers, minerals from outdoor soil, burnt meteorite particles, and many other materials which may be found in the local environment. Inside our homes, dust is mostly from us as humans, but is not entirely from us. 

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But there is one important myth to bust: While dead skin cells certainly do make up part of the dust in our homes, it’s not as big of a portion as you may think. Sean Parry of Neat Services notes that people often assume that more than 50 percent of dust comes from dead skin, but in reality, “most of that is carried away by water when we bathe, ending up not on our floors, but in our sewers.”

How Does Dust Build-Up? 

You and your pets are constantly contributing skin cells and hairto dust. Dust is also made up of decomposing insects, bits of food, plastic and soil. Intuitively, one might think having pets transporting a variety of organic contaminants including faeces into homes is somewhat gross. However, there is emerging evidence that some “filth” is beneficial as it may help your immune system and reduce allergy risk.Cooking, open fireplaces and smoking indoors adds very fine dust to your home along with contaminants of concern, which are associated with poor health outcomes. You want your bedroom to be a haven. But those cozy comforts, like rugs and blankets, are the things in a home that can generate the most amount of dust. Some rooms may have a tendency to collect more dust due to the contents as well as the ventilation and air flow to the room. The bedroom, for example, has a tendency to generate dust from the bedding fibers, dust mites, and skin cells. If a room has carpet and other upholstered furniture, dust levels increase even more.  To keep a handle on it, make sure you’re washing bedding regularly (including your pillows), and vacuuming carpets and rugs often (with a clean filter on your vacuum). You could also consider not making your bed: Skipping your morning bed-tidying routine helps your sheets air out better throughout the day, which could kill dust mites lurking within. 

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Ways to Prevent Dust Build up

1. Install a Ceiling Fan 

While ceiling fans are a great way to circulate air and keep dust from accumulating, they can also accumulate dust and thereby spread it. As the blades rotate, they experience frictional forces as they `rub’ against the air; this knocks electrons around, causing the blades to build up a net charge. The charged dust particles then stick to the charged areas of the blades. “So the dust doesn’t collect on the blades simply by `falling’ or landing on them. Beside above, how do I stop my fan from getting dusty? Spray the fan blades and housing unit with a household cleaner. Dry the wet areas with cleaning cloth. Spray the blades with furniture polish, creating a slippery surface where dust cannot easily stick. Vacuum the air vents around the ceiling fan using a vacuum with a nozzle attachment.

Honeywell Ceiling Fans 50614-01 Carnegie Ceiling Fan, 52", Matte Black

2. Use a Duster

Even if you clean your ceiling fan and AC filter regularly, it doesn’t mean that all your dust problems are solved. You’ll still have to make a plan to clear dust from the room regularly—and it might be worth rethinking how you do that, too, according to Nelson.

If after all this you suddenly feel the urge to take a closer look at your bedroom and see if you, too, are living with more dust than you realize, I can’t blame you. Lucky for all of us, though, the answer to keeping things clean might be a lot easier than dusting twice a day. 

OXO Good Grips Microfiber Hand Duster

3. Get an Air purifier 

There are machines designed to collect and trap dust—basically doing your work for you. Make sure your purifier (like your vacuum) has a HEPA filter, and place it near the door or window for optimal dust-dodging action. The Wirecutter recommends this Coway air purifier—it was able to reduce airborne particulate pollution by an average of 85 percent in their tests. Air purifiers do more than remove odors from the air: They also capture dust. Most use a fan system that pulls in air from the room, captures dust particles in a filter, and recirculates the cleaner air. Air purifiers like the ones from Guardian Technologies are available in a variety of sizes and price ranges. Use one regularly and clean it frequently to reduce dust levels.

LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home Allergies Pets Hair in Bedroom, H13 True HEPA Filter, 24db Filtration System Cleaner Odor Eliminators, Ozone Free, Remove 99.97% Dust Smoke Mold Pollen, Core 300, White

4. Open Windows for a Cross Breeze 

While this option does also bring in particles from outside, if there are specific interior dust particles that you are allergic to, from a cat for example, this can help immensely. Most important, though, is creating a breeze that runs through the entire house so the air doesn’t just come in but also flows out. This may be a great idea if you live somewhere a little less urban, as cities can have more dust particles in the air from city life. It does really depend on if you are allergic to anything in specific. If it’s pollen, for example, this may not be the right answer for you. So, assess the things that are bothering you and decide whether opening the windows to blow some fresh air through your home will help you or not. 

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5. Wash Sheets and Couch Covers Frequently 

We’ve all seen the commercials about dead skin flakes, dander, and dust mites building up in a mattress over time. They build up in bedding and pillows, too. Reduce this by vacuuming your mattress seasonally and laundering your bedding regularly. That means washing sheets and pillowcases weekly, mattress or duvet covers or uncovered comforters monthly, and everything else once a season — including laundering your pillows and cleaning your mattress. Encase pillows and mattresses in dust mite protective covers. This won’t prevent dust, but will reduce the number of dust mites.

 

6. Only Wear Slippers Inside

In some parts of the country, it’s considered good manners to remove your shoes when you enter someone else’s home, but there are always people who balk at the thought of a No Shoe Policy. If they realized that up to 80 percent of the household dust enters the bottom of peoples’ shoes, they’d probably rethink their reluctance. This doesn’t mean you’ve got to put up with a growing pile of shoes at the doors. A boot tray near your entrance lets family members know where their shoes belong. Plus, it will collect any drips or mud so that mess doesn’t get onto your floor. You can even keep a small basket of slippers handy so no one has to deal with cold feet. 

Dearfoams Women's Leslie Quilted Terry Clog Slipper, Medium Grey

7. Change Air Filters

Whether you have a central heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system (HVAC) or individual units, the air filters should be changed regularly. As air circulates, dust is trapped in the filters to prevent it from returning to the living areas. Some systems have filters that can be cleaned, while others require a fresh filter monthly. Using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can remove at least 99.97 percent of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns. In addition to the air systems, clean or change the filters in range hoods, clothes dryers, and oil diffusers.

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8. Clear the Clutter

Take a look at the stack of papers on your desk or your grandmother’s collection of teapots proudly displayed on open kitchen shelving. Are they dusty? Every item on display or openly stashed in our home is collecting dust. Get rid of items that you don’t use or need by donating them. Display collections behind glass doors and be judicious about how many dust collectors you must clean each week. Don’t forget to check your clothes closets. If you have hanging clothes with dust on the shoulders, it’s time to purge. If you want to keep the garment, place it in a proper breathable storage bag that can be washed frequently.

Dust can cause everything from a mild sense of dullness and uncleanliness in the home, to severe allergic reactions. It’s important, for your health, to keep the air in your home circulating and clean. There are many ways to do this, from simply opening windows to investing in purifiers and fancy air circulation systems. Being proactive about it is key. If you or anyone in your household suffers from asthma or allergy symptoms, preventing dust from accumulating and removing items that harbor dust are worth the effort. (It will also make your regular cleaning routine a lot easier.)But contrary to popular belief, it’s not mostly dead skin—the majority of household dust comes from dirt, pollen and other outdoor particles. So it is preventable, if you’re smart about it. That being said, introducing outdoor air can also be great for just feeling like you’re getting fresh air through a stuffy house, especially if you aren’t able to invest in those purifiers. Ultimately, keeping surfaces clean, having some sort of air circulation in the home, and preventing too much dirt from entering from outside will keep your home clean and for the most part, dust free!

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