What is dust, anyway?

Hi Tech Feb 2020 - What is Dust Anyway BLOG IMAGE

Every household on planet Earth contains dust. It’s just a fact of life, and an unavoidable one at that. You probably dust and vacuum regularly and otherwise rarely think about those pesky particles gathering on the edges of picture frames or the dust motes you see drifting in the air when the sun shines through your window. 

But we are duct cleaners and we deal with dust and airborne contaminants every day. And since we see and handle more of it than your average bear, we thought we’d share a little primer on exactly what’s floating around your home and circulating through your ductwork. 

Most people think that the majority of dust is comprised of dead skin cells from the people living in the house. If you thought that, too, would you be surprised to know that dead skin cells are only a small portion of what’s in your dust?

Here’s a list of some of the common, expected substances that make up the dust particles floating through your home right now: 

  • Dead skin cells
  • Hair
  • Clothing and carpet fibers
  • Dirt tracked in from outside
  • Drywall dust (if you live in a new home)
  • Soot (if you burn candles or have a wood burning stove)


That probably doesn’t sound too bad, but here’s a list of some more unexpected substances/items which are a regular part of dust and which you may not like quite so much: 

  • Dust mites
  • Dead bugs and parts of dead bugs
  • Bacteria and pathogens
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Microscopic specks of plastic


Yikes. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to breathe into my lungs are dead bugs or lingering bacteria from my kid’s last cold. And never mind breathing. If it’s in dust, that means you’re sitting in it when you sit on your couch at night and it’s on your kitchen surfaces as you prepare and eat daily meals. 


And unfortunately, that’s not all. The American Chemical Society (ACS) published an article entitled “Tracing the Chemistry of Household Dust” in Chemical and Engineering News in 2017. In that article, ACS stated: 


“For one thing, dust is far from inert. Those shed hairs and old skin cells can soak up a constellation of contaminants originating from consumer products that we bring into our homes. Other environmental contaminants can be tracked indoors on the soles of our shoes. So in addition to fluffy hair and garden dirt, dust can hold a witch’s brew of persistent organic pollutants, metals, endocrine disruptors, and more.”


Not only does dust hold a long memory of the contaminants introduced to a house, but it’s also a continual source of exposure for the residents. Dust gets resuspended when it’s disturbed and will recirculate throughout the house, picking up substances before returning once more to the floor.


Even after regular cleaning, it still accretes because homes are tightly sealed environments, and the dust gets entrenched in carpets and crevices. Dust from an old house may retain legacy pollutants such as DDT that were banned almost half a century ago…”


I don’t know about you, but I find the prospect of living with and breathing an array of household chemicals a little scary. Now, as we said early in this blog article, you’ll never 100% eliminate the dust in your home. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve things. 

Here are our suggestions for reducing dust and potentially harmful contaminants in your home and in your indoor air: 

  • Dust 1-2 times weekly
  • Spray all kitchen, bathroom, and surfaces that need to be sanitary with a cleaner that has sanitizing agents in it (preferably bleach). Do a deep clean at least once a week and do spot cleans as needed daily. 
  • Vacuum 1-2 times per week (or more frequently if you have pets or lots of people living in your home). 
  • Mop all tile, wood, or manufactured floors at least once per week and spot clean as needed
  • Use a Swiffer or other dusting device on an extendable handle to reach the dust that accumulates on light fixtures, ceiling fans, and other areas that are out of reach
  • Take off your shoes at the door or leave them in the garage
  • Wash bed linens and towels regularly
  • Deep clean furniture every month – 3 months depending on frequency of use (also, households with kids and pets would likely need to do this more often)


Lastly, don’t forget about your ductwork. Your air ducts are the system which circulates air (and dust) throughout your home. That means that dust is constantly being sucked into air ducts, blown out into other rooms, and being recirculated throughout the home.

We recommend that you have your ductwork cleaned every 3-5 years. If you haven’t had it done in a long time, what are you waiting for? Call us or another reputable duct cleaning company today and make sure your family is breathing the healthiest air possible. 


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