Household Dust, What is it?
I have done a lot of research and many talks on what household dust contains. The answer is, there is no correct answer. Household dust in my home will be different than the dust in your home. If I am a smoker with three dogs, 2 cats, a guinea pig and 4 parrots it’s a good bet my home will be more dusty and contain different particles than a marathon runner who is allergic to animals with 2 children and a spouse. Also there are differences in neighborhoods. If I live on a gravel road in the country my dust will be different than a condo owner downtown. There are also climate differences. Colorado with all its beauty, mountains, trees and wildlife will have different types of particles in the dust than me living in East Tennessee with all its beauty, mountains, trees and wildlife.
Household Dust Contains Dead Skin
With all that being said I want to talk about some of the common household dust items most homes will have in them. The first is dead skin. Some say this is a high number (70%) and some say this is an insignificant number (5%) but the fact remains that there is dead skin in the dust of your home. This could be human or animal. Also, unless you built your home by yourself, there is a good chance you have other peoples dead skin in your home. The skin cells of past owners, workers, service people, visitors and their animals are most likely still lingering in carpet, the HVAC system, baseboards, ceiling fans and even inside the walls.
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Household Dust Contains Fiberglass
Fiberglass is one of the most common insulation materials used today. Household dust will contain fiberglass from the attic insulation, walls and floor insulation. I understand some homes built today may contain mostly spray foam or foam board but it is hard to get away from fiberglass even in other materials. For example, cheap furnace filters are made from fiberglass.
Household Dust Contains Decomposing Bugs
I hope you like bugs because they live in the house with you. Cockroaches, ants, silverfish, centipedes, camelback crickets and more infiltrate our homes and normally show themselves at night while we sleep. Unfortunately, they leave behind feces and carcasses which ultimately becomes household dust.
Household Dust Contains Dust Mites
Now you may be asking yourself why I didn’t include dust mites in the decomposing bugs section. Well, dust mites are arachnids and are related to chiggers, ticks and spiders. These little boogers are microscopic and feed on the dead skin which helps to makeup household dust. That’s right, they spew out an enzyme that breaks down dust and then slurp it into their mouthparts similar to how a fly consumes your mashed potatoes at a picnic. They thrive in warm humid environments just like mold and millions of them live in your mattress.
Have you ever woken up more stuffy than when you went to bed? Chances are as you flipped the covers back and smacked the pillow to soften it a bit, you sent hundreds of thousands of these light arachnids into the air. As you became more comfortable they landed on your face like a paratrooper and enter your breathing zone. But don’t be too worried. It is not the live dust mites that typically cause allergies. Most of the time it is their carcasses and fecal matter that mostly affect us.
What Can You Do About HouseHold Dust?
- Dust Regularly – A great place to start is good housekeeping to control household dust.
- Vacuum Twice a Week – Carpets should be vacuumed with the best vacuum cleaner you can afford twice a week. Central vacuums tend to keep household dust from recirculating back into the air when the motor and mechanics are located outside the living space. I have used the Pet Dyson and it worked very well.
- Control Humidity – Keep humidity levels between 45% and 55% in all areas of your home including basements and crawl spaces.
- Take Off Shoes – Whenever possible leave outdoor shoes near the door and where house shoes inside only. Much of what is tracked in on shoes can become household dust. Shoes can also track in mold spores from soil.
- Change Filters – Many filters say the last up to 30 days. We recommend changing your furnace filters every 30-days.
- Air Seal Ductwork – The central heat and air system can leak up to 25% of the air it moves. These gaps are great places for fiberglass, insects, mold and other dust candidates to infiltrate your breathing zone.
- Seal the edge of Furnace Filter – If the edge of the furnace filter allows air to go around the air filter, dust is flying by without the opportunity to be captured. The furnace filter cannot catch every particle that passes through it but certainly won’t have a chance to stop household dust if the particles never go in the air filter media.