Dust can be seemingly impossible to beat, and it comes from a variety of sources. If you don’t know where it comes from or why it keeps accumulating, you can’t possibly get rid of it.
The most common reason for excessive dust in a house is a dirty HVAC filter. This is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system of your home. If the filter is dirty, the air from the outside won’t properly be treated, and dust and dirt will settle indoors.
While a dirty HVAC filter may be the most common reason for excessive dust in your house, it is by no means the only one. In this article, we will examine this and other reasons why you may feel like your entire home is covered in dust. We will also learn what dust is and how to prevent it from recurring once cleaned.
There has been a long-standing myth that much of our household dust is made up of human skin particles. According to BBC Science Focus, this simply isn’t true. As they explain, “Two-thirds of the dust in your house comes from outside, as dirt tracked in on your feet and airborne particles like pollen and soot. The rest is mostly carpet fluff, clothes fibres, and pet hair.”
Seeing what dust is made of can better allow us to defend against it. As most dust is made up of dirt from the outside world, we can see how many of our defenses will include having proper procedures for entering the home, an efficient air filtration system, and making sure the exterior is sealed.
HVAC System Issues
As we’ve touched upon, a clogged filter in your HVAC system may be the reason you can’t rid your house of dust. You may also have a cheap filter of poor quality that isn’t properly filtering your air.
What an HVAC System Does
As we learned above, HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Most homes and commercial buildings have HVAC systems. They are responsible for moving the air between indoor and outdoor areas.
The HVAC system controls the heating and cooling of your home. It does this through a process of moving air through heating coils or cooling air with the repeated action of forcing refrigerants to evaporate and condense. When these refrigerants turn from liquid into gas, they use up heat.
The cool air is then moved inside your home, and new air is pulled from the exterior to be cooled next. As the HVAC system pulls in air from the outside world, it also pulls in particles. These particles are dirt, dust, pollen, and dander from pets and wildlife.
Most of these particles get blocked as the air passes through the air filter in the HVAC system, but as your filter gets used more and more, its effectiveness fades. Alternatively, cheap filters often don’t work as well as they are supposed to, and allow these particles to pass right through, and enter your home.
These various particles are what turn into the majority of the dust inside your home. The worst part about having clogged air filters in your HVAC system is that the system services your entire house. This means that the dust and dirt will be delivered to every room in your home and settle seemingly everywhere.
How to Prevent HVAC Issues
Checking and cleaning your air filter regularly is necessary to provide proper service to your HVAC system. In general, HVAC air filters need to be replaced every 90 days for homes without pets, and every 60 days for homes with pets.
Be sure to invest in good quality air filters, or your service dollars will be squandered. HVAC filters are rated on the MERV scale. That is the minimum efficiency reporting value scale. This scale runs from 1 to 20.
When shopping for filters for your home, try to purchase filters with a MERV rating of at least 7. This is rated as the better residential level of filters. If you or someone in your home has intense allergies, you may want to invest in a level 12 filter rated as superior residential.
While comfortable and plush, carpets are one of the main dust traps in your home. They collect dirt from outdoor shoes and objects brought into your home and from pets as they run in and out of your home and the dirt falls off their fur.
High pile carpets are significantly worse for holding dust than low pile ones, as they have long fibers prone to trapping unwanted particles. High pile carpets are hard to clean and they require special vacuums that not only move the fibers to the side but can reach deep into the carpet to clean them properly.
If you use a regular vacuum on a high pile carpet, you’re more likely to just push the fibers around and release the dirt into the air instead of sucking it into the vacuum. This can happen with low pile carpets as well. This is why carpets are such a big contributor to dust in your home.
How to Prevent Carpets From Hoarding Dust
To ensure that your carpets hold as little dust as possible, it’s important to vacuum them regularly. It’s also important to use a vacuum suited to the type of flooring you have.
As you don’t want to simply release the dust into the air when you move the vacuum across the carpet, look for a vacuum with a HEPA filter, like the Eureka FloorRover. A HEPA filter is a high-efficiency particulate air filter that is extremely effective in trapping dust. This vacuum in particular claims to trap 99.97% of allergens, which means the dirt will end up in the trash, and not on your picture frames.
Also, advise those in your house to remove their shoes before walking across the carpet, and ideally, as soon as they enter your home. This will limit the amount of dirt tracked in from the outdoors. On particularly muddy or dusty days, you should wipe your pet’s paws before entering the home.
If you take these precautions and still find your home overrun with dust, you may want to consider investing in new flooring. Hardwood and laminate are much easier to keep clean, and much less likely to hoard dust.
If the majority of the carpet in your home is on decorative rugs, take the rugs outside periodically and beat the dust out of them with a broom handle or other firm rod.
Upholstery and Drapes
The next culprit that contributes to excessive dust in your home is fabric. Long hanging drapes can trap dust and are often not cleaned as frequently as they should be. Curtains can capture and trap dust injected into the air by the HVAC system, and collect dirt when windows are left open.
Upholstered furniture similarly traps dust, by collecting it from the air and the people sitting on it. Every time you sit down on your upholstered couch or armchair, the air is pushed out of the cushion – along with the dust.
Solving Dusty Drapes and Crusty Curtains
Your curtains should be properly cleaned every three to six months. If your curtains are machine washable, put them through a thorough wash cycle with a double rinse period. This will ensure most of the dirt is removed. If your curtains are not machine washable, you will have to get them dry cleaned, but it will be worth the investment.
To limit the amount of dust that builds up in your curtains between washes, you can vacuum them with a hose attachment, or shake them out outside.
Keeping Upholstery Dust-Free
Upholstered furniture is notorious for its dirt-trapping abilities. That is why when people have unused furniture stored in rooms, they often drape it with a cloth. This helps to stop the dust from settling into the cushions and crevices of the furniture.
You can use this same method to keep your everyday furniture dust free. Couch covers are an inexpensive way to block dirt from your furniture and update your living room’s look. While you may not want to use these covers all the time, depending on your taste, they can be used for when relatives with dogs or allergies come to visit.
Vacuuming your furniture regularly will also help to decrease the amount of dust that they trap. Use the angled attachment for the hose on your vacuum to get into the nooks and crannies of your furniture.
For other fabric decors like tapestries, throw pillows, and accent rugs, regular cleaning and vacuuming will help keep them dust-free. You can also take them to an outside area, and knock the dust out with a broom handle. Be sure to do this away from any open windows, as you’ll just send the dust back into the house if you don’t.
Even if you remove your shoes before you enter your house, your dog doesn’t. The paws from your furry friends can bring all sorts of dirt and dust into your home. This especially true if you have any sort of cat door, or open access to the yard for your pets, as they will be traveling from the indoors to the outdoors often.
It’s not only dirt that pets contribute to the dust problem but also their own fur and dander. Pets who shed will play a huge factor in the collection of dust in your home—especially pets with long fur. Longer fur works to trap dirt just like high pile carpets do. The extended fibers of their hair pick up dirt from the outdoors, and when brought inside, the dirty hairs expel dust.
Wipe Their Paws
To help prevent the amount that your pets contribute to your dust problem, consider implementing some ground rules for your household.
When your pet enters the house from the outdoors, wipe your pet’s paws with wet pet wipes like these hypoallergenic Pet Grooming Wipes from Paws and Pals. This will remove excess dirt stuck to the pads of their feet.
Brush your pet regularly, and do it outdoors. If you are consistent with maintaining your pet’s fur, they will shed less indoors. Also, less fur means less fibers to trap dust and carry it into your home.
Bathing your pet regularly will also help get rid of the dirt that will become dust in your home. Booking regular grooming appointments is one way to stay on top of your schedule, and not let your days slip away.
Gaps in Windows and Doors
If your home is older, there’s a chance you may have gaps in your windows and door frames. These gaps are cracks that lead straight to the outside and provide a direct route for outdoor dirt to enter your home. This is also true, of course, if you leave your windows and doors wide open.
The effects of this increase when you live on a dusty road, or if there’s any nearby construction. Sawdust is similar to dirt in that it spreads easily throughout the air, and settles to become dust on various surfaces.
Closing the Gaps
To fix the gaps in your windows and door frames, it may be as simple as caulking the cracks. Caulk is a waterproof filler and sealant that can be used to fill the cracks and create an airtight seal in your walls. Caulk generally dries clear, so it’s a good solution for many different types of houses.
Some of the gaps in your door frames may not be as easily fixed. If there are spaces around the exterior doors of your house, you won’t want to both caulking these, as the seal will be broken the first time you open the door.
Fixing the gaps in your door takes a few separate steps:
- Tighten the screws on the hinges. If the screws on the top hinge of the door are loose, the door may sag slightly outward, creating a gap along the door’s edge. This can happen to any of the hinges, so tighten them to ensure they are all evenly spaced.
- Check your weather stripping. The weather stripping is the rubber piece that runs along the length of the door frame. The rubber strip helps to seal the gaps in your door when it’s closed, keeping out dirt. If your stripping is damaged, it will need to be replaced.
- Examine the door sweep. The door sweep is like the weather stripping for the door. It is a brush or rubber strip that runs along the bottom edge of your door, and also works to seal the gaps that could let in dust.
- Replace or install stripping and sweep. If your weather stripping or door sweep is damaged, you’ll need to remove and replace them. Alternatively, if your exterior doors don’t have either of these features, you’ll want to install them to help seal your house against dust.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the pesky issue of dust in your home, the main one being dirt that enters from the outside world. If you have noticed a recent increase in the amount of dust in your home, the air filter in your HVAC may be clogged.
Other things that contribute to the dust level in your home are:
- Air filter with a low MERV rating
- Carpets, especially high pile
- Wearing shoes inside the house
- Leaving doors and windows open
- Upholstery and drapes
- Cracks in windows and door frames