Cleaning Tips to Reduce Household Dust
Studies show that the average six-room home in the United States collects 40 lbs. of dust each year. Sounds impressively awful, right? But don’t confuse all that dust with dirt and bad housekeeping. It’s actually a combination of dead skin, animal fur, dander, decomposing insects, dust mites, food debris, lint, fabric fibers, drywall particles, tracked-in soil, soot and pollen. It also contains hazardous chemicals that migrate from home products and enter through open doors, windows and on the soles of your shoes. Household dust can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. While it’s impossible to get rid of dust completely, here are our top tips for keeping dust at a minimum so you and your family stay healthier.
Clean with Microfiber Products
Microfiber dusting tools for blinds, ceiling fans, floors and general cleaning are available online and at many stores. Buy your microfiber cloths in the automotive section. ‘Cleaning’ and ‘detailing’ towels are the same as ‘dusting’ cloths, and they’re often a lot cheaper.
Keep Closets Clear for Easy Cleaning
- Box or bag items on shelves. Clear plastic containers are best—they lock fibers in and dust out and let you see what’s inside. When you dust, they’re easy to pull off the shelves and wipe clean.
- Enclose the clothes you rarely wear. Those coats you wear only in winter shed fibers year-round. Slip garment bags or large garbage bags over them. They help to contain fibers and keep the clothes themselves from becoming coated with dust.
- Keep closet floors clear. If the floor is cluttered, chances are you’ll just bypass it while vacuuming. But a wide-open floor adds only a few seconds to the vacuuming chore. And a wire shelf lets you clear all those shoes off the floor without losing storage space.
Upgrade Your Furnace Filter
Your home’s forced-air heating or cooling system helps to control dust by filtering the air. A standard cheap fiberglass filter protects your furnace from large dust particles and provides maximum airflow, but it does little to reduce household dust. More expensive pleated filters usually provide a good balance between cost and filtration efficiency. These filters trap 80 to 95 percent of particles 5 microns and larger. Here are the best furnace filters to buy.
But if you have family members with allergies, consider spending more on high-efficiency filters, which capture 99 percent of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns (bacteria and viruses, fumes and pollen). Be aware that you’ll have to run your furnace fan full time to get the maximum benefit from a high-efficiency filter, and you’ll have to change the filter frequently to prevent damage to your furnace from the reduced airflow.
If you go the high-efficiency route, install a filter monitor such as FilterScan, which automatically alerts you when your furnace filter needs changing, or the GeneralAire G99 Filter Gage, which requires you to manually check it.
Make the Most of Your Vacuuming
- Vacuum high-traffic areas twice a week and the rest of the carpeting and large area rugs at least weekly.
- Make numerous slow passes over the same area in all directions (fast passes stir up more dust than is being sucked up).
- Use certified True High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters to remove invisible particles and allergens. Look for the word ‘True” on the label.
- If you have allergies, upgrade to a sealed-body bagged vacuum with an airtight ‘sealed filtration’ system that works together with a True HEPA filter. This means all of the exhaust will exit through the HEPA filter instead of leaking dust back into your house through the machine’s housing. Sealed-body vacuums have rubber seals or gaskets around the lid and filter and will last 10 to 20 years. Brands include Riccar, Miele and Sanitaire.
- Buy high-quality vacuum bags. Inexpensive 2- or 3-ply paper bags leak more dust. Higher-quality cotton-lined paper bags are better, and top-quality synthetic cotton HEPA bags are the best. Bag capacity matters too. Higher-capacity bags capture more, smaller particles that would have otherwise clogged the filter.
- Clean all your bagless vacuum filters regularly and replace them every three months.
- Turn off the agitator brush on hard flooring so you’re not blowing dust into the air.
- Maintain your vacuum: Empty the canister frequently (always outside) and change bags and belts when needed. Keep the agitator brush free of hair and other material, and check the vacuum for cracks and loose hinges and get it serviced every so often to keep it running smoothly.
Dust with Your Dryer
Purify the Air
- Place air purifiers in your most-used rooms to help suck up dust before it settles. Choose units with True HEPA filters rather than ionic cleaners, which release ozone, a respiratory irritant.
- Add a plant to every room. Plants naturally absorb common indoor pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde. NASA studies have shown that many plants, including aloes, palms and ferns, can absorb as much as 80 percent of the formaldehyde in a room in 24 hours.
- Keep the humidity in your house between 40 and 50 percent to help lower static electricity, which can cause dust to stick to surfaces and make them harder to clean. A humidifier (cleaned regularly) and leafy indoor plants will both increase humidity levels. Just don’t increase the level to more than 50 percent. This will promote the growth of mold, a far more dangerous condition than dust. You can monitor humidity levels with a cheap hydrometer from a gardening store.
- Keep your windows closed on windy days. Dust enters through doors and windows in the form of pollen, mold spores and airborne pollutants.
Do Air Cleaners Reduce Dusting?
While you’re debating the value of an air cleaner, take care of cleaning your air conditioner, it’s easier than you think.
Ditch Your Carpeting
Ban Shoes Inside (But Offer Slippers)
Your first line of defense should be a coarse-fiber heavy-duty doormat placed outside exterior doors. Inside, have everyone remove shoes at the door. Keep a bench, a shoe rack and a basket of cheap slippers available so no one has to walk around in their stocking feet on chilly floors.
Clean the Air While You Clean the House
Your vacuum’s agitator brush and exhaust whip up dust that eventually settles on the surfaces you’ve just cleaned. Filter out some of that dust before it settles by switching your thermostat to ‘fan on.’ This turns on the blower inside your furnace and filters the air even while the system isn’t heating or cooling. Leave the blower on for about 15 minutes after you’re done cleaning. But don’t forget to switch it back to ‘auto.’ Most blowers aren’t designed to run constantly. Plus: Here are 8 simple furnace fixes you can do yourself.