Eliminate Dust for Cleaner Indoor Air!


rarely feel like dusting. Who does? But I am a fan of healthy indoor air, and like it or not, cutting down on dust improves indoor air quality. Better air quality makes breathing easier, especially if you or any members of your family suffer from respiratory problems, such as asthma or allergies. My youngest daughter has struggled with asthma and allergies herself, so I have a vested interest in keeping my house as dust-free as possible.

According to the researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), every home carries its own dust profile, based on where you live, what you cook, if you smoke, whether you own pets, and how many people live with you. You might be surprised at the contents of your dust. Not long ago, we removed the rotting back door frame on our 85-year-old house and released a cloud of coal dust that may have dated back to the 1930s!

Most ordinary dust consists of unpleasant but ordinary stuff:  the dirt on our shoes that comes in from outside, pet hair and dander, carpet and furniture fibers, generations of dust mites, spores from mold or mildew, and the skin flakes and hair we humans shed daily. Here is the really bad news: dust also contains toxic chemicals. In studies reported by the EWG, samples of household dust contained particles of flame retardants, pesticides, and phthalates–substances which are used in plastics and are known hormone-disrupting chemicals. These toxins are so prevalent, in fact, that most of us carry around traces of them in our tissues. Flame retardants have even been found in human breast milk.

Wow, if the preceding paragraph does not motivate you to pick up your dust cloth, I do not know what will! Here are seven ways to reduce both ordinary and toxic dust:

  1. Stop dirt at the source: slip off your shoes when you come inside and keep floor mats by the door to catch water and grime. The majority of dust comes in via the soles of our shoes.
  2. Pay proper attention to your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Have a professional check and clean your furnace and air conditioner once a year. With proper care, they will last longer and run more efficiently – and cost less to operate. Consider having your air ducts cleaned, especially if you have had recent construction in your home or have pets that shed. Ask your professional to recommend a reputable duct-cleaning company.
  3. If dust is not captured, it will continue to circulate throughout your home. One of the best ways to capture dust is also one of the easiest: replace your furnace filters at least once a month when the furnace is in use. Put it on the calendar if you need a nudge. Don’t feel you must buy the most expensive HEPA filters – the less expensive ones work well. My furnace technician prefers the more moderate filters because they allow better air flow while still stopping the dust.
  4. Make sure any venting systems in your bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or central vacuum vent directly outdoors. Keep your windows open when using chemicals for any reason, whether for cleaning or hobbies. This will cut down on possible toxins lingering in your indoor environment.
  5. Dust loves carpeting! Vacuum carpets at least two times a week, especially in high traffic areas. Consider switching to hardwood or laminate flooring.
  6. Buy bedding and window treatments that can be washed in hot water – it’s the best way to rid your home of dust mites. I usually wash my laundry in cold water, but for dust mites I make an exception. I give my sheets a weekly washing in hot water, and at least twice a year I put our curtains, bed skirts, quilts and comforters through a hot wash. While I’m doing that, I dust windowsills and wash the windows as well as clean under the beds.
  7. Consider adopting a simpler decorating style and eliminating clutter. It’s faster and easier to wipe up dust when there are fewer items for it to settle on.

Reduce the sources of your dust, and you will breathe easier – and may be able to spend less time with a dust cloth in your hand. For more tips on healthy indoor air, check out the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/careforyourair.html

Tools for Easy Dusting

Don’t just push the dust around – eliminate it!

Microfiber cloths. Moisten one lightly and use it to dust most surfaces, knick knacks, window sills and mirrors. They work great on electronics. Microfiber cloths grab dust effectively, and you can use them over and over.

Vacuum attachments. Use these in tough-to-reach places like under beds, along floorboards, behind the toilet, around electronics cords and power strips, and on ceiling fan casings. Be sure to switch off the power around appliances and electronics while you dust.

Dust mops. After you sweep the floor, use a dust mop fitted with a microfiber cloth to grab the smallest particles. Follow up with a damp mop.

North State Parent
About North State Parent

North State Parent is a free monthly publication that circulates within five California counties: Butte, Glenn, Shasta, Southern Siskiyou and Tehama. Our pages are filled with family-oriented places to go, services and products geared for women and things to do; a focus on parenting, community, health, education, teens, youth, and much more.

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