The Best Tool & Trick For Keeping Dust Levels In Check At Home
Anyone who spends a lot of time at home (so, most of us right now) knows how quickly dust seems to accumulate out of nowhere. It's not your imagination: Since dust is largely comprised of dead skin cells, it forms faster when we're stuck indoors.
Aside from being an eyesore, dust can cause allergic responses1 like red, watery eyes; a runny nose; itchy throat; and sneezing as it piles up at home. If you're not sure how much you should be dusting or are unclear about the best dusting protocol (feather dusters—yea or nay?), here's what a toxicologist and a green cleaning expert had to say on the matter.
How often you should be dusting at home.
While a little bit of dust is no big deal, it can become an issue when it piles up and starts to attract mites. "People [with allergies] are generally reacting to dust mites, which are tiny bugs that thrive off of dead skin cells and live in the dust," molecular toxicologist Rhea Mehta, Ph.D., tells mbg. "A severe reaction to dust mites could also trigger asthma2."
There's no universal guideline for how often you should be dusting to prevent dust mites; it depends on your home. Here are some factors that contribute to how prone your environment is to dust:
1. Your foot traffic.
Since dead skin cells contribute to dust, the more people who live in a home, and the more time those people spend inside, the dustier a space will be.
2. Your cleaning tools.
Regularly running air purifiers and vacuums with high-quality HEPA filters is a quick way to clear your home of dust. However, you need to make sure that you're regularly emptying canisters and replacing filters.
3. Your pets.
Sorry to say, four-legged friends are huge contributors to dust at home.
4. Your flooring.
Carpets attract and hold more dust than hard floors do. Plus, it can be difficult to tell whether a carpet is dusty just by looking at it, whereas with hard floors it's more obvious.
5. Your habits.
While household habits like periodically opening windows can make the air in your home feel fresher, it often brings new sources of dust inside, especially if you live in a polluted area. The same goes for shoes: If you wear shoes inside, you're bringing dust and grime home with you.
Let's say someone spends a lot of time at home, has carpeting (that they don't regularly vacuum), lives with lots of furry pets, and loves to leave the windows open. That person will need to be much, much more vigilant about dusting than someone who lives alone, is barely home, has hardwood floors, and runs air filters constantly.
"There's no prescribed time frame," reiterates green cleaning expert Melissa Maker. "Dust really is a visual thing—you'll know when you have to dust because you'll see it. Be attentive to the different areas in your home, and see when they start to get dusty."
What are some areas that usually get dusty at home?
Dust can accumulate in pretty much any spot in your home, but it's more visible in some areas than others. In addition to the obvious spots like on tops of dressers and TV stands, be sure to dust tucked-away nooks like under and behind furniture, in vents and corners, around door and picture frames, and even on plants.
What are the best dusting tools and techniques?
According to Maker, the best household tool for trapping dust is a microfiber cloth. She recommends dampening a cloth with water so that it's ever-so-slightly wet but not so soaked that it will leave behind streaks. (Imagine the feel of a handkerchief after you sneeze into it: That's the dampness level we're going for.)
Once you have your cloth ready, run it over your dusty surface using a firm, sweeping motion that Maker refers to as the "S pattern." Simply move your cloth back and forth from the top corner to the bottom corner, without picking it up as you go. "Using that technique, you're not actually picking anything up. You're letting the cloth absorb all the dust," she says. "The tool is doing the work for you."
Tools like feather dusters and hand brooms, on the other hand, just agitate dust and send it flying everywhere and should be avoided, according to Maker.
It's not a bad idea to follow up your dusting session with a quick vacuuming, just in case any dust from your surfaces did make its way to the floor.
How do I keep my house from getting so dusty in the first place?
"It's nearly impossible to keep dust from forming," says Mehta, "but generally, the cleaner you keep your house, the less dust will settle." Some habits to adopt for a cleaner home environment include:
- Taking your shoes off at the door
- Vacuuming regularly
- Running your exhaust hood every time you cook
- Brushing your pets outside if you can
- Washing fabrics and textiles often
- Maintaining proper humidity levels
- Bringing in some houseplants
If you already have good cleaning habits, you might not need to dust as much as you think you do. When you do see some dust starting to form, hit it with a microfiber cloth, follow it up with a quick vacuuming, and breathe easy.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.