Dust 101 and 102

Dust, dust, everywhere.  Just when you think you got it all – think again.  Here are some things basic and not so basic that can help you in your battle with the dust bunnies.
 
Here are the basics: Vacuum carpets and shake out rugs weekly. Wall-to-wall carpeting is a world-class dust-collector, and it launches particles back into the air every time you walk across it (Fig. B). It’s virtually impossible to clean. Vacuuming helps, but it’s like trying to suck up all the leaves from a forest. It’s easier to clean area rugs, because you can shake or beat them outside or periodically send them to the cleaners. Frequent vacuuming of busy pathways won’t eliminate dust, but it’ll cut down the volume. And it will reduce the sand particles that abrade the carpet fibers and cause them to break down. Regularly vacuum furniture cushions and pillows. Like carpeting, they create, collect and spew dust into the air whenever you sit down on them.

Clean bedrooms weekly, since you probably spend more time there than in any other room in the house. Skin flakes especially collect in the bedding, and bedding and clothing contribute fabric dust too. Regular laundering will help keep the dust down. Alert: If you suffer from allergies, bedrooms rank at the top of the list for dust control.

Article compliments of the Family Handyman

They’re easy to ignore, so clothes closets collect dust too. Clothing steadily sheds filaments, and every time you open and shut the door and pull out clothing and shoes, air turbulence launches that dust into the air. Dust particles work their way downward, so a closet floor that’s free of shoes and other clutter makes for quick, more effective vacuuming.

We haven’t mentioned the most obvious dust collection spots—for example, under beds and furniture, and behind the stove and refrigerator. It’s true that dust settles in these areas out of sight, but once it’s settled, it usually sits there undisturbed. Although it pays to clean those areas periodically, they won’t contribute much visible dust to active living areas of your home. Clean them regularly, however, if you have allergies, because dust mites can thrive there.

Stop secondary dust sources

You probably blame the kids, but everyone constantly tracks in dirt from the outdoors. Most drops off within 15 ft. of an entry door, so a rug just inside the door and a mat outside will collect most dirt right there at the entry.

Hair and other dust from dogs, cats and birds will spread throughout a house. No control strategy works well. If you have allergies, you might have to find a new home for your pets.

Dust mites live in almost every home, because they like a warm, humid environment with lots of skin flakes to eat. They’d be disgusting if they weren’t so tiny, an almost invisible speck 250 microns in size. They sometimes proliferate in bedding and other moist areas and contribute their outer shells and other debris to the general dust level. In most cases they aren’t a problem and are easily controlled by laundering bedding and vacuuming regularly.

However, dust mites often cause allergies. If a physician determines that you have a dust mite allergy, simple control methods include laundering bedding in 130-degree water and maintaining a relative humidity level below 60 percent through air conditioning or dehumidification. The dust mites will soon dry up and die. For persistent problems, your physician will direct you to specialized (and more expensive) dust mite control methods, like special bedding, carpet removal, and higher efficiency vacuums. (One mail-order source for these products is Allergy Control Products, Inc. Call 800-255-3749—800-255-ALLERGY—for a free catalog.)

Mold and mildew release thousands of tiny spores that contribute to localized dust, create bad odors and sometimes cause allergic reactions. Mold and mildew are microscopic fungi that live in huge colonies in damp areas. The colonies look like dark smudges and can be found in corners, on the grout in bathroom tile and especially under carpeting in damp areas like basements. Control mildew and mold by eliminating the moisture supply by such means as dehumidification, exhaust fans in bathrooms, better foundation drainage, and sealing concrete floors or removing carpeting. You can kill existing mold and mildew by washing the area with a mixture of 1 part liquid bleach to 10 parts water (wear plastic gloves and eye protection).

Finally, keep an eye out for black soot stains on walls, the TV screen or the carpet under doors. They signal a dangerous combustion leakage from kerosene heaters, the water heater, furnace or fireplace.

 

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