All of us know that chore that never seems to go away. Dusting. It comes in many forms. Be it using a vacuum cleaner to clean your carpet, cleaning windows, dusting the countertops in the kitchen or wiping down your desk before setting out to work. No matter how well you clean your house, after some time dust returns. Have you been ever wondering why? Maybe you even felt guilty that you just can’t get rid of dust once and for all. Or at least for a couple of months. If you did, you shouldn’t. Dust is something as natural as breathing. In this article, we’re taking a closer look on what dust really is.
What is dust?
Simply defined, dust is ‘anything small’. Any small particle of matter. The universe is full of it. If it wasn’t for (cosmic) dust, you would not be reading this article. Dust clouds form planetary systems, some planetary systems have an ability to develop life, some do develop it and here we are, humans, discussing dust. Just giving you a big picture. But let’s go back to something you’re probably more interested in on this blog – house dust.
House dust is primarily composed of human and animal hairs, dirt (outdoor soil minerals, plant pollen, dead human skin cells, dead insect parts, paper fibers, but also airborne bacteria and fungi. What exactly dust at your home is made of, depends very much on where you live and your lifestyle. Someone living in Berlin-Mitte may need to vacuum clean different type of dust than someone from the greener (but closer to the airport) parts of Tegel or Reinickendorf. There is an in L.A. Times discussing the study focused on just that – analyzing the composition of dust samples collected across 1,200 homes in the U.S. (link to the article).
How dust gets into our homes?
Dust gets to hour homes mainly because we live there. We wear cotton clothes. Cotton fabrics are manufactured by weaving together very tiny fibers into yarn. It’s nothing magical – you just weave them together well enough, so they stay together (you can see an amazing, no-nonse video on DYI yarn spinning here). But with time, those tiny fabrics get untangled (ever heard the phrase ‘wear and tear’?). And they fall on the floor feeding the dust.
If you’re on the eccentric side, you decide to just stop wearing clothes at home. Well, you’d be out of luck too. Your skin (specifically, the upper part of the skin layer called epidermis) replaces its cells on average every 4 weeks. Skin cell just get hardened and die off. They are obviously replaced with new skin cells, but the dead skin cells flake off and become a food source of various dust dwellers such as house dust mites (we’ll come back to it later).
Not only your skin is ending up in dust. Your hair is too. And hairs of your pets as well. If you don’t see any hairs on the floor or furniture in your house, rest assured there are some anyway. Just remember that your skin grows tiny hair on your hands, arms legs etc. You can count on them too in feeding the dust.
Soil and air pollution
Once in a while it is nice to open a window. Or take a walk. Such great opportunities to bring more dust to your home. The atmosphere is full of plant pollen, smaller particles of soil and (unfortunately) air pollution. Some of this ‘stuff’ accumulates on your windows making them dirty (we wrote about it in our recent article on new technologies in cleaning industry), some of it drops on the floor in your apartment and some continues cruising through the air waiting to become dust somewhere else. If you never open your windows, you will still bring the dirt in on your shoes, clothes and even skin.
Is dust unhealthy?
In theory, under particular conditions, and in isolation dust would not be unhealthy – remember, it’s just ‘anything small’. When we talk about house dust however, the situation changes. Dust in homes creates a perfect habitats for dust mites. They feed mainly on dead human skin – 1.5g of dead skin (what an average person sheds in a day) can feed around 1 million dust mites (according to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America). These tiny creatures (0.25mm to 0.33mm in size) cannot be seen with the naked eye. Your home may look clean, but they still may be around.
When someone says that they have a ‘dust allergy’ is usually just a term they use to say they are allergic to dust mites. More specifically, to the digestive enzymes found in their droppings. I don’t want to be too graphic, but I think it is important to understand what happens after. Dust mites’ dung disintegrates into powder and people just breath it in. If they happen to be allergic to those enzymes may cause allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy, red or watery eyes, nasal congestion, itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat, cough, facial pressure and pain, swollen, blue-colored skin under their eyes. Among people with asthma, the reaction to dust mite enzymes may contribute to the difficulty in breathing, chest tightness or pain, trouble sleeping (..), coughing or wheezing, bouts of coughing or wheezing that are worsened by a common cold or the flu (source: Mayo Clinic).
If you want to see how the dust mite looks like and get some more information on them, I recommend this short (3.5 min) video on YouTube:
Maybe it’s not dust, but toxic mold?
There is also at least one more thing to be aware off. Dust can be quite easily mistaken for toxic mold. The simple rule to keep in mind is: if you see something that looks like dust, but it sticks to the surface (e.g. under the shelf), you may be looking at toxic mold. What toxic mold is and why it is very bad for you is a topic for a whole new article (or a book), so I won’t cover it here, but it you’re curious, you can find an introductory article on toxic mold on Martha Stewart’s blog.
What are the best ways to get rid of dust?
First of all you should accept that dust will be a part of your life, no matter how much you try to get rid of it. However, there are ways to minimize the amount of dust you have to breathe in in your home. For starters, you should maintain a regular cleaning routine and make appropriate changes to your lifestyle. To find some good tips on a proper way to go about it, you can read an articles on fighting the dust allergy and keeping allergy symptoms at bay with proper cleaning on SPIC AND SPAN.BLOG. I also find the guide to fighting dust mite allergy from East Kent Hospitals University particularly useful.
Keep your home clean with SPIC AND SPAN.
If you’re too busy to maintain the proper cleaning routine yourself, you can get excellent help from SPIC AND SPAN. cleaners. ALLERGIE REINIGUNG. is package specially dedicated to deep cleaning your home, designed to help fight the allergy symptoms in your living environment. For those interested in a regular cleaning plan, REGELMESSIGE REINIGUNG. package, starting at €20/hour per cleaner can be a great choice. These two, and other SPIC AND SPAN. packages can be ordered using our interactive online form on our website or via phone at +49 30 588 494 40. Our excellent customer support team is available 24/7 (both phone and email support).Grete Kuusk
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- “Photo no.1”: for source click here
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