Dust, Busted: Tips for Keeping a Hypoallergenic Home

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Is there anything in the house more irritating than dust? Building up on the furniture, covering the blinds, floating through the air looking for a surface to sully, dust just collects and collects, and no matter how often you sweep or vacuum, it keeps coming back. In my house, battling dust is like trying to dry a car in a rainstorm—it feels like an insurmountable task that I’ll never fully accomplish. Sometimes it even feels pointless to try. 


My personal vendetta against dust is complicated by the fact that I’m allergic to it, so when I slack off, I pay for my laziness in sneezes. Dust is a part of life, like taxes, in-laws, and traffic, but there are ways to protect your home more effectively and clean it more efficiently. 


It’s in the Air, It’s Everywhere
There’s no way to eliminate dust from your home, because dust is made up of things from inside the house itself. About 90 percent of household dust is from the tiny flakes of skin that humans shed, the miniscule fibers shed by our clothes, upholstery, and fabric, the dirt and particulates we track into the house, dust mites and their feces, and pet dander. Dust can even include particles of pollen, food, mold, sand, and insulation. If your home contains a fireplace, is located in an arid or hot climate, has an old heating system or inefficient air filtration, or is full of clutter, you could be at risk for larger-than-average volumes of dust. Homes in neighborhoods where there is a lot of construction and few grassy yards can have extra dust, as can homes without central heat or air conditioning, especially in cities, since these homes tend to have windows open more often. Since moving entirely or replacing the ductwork are probably not options for most people, defeating dust comes down to minimizing your home’s exposure to it, as well as knowing how to properly eliminate the dust that inevitably makes it through. 


Proper Prevention


  • Dust settles in beds, couches, and in any upholstered furniture, and each time you sit down or roll over, you release a cloud of it. Keep mattresses and pillows encased in a zippered cover, and change the bed linens at least every week.
  • Since clothing sheds tiny fibers, keep closet floors clear for easy vacuuming. Items on the floor will only collect dust and allow it to hide. Keep closet doors closed when not in use.
  • Keep rarely-worn clothing and rarely-used linens in boxes or zippered bags.
  • Get rid of carpets, especially shag carpets. Most allergists recommend hardwood floors, linoleum, and tile as the best choices for those who are sensitive to dust. Area rugs are better than wall-to-wall carpeting, but you must clean them regularly.
  • Dust collects around books, magazines, and items on shelves and tables, so invest in a curio cabinet with doors or a closed book case instead of open shelves.
  • Avoid home decorations that can’t easily be wiped clean, such as dried flowers, or anything made with silk, straw, wicker, or tapestry.
  • An air purifier can be helpful, but most units are only powerful enough to filter the air in a single room. If you can’t afford to outfit each room in the house, use the filter in bedrooms or computer rooms, where dust is most likely to be a hazard.
  • If your home has a central heating unit, invest in high-quality disposable filters with an electrostatic charge, which attracts dust. Change them every three months, or more often if you have pets.
  • If you own cats, switch to a non-clay litter, which will produce less dust. Brush and groom all pets regularly to minimize shedding and dander. 


Cleaning Is Control


  • Feather dusters and dry cloths only spread dust around. Use damp rags or cloths with an electrostatic charge (like Swiffer or a dryer sheet) to capture and hold it. Dusting products remove the static from furniture, making the dust less likely to cling to these surfaces.
  • For wood or tile floors, a canister vacuum with a HEPA filter can eliminate dust, but carpeting usually needs an upright vacuum, which has an agitator to churn up dust from carpet fibers. Don’t forget to mop up the traces a vacuum leaves behind.
  • When cleaning, don’t forget the areas underneath furniture, in the coils behind the stove and refrigerator, on and behind Venetian blinds, and near the CPU fan of computers—all areas that attract and collect dust.
  • Wash sheets, draperies, blankets, and towels in water that’s at least 130º F to kill dust mites.
  • Even if you vacuum your rugs, take them outside several times a year and beat them, which can release more grime than regular cleanings. 


Dust can’t be completely eradicated, but the next-best thing is to minimize its impact by taking these simple precautions and following these cleaning tips. They don’t ensure that you’ll never have to buy another can of Pledge, but they might prevent you from getting attacked by dust bunnies every time you peek under the bed.

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