Dust Allergy? 7 Smart Strategies to Get Rid of the Dust in Your House

More than 90 percent of household dust comes from people and fabric: tiny flakes of skin, barely visible fibers that float on the slightest air currents and settle on every surface in your house. In a spot sheltered from air movement, the particles stay put. In other areas, they constantly rise and settle as doors swing open and people pass by. Even if fighting dust is a battle you can never completely win, you can work to eliminate it as much as possible to avoid triggering dust allergy reactions.

By Gary Wentz
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    Organize your closets to keep dust to a minimum.

    Closets are a dust haven, full of tiny fibers from clothes, towels and bedding. And every time you open the door, you whip up an invisible dust storm. You can't prevent clothes from shedding fibers, but you can make closets easier to keep clean, which will vastly cut down on dust. Box or bag items on shelves. Clear plastic containers are best—they lock fibers in and dust out and let you see what's inside. When you dust, they're easy to pull off the shelves and wipe clean. As for coats you wear only in winter? They shed fibers year-round; slip garment bags or large garbage bags over them to help contain fibers and keep the clothes themselves from becoming coated with dust. Finally, keep closet floors clear. If the floor is cluttered, chances are you'll just bypass it while vacuuming, and dust bunnies will start to collect. But a wide-open floor adds only a few seconds to the vacuuming chore. And a wire shelf lets you clear all those shoes off the floor without losing storage space.

    Change your bedding every week.

    Your cozy bed is a major dust distributor, and that dust can multiply like bunnies if you don't keep on it. One solution? Your bedding collects skin flakes, sheds its own fibers, and sends out a puff of dust every time you roll over. To minimize the fallout, wash sheets and pillowcases weekly. Items that aren't machine washable don't need weekly trips to the dry cleaners—just take blankets and bedspreads outside and shake them. You can smack some of the dust out of pillows, but for a thorough cleaning, wash or dry-clean them.

    Clean the air while you clean the house.

    All vacuums whip up dust with their "agitator" (the cylindrical brush that sweeps the carpet) or blowing exhaust stream. That dust eventually settles on the surfaces you've just cleaned. You can filter out some of that dust before it settles by switching your thermostat to "fan on." This turns on the blower inside your furnace and filters the air even while the system isn't heating or cooling. Leave the blower on for about 15 minutes after you're done cleaning. But don't forget to switch back to "auto." Most blowers aren't designed to run constantly.

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    Use the right cleaning supplies.

    The key is to capture dust, not just spread it around, which is exactly what feather dusters and dry rags will do. Damp rags or disposable cloths that attract and hold dust with an electrostatic charge (like Swiffer or Grab-it) work much better. Cloths that attract dust with oils or waxes also work well but can leave residue on furniture. However: Use vacuum attachments only on surfaces that are hard to dust with a cloth, such as rough surfaces and intricate woodwork, because the exhaust stream from a vacuum whips up a dust storm.

    Use the right vacuum.

    Suction alone isn't enough to pull much dust out of carpet. For good results, you need a vacuum with a powerful agitator (the brush that sweeps the rug). When it comes to wood, tile or vinyl flooring, your best choice is a canister vacuum without an agitator (or with an agitator that can be turned off).

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    Give rugs and cushions a beating.

    Carpets are a huge dust reservoir, since all its fibers absorb dust like a giant sponge and sends it airborne every time you take a step. Vacuuming at least once week—sometimes more for allergy sufferers—can help, but taking carpets outside for a good beating is an overlooked necessity. Drape them over a fence or clothesline and beat them with a broom or tennis racket. Give your cushions the same treatment. Upholstery fabric not only sheds its own fibers but also absorbs dust that settles on it, so you raise puffs of dust every time you sit down. Beat cushions in the backyard or use slipcovers and give them a good shake. If you want to eliminate upholstery dust, buy leather- or vinyl-covered furniture.

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    Upgrade your furnace filter.

    Bust dust by tackling its mode of transport—air. If your home has a heating or cooling distribution system, this helps control dust by filtering the air, and having the proper filter for this system can make a noticeable improvement in everyday dust settlement. But most visible dust settles on floors and furniture before it can enter the heating/cooling system, so no filter will completely eliminate dusting chores. Electrostatic filters connected to your ductwork are the priciest option, running up to $1,000 for a professional installation. An electrostatic filter may be worth the expense if you have allergies because it traps particles like a magnet. But if you just want to reduce dust buildup, it might be smarter to spend around $100 per year on disposable filters that you can change frequently. A fiberglass filter traps only the largest dust particles, while pleated filters also carry an electrostatic charge that attracts and holds dust and pollen. Make sure to change it as soon as you notice significant dust build up, as a dirty filter can damage your furnace.

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    Your Comments

    • Karen-R

      Well, having built a new house

      with a built-in vacuum system that sucks everything to an outside canister AND installed special electrostatic filters to purify the air as it passes through….I really thought that I’d have very little dust in the new home. Oh, so very mistaken was I. We now had lots of windows that allowed me to see the dust all over. It was driving me crazy.

      At first, I thought that it must be
      the rugs so I constantly vacuumed and shook them out. But still found lots of
      dust the day after a major cleaning.

      Next, decided that it was our couch,
      pillows and throws. Beat the heck out of them. Even took off the cushion covers
      and shook them out. Vacuumed all couch and seat areas. STILL got major dust the
      day after each major cleaning. By then, I was really frustrated until….

      One morning as I walked past a ray
      of sunshine, I just happened to turn around to look at something behind me. I
      was still walking slowly as I looked back. What I noticed was dust flying off
      of ME!!!! Ugggghhhh! I had just put on fresh clothes!

      Ok, so forgive me for the following
      details but it is the crux of the dust issue! I carefully pulled off one
      article of clothing at a time and gently shook (in a mild up, then down action)
      each over the ray of light. Unbelievable!!! From each and every article of
      clothing came a BLIZZARD of dust falling quickly to the floor. When I turned
      the clothing inside out and shook, the blizzard was even worse.

      I went to my dryer and pulled out
      freshly washed (with and extra rinse cycle!) items and shook them. SAME
      BLIZZARD! Even my “clean” clothes were smothered in dust! I’ve always
      heard that 90% of dust was from dead skin cells but I thought that washing and
      drying my clothes actually “washed” most of it out. Not so, my
      friends………

      Now, I’m realizing what has to be
      done and it was a little daunting at first but please hear me out as I have had
      great success with this for 2 years now…

      I couldn’t do this all myself so, to
      enlist the help of my family, I first had to prove it to each of them (of
      course, by having them shake their very own clothing!). Next step….

      Take your main set of clothing for
      each person outside and shake them inside and out. I pop them first and then do
      the up and down motion NUMEROUS times. It helps if each person does their own
      clothing and that it’s done in the morning or late afternoon so that they can
      see the “blizzards” of their own dead skin cells. My kids seemed to
      become more aware and understanding of why they need to help with cleaning our
      house. Now, one more big step….

      Take out ALL bedding items —
      mattress pads, sheets, blankets, pillows, zipper cases and outer pillow cases —
      and shake or beat the heck out of them. Be sure to vacuum your mattress before
      making up your bed again. Lastly, a few other details…

      Don’t forget your cloth sofas and
      chairs and throw rugs. Take out the removable cushions, pillows and throws and
      shake or beat each one. It’s also a good idea to vacuum the sofas and chairs.
      As mentioned in the article, put your heating or a/c unit on Fan for a few
      hours to help catch floating dust.

      Really, this took us a couple of
      weeks to get it all done but I stuck with it until everything had been purged
      of all the built-up dust. I honestly believe that your clothing, sheets and
      throw blankets are the biggest culprits.

      As for routine maintenance, I still
      shake out all couch throws and small rugs every week or so. As for our
      clothing, I shake high use items out periodically. Ok, I also cheat a little
      too. I have a separate laundry room with a rug that covers most of the floor.
      Before I put some items in the wash, I turn them inside out and shake them so
      the dust falls and is captured by the rug. Then I vacuum the rug weekly and
      periodically shake it out.

      As for sheets, though, I almost
      always shake them outside before washing. Honestly, once we got the big jobs
      done. It has taken very little to maintain. Slowly, within 6 months to a year,
      you’ll see it building up again. So, at your leisure, you can tackle the big
      items one at a time and you’ll hopefully be dust-free again.

      Best of luck to all and hopefully others can
      offer additional ideas that might help make this “herculean dust
      monster” disappear.

    • Andy Merrett

      “You can filter out some of that dust before it settles by switching your thermostat to “fan on.” This turns on the blower inside your furnace and filters the air even while the system isn’t heating or cooling

      Very American. I’ve read this so many times. British thermostats generally don’t have this. We don’t use “furnaces”. We use boilers.

      • koz

        I’m canadian and wasn’t even sure about that.

    • Richard John

      One of the place where dust accumulates is carpet. However carpet makes the room more beautiful but it is safe place for dust to gather. Usually we do not clean carpet regularly, even some of us wipe our feet on it. As dust stays inside carpet so we can not see them, but who are sensitive to it gets allergy. Particularly kids as sometime they sleep on it or touch the carpet and insert the fingers in mouth.
      We can avoid hazards if we follow few rules as follows,

      1. Clean Carpet daily with vacuum cleaner.
      2. Wash with mild detergent soap if permitted at least twice a month.
      3. Remove carpet and clean the floor thoroughly at least once a week.
      4. Do not allow kids to pick food from carpet.
      5. Avoid synthetic or particular material made carpet if you have allergy with it.

      • James F

        That is pretty unreasonable having to clean it daily and wash weekly.

        • I Perry

          You see, that’s exactly why you are on this site. Simply because you believe cleaning your carpet weekly and vacuuming daily is unreasonable.

          • nalani

            I have a 11×9 area rug in my room over tile and I vacuum daily but the dust in my room is unbelievable. My rug is too big to wash weekly, Id have to move all of my very heavy furniture to even take it out. My house is about 70 yrs old. I live on a main street and always have my windows open bcuz it gets really hot. Any other suggestions???

        • frustrated

          I have always vacuumed every single day.

        • Brandon McDonald

          Try Roomba from iRobot. I have a dust allergy and even though half of my 4 bedroom house is carpeted, he vacuums the whole house every 2 days with no extra effort.

      • Andy Merrett

        I’d love to see you removing your carpet every week. CARPET, not rugs.