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
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.
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).
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.
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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