House dust – How those things we can’t see can hurt us. And what to do about it

I want to invite you into the world of the microscopic, where things that we can’t normally see can be both beautiful and terrifying. And our focus here is house dust.

Take the humble dust particle, for example – specifically indoor house dust. We don’t normally give dust much thought, perhaps because a dust particle is imperceptible to the naked eye. Except perhaps when it dances in front of a shaft of sunlight. Have you ever wondered why it floats?

Or how can so much house dust accumulate on top of ceiling fans and high ledges? Or why it’s so difficult, well-nigh impossible, to get rid of fine particle dust? If we zoom in, what precisely comprises a house dust particle, and how does it impact human health and well-being?

Let’s take a closer look at house dust

A typical indoor house dust particle contains hairs, skin flakes, clothing and carpet fibres, dirt, insect body parts and waste (including dust mites), pollens, mould spores, animal dander, pathogens, irritants, and contaminants from the products we use, to name a few of the usual suspects. It’s a whole other world.

I was once so enamoured with the idea of becoming a father that I determined to get my environment pristine in preparation for the arrival of our first child, a beautiful baby girl. It was a steep learning curve for me. And learn I did. Dust floats because the very act of dusting and vacuuming actually creates a static electricity charge that attaches to the dust particles when disturbed. This allows the practically weightless dust, contaminant and pollutant particles to seemingly defy the laws of physics and gravity. The really fine dust is thus made airborne whilst we clean and, over time, accumulates in our homes, becoming a playground for microscopic irritants, pollutants and their detestable little pals like dust mites, bacteria and mould.

Surface cleaning versus deep cleaning

But things look clean, right? We know how to spruce things up when the guests come around. But why are we always cleaning? We seem to spend a lot of time cleaning because we’re mainly circulating fine dust, not removing it. Those things that we can’t see can hurt us. And it turns out they can harm us rather seriously, in fact.

I’m not a doctor, but I do have a body. If we can still hear it, the human body is a fine-tuned and truthful instrument for discerning what’s good for us and what’s not so good for us. And not just in the material world, it turns out. When it comes to clean and healthy environments like the beach or a mountain, we feel exhilarated. The opposite is true when entering a dank, dark, dusty home.

Now, most homes, to be fair, are not at either extreme but look good on the surface… until you start to look closely.

And it seems science is catching up with the timeless wisdom of the human body. Such as the emerging link between inhaling toxic mould spores and Alzheimer’s. And we’ve known, thanks to science for some time, of the respiratory and associated illnesses that exposure to dust can cause for those with dust and associated allergies. But what about the rest of us? It takes science time to discover more. But why wait? Prevention is always better than the cure. And with billions spent on treating disease in Australia alone, why is so little spent on preventative measures such as creating healthier indoor environments? The answer, as always, has to do with money.

So what can we do about it?

Well, for the average householder unable or unwilling to invest in the necessary equipment that is required to really go after the dust in one fell swoop like our company 1800 CLEANER are specialists at doing, I suggest the following;

Choose a day and time when you can control any traffic in the house. You want the house to be still with no wind drafts, so close all windows and doors. Ensure no one will disturb the house for two or three hours before you start cleaning. Then, when the time comes, enter the house gently and softly. Wipe all the open surfaces with a warm, damp microfibre cloth and mop the hard floors. You aim to collect much of the fine dust that has settled there without disturbing it. Go slowly. Remember, when you vacuum and dust, you agitate and make that fine dust float. So, this is a stealthy operation and will need to be conducted repeatedly until most dust has been removed.

Removing fine dust slowly over time

The next step is to get up on top of the high cupboards, ceiling fans, etc, to wipe the dust accumulated up there off and out. Start high, finish low. Then, we move the furniture, and we start to vacuum and conduct our normal cleaning procedures. The best way to think about this process is to imagine a pillow with 100,000,000 dust particles inside of it. The first time you bang the pillow against the wall, you might get 50% of the particles out. Then, the second time, 20%, 10%, 5%, and so on, until only a couple of percentage of particles are left, which you will never completely eliminate. It’s like this with the home. The first time, you’ll get a lot of dust, and each time thereafter, a little less until after several cleans, the fine dust levels are minimal.

When used on dust, this law of diminishing returns promotes better sleep, elevated mood and improved health. And invest in mattress protectors and an anti-bacterial air filter in your bedroom. I hope this article has been helpful to you, and if you have any specific questions or require more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Thanks for reading, and please share.

Michael Sweet.

Like the post? Share it on Social
4 replies
  1. Kate
    Kate says:

    Hi. Great article! I have slight dust allergies and am wondering if you could help me out? I have uneven and untreated wood surfaces as our bed head and am wondering the best way to remove the dust from here. The cloths/duster I use either gets stuck on the surface or it doesn’t remove the dust properly. Looking forward to your tips. K

    • Michael Sweet
      Michael Sweet says:

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for your question and especially for being the first person to post on our new blog. It’s interesting how such a simple question can require such a complex answer as yours does.

      So if we were to zoom in on the surface as per the pic you supplied it would appear quite porous under a microscope; we would see that the surface appears to be made up of valleys and ridges with jagged edges that not only will collect fine dust and microscopic irritants in the valleys but also the jagged edges will catch any of the fibres they come into contact with such as those of microfibre dusters and cleaning clothes.

      So what to do? I see three options in order of preference as listed below;

      Option 1 – I would try a hard brush vacuum tool on my vacuum cleaner (hopefully it has a HEPA filter) and see how that goes.

      Option 2 – I would use my duster quite vigorously a few centimetres away from the surface to create a strong wind gust that will dislodge the fine dust and other particles into the air which you will then need to deal with in one of two ways; firstly would be to have the doors and windows closed and be running an antibacterial HEPA (high efficiency particulate filter) and then afterwards vacuum the floors or secondly/alternatively to try create a through-draft by opening specific doors/windows in order to ensure the free floating particles are carried outside.

      Option 3 – Is the option of last resort which involves washing the bedhead with warm water and one of the two products we use which I’d recommend or perhaps a blend of both together; Ecolove (either product A or B). A for actually cleaning the surface with its citris acid all natural base or B as it has an Anti-Mould Inhibitor. Both can be purchased here;

      So I would avoid using any product with toxic ingredients. Now when using this method you need a white scourer and warm water to literally wash the surface liberally and the important thing is drying it. You won’t be able to manually dry it so be prepared to either make sure the room is really warm and ideally have direct sunlight do the job for you. What you don’t want is for the wet surface to not be dried effectively which can culminate in potential growth of mould which is potentially an even bigger problem and a tricky one to resolve.

      So Kate you really need to discern the nature of that surface, is it sealed or unsealed and can you dry it quickly before contemplating option 3 which will be most effective in one way and potentially problematic in another.

      I hope that all makes sense and please do drop us a line to let us know how it all goes. Best of luck,

      Warmly. Michael.

    • Michael Sweet
      Michael Sweet says:

      It all starts with desire Padawan! And I can see you have an abundance of this main ingredient and so with a sprinkle of time and practise I see you being a dust-master in your future!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *