Why Household Dust Matters To Your Health
By Marilee Nelson |
Dust exists in every single home throughout the world, regardless of its location or how clean it’s kept. That’s because it comes (largely) from humans and the household items we surround ourselves with. However, unless you are dust-sensitive, have an allergy, or are a really “enthusiastic cleaner” you likely don’t think much about it day to day. But believe it or not, common household dust should be taken much more seriously. It harbors a variety of contaminants, pathogens and allergens which can silently undermine our health and contribute to a variety of chronic diseases overtime.
What Exactly Is Household Dust?
Common household dust is made up of about 50% human skin cells (!) and other unsavory particles like dust mites, dead insect pieces, clothing fibers, microplastics, bacteria, hair, soil and pollen. As mildly grotesque as this all sounds, these particles are actually the more harmless components of common household dust.
Research has shown that in addition to the biological contaminants previously mentioned, dust also contains the following toxins.
- Heavy metals including mercury, lead, chromium and cadmium. Heavy metal exposure, either acute or over a period of time, can cause a variety of health problems including cancer, nervous system disorders, brain problems and childhood developmental issues to name but a few. These can come from paint in old houses, pesticides and sources outside the home such as dirt, soil and industrial air pollution.
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) potentially asthma inducing, endocrine-disrupting, organ-damaging, carcinogenic chemicals found in fragranced products, cleaning and personal care products, aerosol sprays, paint, hobby products and other building materials.
SVOCs (Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds) are odorless chemicals that ride on dust. Some examples of SVOCs include pesticides, phthalates found in soft plastics, BPA, flame retardants, non-stick finishes/fluorinated chemicals found in cookware, outdoor gear and even upholstery, biocides such as parabens and isothiazolinone chemicals found in building materials and household products. These insidious poisons have been linked to cancer, reproductive health, thyroid and endocrine disruption, asthma, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, fetal and child development and neurologic dysfunction.
Who knew how dirty dust really was?!
The good news is two-fold: there are easy ways to prevent excess household dust from taking over and we’ll teach you how to remove it safely and effectively.
Simple Ways To Prevent Household Dust
Like we said, it’s impossible to completely eradicate dust from your home, so your best defense is prevention.
6 ways to prevent excess dust at home:
1. Dust frequently - dusting at least once a week using the suggestions below will significantly reduce dust levels in your home.
2. Change your return air filters regularly. We aim for once every 1-3 months depending on the season. We highly recommend filtrete air filters because they have no antibacterial or chemical treatments.
3. Consider a home air purifier, especially in your bedrooms. To learn more, check out How to Choose the Best Home Air Purifier.
You can also try making your own inexpensive air purifier using a 20 inch box fan and a 20 x 20 x 1 Filtrete air filter for dust and/or a fine particle removal. Turn the fan on, just drop the filter on the back of the fan, and the suction from the fan will hold the filter without tape or mechanical fasteners. For those who would like a more complicated DIY project that filters even very fine particles called PM2.5, as good or better than some of the most expensive units, check out these three links for instruction.
4. Declutter. The less “stuff” you have in your home, the less dust you’ll have and the less dust can accumulate on hard-to-clean surfaces (like hundreds of knick knacks!).
6. If you have a choice, choose non-toxic hard floors over carpet. This won’t be practical for everyone, but carpet is a dust-magnet and a dust-creator, thus hard floors are preferable. If you already have carpet, don’t fret! We’ll talk about the best way to keep that clean next.
The 3 Most Effective Ways To Remove Dust From Your Home
Few of us were taught how to “dust” in a way that actually removes dust versus just redistributing the majority of it. Hint: it should never, EVER involve a feather duster! Here’s how to remove dust effectively every time:
Option 1: HEPA Vacuum
HEPA vacuums that have a certified sealed system are the only vacuums that remove 100% of the dust and contaminants they suck up. Without a sealed HEPA filter, you’ll be redistributing dust and toxins every time you vacuum. HEPA vacuums are typically a greater investment than standard vacuums, but given the health benefits it’s definitely worth considering as your budget allows. You can find our recommendations for HEPA vacuums in: Hepa Vacuums: Indoor Air Pollution’s Worst Enemy (& How To Choose One For Your Home)
These are excellent for removing dust from carpets, rugs, and curtains and can be used with specific attachments on all types of surfaces.
Option 2: Microfiber Cloths And Branch Basics Streak-free
If you don’t have a HEPA vacuum, not a problem! Microfiber cloths, and mops are fantastic because they attract and trap dust versus moving it around. They can be made even more effective by wetting with Branch Basics Streak Free (which contains just 1 drop of Branch Basics concentrate diluted in a whole spray bottle of water) to prevent the dust from flying away when you wipe. You can also use our All Purpose or Bathroom cleaner depending on the surface. Streak Free is your safest bet on televisions, tablets, screens, and other tech tools.
Option #3: Disposable Unscented Swiffer/Microfiber Dusters And Wipes
Disposable unscented swiffers and other generic unscented dry disposable wipes do a great job at trapping and eliminating dust. Remember to buy fragrance-free and use Branch Basics versus a chemical cleaning solution!
Less Dust Means Better Air Quality!
It’s so empowering to understand how dust can impact your family's immunity and wellbeing, and that there are easy ways to reduce it! Follow these steps and you’ll be rewarded with better indoor air quality and health for years to come.
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.