a hand cleaning dust off a wooden surface with a yellow sponge

All About Dust

April 1, 2024

From scrubbing toilets to vacuuming bedrooms, cleaning the house can feel like an overwhelming job. Focusing on one, high-priority task can help, and controlling dust is a great place to start.

Adam Makkawi, DO, an expert in preventative medicine, says people often underestimate the impact of dust on our health.

“A dust-free environment is important to maintaining good health, especially for people with respiratory issues, allergies or sensitivities. Efforts to reduce dust and improve indoor air quality can have significant benefits for health, well-being, and enhance overall quality of life.”

Here, Dr. Makkawi, a family medicine doctor, explains the impact of dust on your family’s wellness, and smart ways to keep it under control.

Why is dust bad for health?

Household dust is mostly made up of human skin, hair, microscopic creatures, and dead bugs. 

Dust can also accumulate chemicals, contaminants (including harmful lead), and mold inside the home.

Its small size means it can be inhaled and potentially evoke an immune reaction, asthma flare, or respiratory infection. These may be minor or major, depending on the individual. 

The body's response to inhaled particles depends, to a great extent, on where the particle settles. For example, irritant dust that settles in the nose may lead to rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membrane. If the particles reach the larger air passages, airway inflammation can result. 

What are dust mites? 

Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in carpets, bedding, curtains, upholstery, and stuffed animals. The allergen from dust mites settles in dust around the house. Dust mites do not bite or sting, but they can trigger allergies and asthma, causing sneezing, runny nose, and itching.

In addition to covering mattresses and pillows, it is important to limit exposure to dust mites in other areas of the house. Dusting with a damp cloth and removing carpets for those with significant dust mite allergy. Stuffed animals can be washed and stored in closed plastic bags and rotated every 1-2 weeks. 

  • Remove your shoes at the door, or at least wipe your shoes on a mat
  • Instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, choose easier-to-clean surfaces, like hardwood, especially in bedrooms
  • Keep humidity in the home at less than 50% 
  • Use a HEPA filter (they significantly reduce dust load)
  • Clean with a HEPA filter vacuum
  • Dust with a damp cloth or mop
    • Anyone with a dust allergy should wear a mask while dusting. It can take over two hours for dust to settle after cleaning.
  • To reduce exposure to dust mites, cover mattresses and pillows with allergy and/or dust mite covers
    • Wash bedding and towels every week in hot water (at least 120 degrees F)—vital for anyone with a dust allergy
  • Don’t forget to clean toys, such as plush animals children might sleep with or anything a child may put in their mouth

Finally, says Makkawi, "We encourage people to assess their own health needs, and talk to their primary care provider, to create a more pleasant and healthier indoor living or work environment."