Why Is My House So Dusty? (Causes of Dust)

Dust has way of collecting on bookshelves, which is appropriate given how often it pops up in literature.

We find it in the English Burial Service’s famous edict “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” – itself based on the King James Version of Genesis 3:19. Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is known for its funeral song, culminating in the refrain that “Golden lads and girls all must As chimney sweepers come to dust.” Following in that same bleak tone is T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which famously declares “I will show you fear in a handful of dust,” which inspired the title of Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant take on disaster stemming from domestic pettiness, A Handful of Dust.

So, aside from perhaps making you dust off an old book or two, what can we get from this?

Namely that dust, like literary references, has a way of piling up over time. Unlike those great literary masterpieces, however, dust piling up in your home is far from impressive. Sure, a touch of dust here and there might not portend the apocalyptic endings found in Eliot or the funereal tone of Shakespeare – but in her poem, “Relatives: A Hate Song,” the ever-sharp-witted Dorothy Parker excoriates relatives “eternally searching your house for dust.”

And who can’t relate to that?

No one wants to experience domestic pettiness or homemaking fear at a house full of dust.

Still, the question remains – why is my house so dusty, and what can i do to clean it up again?

Why Is There So Much Dust In My House?

A Window Into This Madness

One of the most obvious yet still common ways that dust can build up in a home is by simply allowing it the chance to get into your home in the first place by leaving the window open.

That might seem like it presents an easy alternative – simply close the window, and you’ll be dust-free, right? Well, if you think that way, congratulations on living in what must be a wonderfully temperate area. Those of us living in hotter climates know full well that leaving the window open in summer is sometimes the only thing standing between you and having a stifling hot oven for a home interior, unless you want to spend a fortune running the AC 24/7.

The matter of dusty buildup in the home via windows is a bit more complicated than that, however. After all, the whole reason that you open your windows in the first place is to try and let some of that stuffy hot air out and get some nice cross-ventilation going. As such, while it’s true that that ventilation can bring some dust into your home, it can also just as easily lead it to become ventilated out of your home as well.

In fact, if you know where a buildup of dust is beforehand, you could conceivably work to get some fans and dusting tools in place, open a window, and try and get rid of that dust straight out the window. That being said, you’ll want to make sure that you do this carefully and when there’s little to no breeze – all it takes is one small gust to send all or that collected dust flying back in all over your interior.

Synthetic Upholstery

One of the big questions that every homeowner has to face is what type of materials they want to utilize in their interior decorating. If you opt for synthetic materials, there is some evidence to suggest that you may be battling uphill when it comes to trying to get rid of dusty buildup in your home. Whether or not synthetic materials actually “cause” dust in the home, some homeowners have reported that it can be harder for them to dust furnishings that utilize synthetic materials. This may be due in part to the propensity for dust to get trapped in the small fibers used by such furnishings. By contrast, furnishings made of solid wood or stone are often far easier to dust.

Renovation Woes

It is the age-old concern of homeowners looking to renovate their homes. You know that you want to pull off a major remodeling job, and you are sure that it’ll all be worth it in the end. At the same time, no one wants to deal with a mess on their hands, and even when taking the best and most thorough precautions, nothing has the potential to kick up a cloud of dust and cause a mess quite like a major renovation project. If this problem sounds familiar, there are a few steps you can take. First, you’ll want to take all of the usual precautions. Take care when you work to lay out protective paper and plastic wrap so as to protect your walls, furnishings, and floors from the dust clouds that may ensue. In addition, ventilation and vacuuming are your friends here. While you hardly want the weather outside to interfere with your project, making sure that a space is well-ventilated can not only help get some of that dust outside, but can likewise help protect you from inhaling massive clouds of that same dust – never a good idea for your health, to say the least. Vacuuming afterward is another essential step. Take the time to go over each area with care.

Carpeting Concerns

Speaking of vacuuming, it too has the potential, along with your carpet, to be the source of some of your dust-ridden woes. That’s because carpeting has the potential to trap dust beneath its surface, making it that much harder to get rid of. Remember that problem we had with synthetic furnishings and their dust-trapping fibers? Carpeting can magnify that problem on a house-wide scale.

As such, when you have a carpeted interior, there are some extra precautions that you’ll want to take in order to safeguard yourself from dust problems. First, when you have a carpeted floor, regular vacuuming becomes more important than ever. You’ll typically want to be sure to vacuum at least once to twice a week. This is especially important if you also have pets that shed a lot of hair. In such a situation, it’s important to invest in a pet hair vacuum cleaner.

Any less frequent than that, and you risk a massive buildup of dust in your carpeting, and all the problems that can entail. That being said, you’ll want to get familiar with the particular nature and needs of your carpeting. Different carpeted surfaces have different needs when it comes to the frequency of your vacuuming as well as the type of vacuum cleaner you use.

For example, if you have large-scale wall-to-wall carpeting, chances are good that you’ll also want to make use of a steam cleaner. These specialized cleaners can give your carpeting a deeper cleaning treatment than is typically possible with a standard vacuum cleaner. This is essential for getting rid of buildups of dust as well as mold, mites, and other nasty contaminants that might otherwise accrue beneath the surface, gradually transforming your carpeting into a repository of filth.

For that very reason, carpeting can be especially problematic for people who suffer from allergies. If you or your family have allergies that are particularly severe, you may want to consider getting hardwood or vinyl flooring instead for at least some of your home.

Your AC Isn’t A-OK

Then, there’s the question of your air conditioning unit. If you have a buildup of dust in your home, a faulty AC system is often one of the key culprits. After all, it is your AC which is primarily responsible for making sure that your home’s air supply is as clean as possible. If it is anything less than that, you might well have an AC problem on your hands. Some of the most common AC problems can include:

  • Fans breaking
  • Valves breaking
  • Electrical systems failing
  • Filters becoming filthy

It is this final one which is one of the most common culprits of lowered air quality and dusty buildup in the home. As such, you will want to make sure to check your AC filter often. If it is starting to show even the slightest signs of becoming filthy, go ahead and change it. The last thing you need is dusty air circulating about your house.

Double, Double, Air Duct Trouble

Doubling down on those AC woes, it’s also possible that you might have a major problem with your air duct area. Even if your AC filters are perfectly fine, if you have an excess of dust in your air ducts, it can circulate about the house. What’s more, if the buildup is especially bad, it can even interfere with or outright break the fan, leading to even more severe dust buildup and air circulation problems. If this is the case, you’ll need to get your air ducts cleaned out as quickly as possible.

A buildup of dust doesn’t have to lead to all that domestic pettiness and portents of doom. There’s a reason the English Burial Service and Shakespeare reference dust with funerals – namely, that it’s part of the inevitable circle of life. The key is to understand that no matter what you do, dust will at some point settle in your home.

It’s knowing how to calmly and effectively address buildups when they do occur that can ensure your own story of dust in your home has a happy ending.