The amount of dust that will enter your living space is heavily dependent on the volume of dust being generated outdoors, but it’s probably disingenuous to say that the number one rule in dust control is to choose to live in an area not known for dust. However, living in a dry, windswept, flat rural area is not the answer if you suffer from a dust allergy or hate to see a film of dirt on your furniture and floors. Similarly, dust is a fact of life for anyone living near a busy road or in a ground floor apartment in the inner city. Beachside homeowners will be familiar with a particularly gritty variety of dust, the main components of which are sand and salt. For the rest of us, dust is a manageable problem that can be controlled by observing a few simple rules.
Maintain moisture levels
Have you ever noticed that when it’s rainy outside the dust doesn’t seem to develop indoors? This is because when outdoor surfaces are humid the dust on them dissolves with the moisture in the atmosphere and gets washed away into drains and waterways or simply settles into the soil. In these conditions there is less likelihood of dust particles becoming airborne and entering your home. So try to keep the immediate surroundings of your house fairly damp. It may not be practical to hose your yard every day, and it may not even be permitted in areas where drought-induced water restrictions are in place, but your plants will thank you for a regular drink and the moist surfaces adjacent to your home will produce less dust and help to absorb any particles blown in from further away.
Keep out wind and drafts
On warm, sunny days when there is little wind it’s a great idea to fling open doors and windows and let fresh air into the interior of your home. Windy days, however, are a good time to close up the house if you want to minimise dust. At the same time, visit every door and window to check for drafts. Narrow gaps between doors and windows and the frames surrounding them are perfect entry points for dust. Fasten draft-excluding metal strips with a flexible rubber extension to the base of external doors. Gaps around window frames and at the sides and tops of external doors can be sealed with an adhesive-backed narrow foam strip available from your local hardware store. Not only will you reduce dust, you will also reduce your energy consumption for heating and cooling when draft points are eliminated.
Chimney and fireplace care
Drafts come down chimneys too, so make sure you have your chimney swept at the end of every season to keep soot at bay during the summer. Wood and other solid fuel fires are a constant source of household dust, but it is possible to reduce the dust level by installing a glass-fronted firebox. This allows you to retain the pleasing effect of a visible wood fire while restricting the incursion of smoke and dust into the room, and this kind if fire is far more efficient than a fully open grate.
The chore of dusting
Although you may take every possible measure to minimise the entry of dust from outside and the production of dust within, it is a fact of life that dust will settle in your home eventually. Two or three days after your last efforts with the duster you will begin to notice a film developing on horizontal surfaces. The law of gravity makes dust settle more slowly on vertical surfaces, but sadly it’s forming on them as well. At all costs, avoid becoming obsessed with dust and letting it take over your life. Follow a simple routine and forget about the dust in between times.
Unless you live in an extremely dusty area, horizontal surfaces such as table tops, shelves and chair seats can be visited by a duster about once a week. You can get away with dusting non-horizontal surfaces (chair backs and legs, table legs, cupboard doors and drawers, ornaments and books) no more than once a fortnight, followed by vacuuming floors.
Every four to six weeks it is worthwhile having a dust exodus. Start at the top by bringing down any ceiling cobwebs with a clean broom. Give curtains and drapes a good shake before dusting window and door frames and skirting boards. Visit the tops of high cupboards. Then dust all remaining surfaces and ornaments before vacuuming your floors. Make sure your vacuum cleaner dust collection chamber or bag is empty before you begin, otherwise you are wasting your effort, and replace or clean the filters regularly.
Don’t let dust take over your life, either physically or mentally. You can minimise dust production by keeping your surroundings moist and sealing drafts. Any dust which does settle can be collected by following an undemanding regular schedule. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, give a low-paid worker a chance to earn a little cash, or learn to live with it. Dust may look messy but, unless you are super-allergic, it is rarely life-threatening.