We all see it happen.
From the day in which we clean our homes and our rooms to the day it’s at its filthiest, we can see them out of the corner of our eyes and no matter how much we clean and scrub, it never seems to end or abate their appearance.
I am of course talking about dust motes.
They get everywhere and no matter how many times a week you take apart a room, over the next two days everything seems to get dusty again.
It seems impossible for anyone outside a professional cleaning service or a television program to completely get rid of dust, and we all tear our hair out over it.
But why does it happen? Why do all of our rooms, entire homes or apartments get so dusty? In this article, we will look at the causes of dust and why it seems to appear everywhere.
What Is Dust?
Dust is made up of very small particles of solid matter suspended in a gaseous medium. The word “dust” itself is derived from the Latin for ‘dusting’.
Dust consists of tiny particles that are generally between 0.001 mm (0.0004 inches) and 10 micrometers (1/10,000 inch) in size. This is smaller than human hair and larger than a pollen grain.
We usually think of dust as something that comes from the soil, but actually most dust is not natural. For example, dirt, sand, sawdust and wood shavings are all forms of dust.
Most dust particles are too large to be visible to the naked eye. Some types of dust may even float on air currents and fall gently onto surfaces below.
How Does Dust Form?
The formation of dust begins when a particle of an airborne substance such as smoke or pollen enters into contact with another surface.
When these substances come into contact with each other, they begin to stick together because of electrostatic forces.
These forces act between opposite charges: positive and negative ions, positive and negative electrons, etc. If one molecule of an aerosol has more charge than its neighbor, then there will be an attractive force between them.
This attractive force is called van der Waals forces. As soon as the molecules start sticking together, the result is a collection of particles.
The more charged particles there are, the greater the number of particles that will attach themselves to another surface, and this will invariably create piles of dust.
How Long Does It Stay In The Air?
Once dust particles have been formed by combining, they remain airborne for only a short time before settling back down to the ground, ceiling or any other surface they first came in contact with.
Particles that are larger than 1 micrometer tend to settle quickly, while those smaller than 1 micrometer usually hang around in the air for longer periods.
This is because, while they are small, gravity will still enact upon them. The only reason larger dust motes become or stay airborne is simply due to the particles being pushed into the air by an outside force, e.g., a foot hitting the floor.
Types Of Dust
There are three main types of dust:
Solid particulate matter – Solid particulate matter includes dust, ash, and soot. Dust particles are often formed during combustion processes or by matter decaying, such as skin particles coming off the body.
They are also produced by mechanical wear, corrosion, friction, erosion, entropy, and impact. Fine particulate pollution can cause respiratory and cardiovascular health problems, if allowed to gather in a vast number in one small enclosed space.
Gasses – Gas dust consists primarily of gasses released from chemical reactions. Smoke is a gas mixture of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile hydrocarbons, and sulfur dioxide that can be inhaled.
Sulfur dioxide is also found in volcanic eruptions and in the atmosphere, where it reacts with oxygen to form acid rain. Soot particles are also known as black carbon.
Black carbon is emitted by burning fossil fuels and biomass. It contributes to climate change by absorbing solar radiation.
Aerosols – Aerosols are particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter. There are many types of aerosols including volcanic ash, mineral dust, sea salt spray, smoke, and fog. Fog is a mixture of water vapor and microscopic droplets of condensed water.
What Happens If I Breathe In Dust?
If you inhale dust, your lungs and nose become irritated. Once inside your body, a vast amount of dust particles irritate your eyes, throat, and nose. In the worst case scenario, dust particles can enter your bloodstream and travel through your entire body.
However, this only happens if dust is allowed to gather in a vast amount and the person who is breathing in the dust spends a significant time in an enclosed space with the dust.
Can Dust Make Me Ill?
Yes! According to the World Health Organization (WHO), indoor air quality causes approximately 3 million deaths every year worldwide.
Indoor air pollutants include gasses like carbon monoxide, lead, nitrous oxide, radon, and tobacco smoke; solid particles like asbestos (you can check this with a DIY test kit), fly-ash, charcoal, coal, and wood dust; and mixtures of gasses and solids, such as secondhand cigarette smoke.
All of these contaminants can damage human tissue and increase the risk of cancer.
Dust is responsible for illnesses ranging from asthma to rhinitis. Asthma is one of the most common respiratory diseases. In fact, about 300 million people are affected by this condition globally.
Rhinitis is another type of chronic nasal inflammation caused by allergies. The symptoms of both conditions include sneezing, runny nose, blocked noses, coughs, wheezes, and difficulty breathing.
Why Is My Room So Dusty?
The main reason why you have dusty rooms is that there is too much dust in the air. This problem occurs when the air contains too high levels of particulates.
This happens because dust has not been allowed to dissipate, and moving through or being in the house means that dust is constantly forming from our clothes and bodies.
A simple solution would be to clean while having the windows in your home open for a significant period of time. This will create a draft that should get rid of the worst of the dust.
If you want another method to reduce dust in your house, try using HEPA filters on all your heating and cooling equipment. These filters remove 99.97% of fine particles and bacteria from the air.
A great way to control dust in your home is to use an appliance vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter. You should also clean regularly and keep your house free of clutter. Roombas can be a great way to regularly get dust out of your carpets and off your hardwood floors as it settles without having to do anything more than hit the ‘on’ switch.
Avoid smoking cigarettes, cooking with open fires, and cleaning with chemicals.
Finally, the best preventative measure for dust is to keep air flow in your house constant. Have windows open and clean regularly.
Unfortunately, dust is just a fact of life that we invariably have to deal with and will follow us around until we die. But that doesn’t mean we can’t manage its problems or aid in reducing the effects of dust upon our daily lives.