While there are many pollutants in indoor air, dust is a major concern. For me personally, it’s almost unbearable, so I started researching what I can do to minimize, or even eliminate it from my home.
So, how do you purify the air from dust in your home? First, a home needs several air purifiers. These air purifiers must have filters that will work for dust, and be rated for the square footage of the space. Second, other simple things must be done to reduce dust overall, like limiting the air from the outdoors, as well as proper cleaning and decluttering of the home.
Even though it might be easy just to dust and vacuum your home and grab the first air purifier off the store shelves that you see, it’s a bit more complicated. In fact, all those three methods could do you and your home even more harm if done incorrectly.
A Good Air Purifier – Your First Line of Defense
First and foremost, you’ll need an air purifier for your home if you want to tackle stubborn dust. You may actually need several air purifiers, not just one.
As far as dust is concerned, use the following tips to find the one (or ones) that’s right for you:
Dust Isn’t Just One Pollutant
Dust isn’t just one pollutant. It can be dead skin cells, soot, debris, pollen, cloth lint, pet dander, insect feces, and many other things that can clump up to make up what we typically associate with visible dust in our homes. Because of all these different things that can be inside dust, you’re looking at various pollutants, each varying in size.
Most dust in your home will be somewhere between 1.0 and 10.0 micrometers in diameter, and larger.
The smaller dust particles you won’t be able to see, although these are the ones that typically irritate us and cause health concerns. The larger dust particles, 10.0 micrometers and larger, are the ones that notoriously (and visibly) accumulate on dark wood furniture and clump up.
Different Filters to Tackle Different Pollutants In Dust
You’ll need a multi-filter system inside your air purifier that’s able to filter out all of the dust. First, each air purifier should have a pre-filter by default. These are the coarse filters that are able to trap the larger dust and pollen particles, for example. The pre-filter should catch larger dust particles, like the ones that are about 10 micrometers in size, for example.
After the pre-filter, it’s good to look for a True HEPA (High efficiency particulate air) filter. The reason why it’s called a “true” HEPA filter is because sadly there are many imitations on the market.
You may see these being called HEPA-like, HEPA-style, or HEPA-grade. A True HEPA filter is able to filter out 99.7% of particles in the indoor air of the pollutants that are 0.3 micrometers in diameter and larger. Even though some of the HEPA-like imitation filters may sound like they remove a similar amount of pollutants, the difference is quite large.
The difference between being able to remove 99.7% or 99.0% of pollutants may sound negligible, especially when most good air purifiers are cycling the air in your home once every 15 to 20 minutes or so anyway. Some of those HEPA-like filters may even be really good.
However, the problem is that only True HEPA filters have been tested and meet the US Department of Energy (DOE) standards. You just won’t be able to verify the claims of the other, HEPA-like filters the same way you can with a True HEPA filter.
If you’re looking for a good air purifier for a large space, check out this one from Honeywell. This is the one we ended up going with for our home. We have an open living area with a busy kitchen, breakfast room and formal dining area, all in one. We also have a hardwood floor throughout, but most of our floor is covered by oversized rugs. I definitely noticed there was less of a need to vacuum and dust once we set up this air purifier in our room.
Once we get past the main filter (ideally, a True HEPA filter), it’s good to have an activated carbon filter on your air purifier. You may not need it to tackle dust directly, but it’s an added bonus. Activated carbon can pick up some of the smaller gases in your home like the ones from cooking, VOCs from laminate flooring, particle board furniture, and cabinetry, or paints, and carbon monoxide from wood burning and faulty appliances, for example.
Many air purifiers also have an ionizer. This breaks up the molecules inside pollutants, with the negative ions settling to the ground of the floor so that you may later vacuum them up. The problem with this is that it creates ozone and can have other ill effects on health. They’re also electrostatic precipitators, and guess what electrostatic things attract? You guessed it – dust.
I personally chose air purifiers for my home where this ionizer function could be turned off.
Look for the CADR Rating That’s Right For Your Space
You could have the best filters in the world, but if your air purifier isn’t getting enough airflow, it’s pointless. What good is a True HEPA filter if it can’t get to all the air in your room?
This is especially important when it comes to dust. Usually, dust settles in the very corners of a room. In my home, it’s a small loft area that extends from my living room. The upholstered chairs and side table in this space are notorious for collecting dust since rarely anyone in my family uses it.
But how do you make sure your air purifier is powerful enough to draw in all the air in your room?
Simple – you look for something called CADR, or clean air delivery rate. It’s a voluntary, independent test, so not every air purifier will have one. The CADR test is administered by AHAM, short for the Association for Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Acronyms aside, the point here is to look for something called an AHAM label on the back of the box of each air purifier. This will ensure that the air purifier has the strength to move and filter all the air in a given square footage. Here’s a blog post that will help you match up the necessary CADR rating to the size of your room (just look for the table).
The good thing about the test is that dust is one of the pollutants that it tests for. All you have to do is match the CADR rating for dust to the volume of your room to ensure that your air purifier will be powerful enough to remove dust.
Sample AHAM Verifide label (this one is from the back of the GermGuardian box).
Other Good Practices Beyond the Air Purifier
Once you have a good air purifier in place, it’s a good idea to personally keep the levels of dust under control as a good practice. Here are some tips to follow.
- A feather duster will just move the dust around in the air. Instead, actually pick up the dust with a moist towel and remove it.
- Eliminate anything that may give off dust. Some ideas to follow:
- Don’t keep all those clothes in your closet. Either donate what you don’t wear or cycle your summer and winter wardrobe. Meaning, your out-of-season clothes can be stashed away under the bed. To save on space, try a spacesaver bag and vacuum the air out. The space under my king-sized bed turned out to quite a nice untapped storage space when I did this.
- Clean out your bedding more frequently, and stash away old bedding you don’t use.
- Rip out old carpets and replace them with healthy flooring choices like hardwood, linoleum, or ceramic tile.
- Remove static from your home. Dust is attracted to electrostatic charges like a moth is to a flame. Use fabric softeners and
- Don’t expect your HVAC system to do the work for you.
- The fiberglass air filters that most homes use only trap some of the larger dust particles as a side benefit. The real purpose behind those filters isn’t to purify the air out, it’s to keep large particles out so that the HVAC system isn’t damaged. You can certainly upgrade to a better air filter that will attract more dust, like the thicker, pleated filters (my home uses this MERV-11 filter and it makes a bit difference). However, just using a different air furnace filter won’t be enough.
- Be careful not to get the thickest filter, either.
- Once your air filters get to a certain capacity, two things will happen. First, the unit will constantly be on, so your energy bill will go up. Second, the airflow will be blocked. For me, the MERV-11 filters seem to be a good enough improvement where I don’t have to worry about airflow or paying more on my monthly energy bill. And it works wonders for my seasonal allergies.
- Upgrade your vacuum cleaner. Getting a more powerful vacuum cleaner to help you fight dust should be the next smart decision to make in your home. By the way, it’s a good idea to look for a True HEPA filter for your vacuum cleaner as well.
- Limit outdoor air. Indoor air is usually worse than the air outside, but this is primarily due to off-gassing of smaller pollutants that are in the building supplies, furniture, and cleaning supplies. However, when it comes to dust, it’s been shown that 60% is because of the outdoor air, not the indoor air. Be selective when it comes to opening the windows, as more dust may come into the home if the air outside is dry or full of dust and pollen.
- Pay attention to your laundry room, bedroom, and closets. A lot of dust will come off from the clothes dryer, your bedding, and the clothes in the bedroom. Make sure to clean those areas more often than you would otherwise. Don’t hang clothes freely in the laundry room or closet that you rarely use. Move upholstered chairs away from you in the bedroom and sleep on fresh pillowcases at night.
- Stop dust at the doorstep. Dirt is a major part of dust, so having a mat at the door can help a lot. If you have pets or a busy lifestyle with kids, make sure you have mats on both side (inside and outside) of each door.