You’ve probably heard the common refrain that dust is mostly made of dead skin cells and dust mites. That little factoid stays in circulation because the gross-out factor is so high. Nobody finds the idea of a fine powder of skin cells and tiny bugs particularly appetizing.
As is often the case, the truth is a little more complex.
What Is Dust Made Of?
Depending on where you live, your household dust is probably made of textile fibers, paper fibers, soil, pollen, human and animal hairs, insect waste, and traffic pollution. Two thirds of the dust in your home or business comes from outside from things like dirt tracked in on your shoes and clothes, and the final third is made of stuff like carpet fibers, pet hair, and fluff from your clothes.
There are usually some skin cells in dust, but most of your dead skin cells go down the drain when you shower or shave.
Your dust might also have traces of volcanic ash, flour, and even burnt meteorite particles. Whatever is common in your local environment is likely to wind up contributing to your dust.
What about dust mites?
House dust mites live indoors wherever humans live. They take up residence on floors, in carpets and mattresses, and in the upholstery of your furniture.
The tiny arachnids are microscopic in size and mostly eat the dead skin cells that don’t get washed away in the shower.
Don’t worry – dust mites don’t live on people. While they can cause problems for people with asthma and allergies, keeping your home or office clean and well dusted helps control mites.
No matter how often you clean or how good your air filters are, you’re never going to be completely dust-free. A third of the world’s land area creates dust without much human help, and both animals and people create more dust, too. Dust is just a fact of life.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore it, though!
Regular cleaning and dusting reduces health risks and allergies, and it also keeps the grime from piling up in your office and making things look gross.
A regular feather duster isn’t a good way to clean up. These kinds of devices just stir dust up so that you breathe it in, and then the particles settle back down where they were. Instead, the best way to remove dust is by using products that have sticky chemicals to trap and get rid of particulate.
Changing your air filters regularly and using HEPA filters is another smart move for controlling dust, especially if you have asthma.
The only way to keep up with dust accumulation is to clean regularly.