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Why is there so much dust in my house?

The common causes of household dust (and how to fix them)
Updated on November 29, 2023
Written by
Marie Cookson
Based in Manchester, Marie is one of the writers at HouseFresh and our resident dust expert. She works together with our in-house researchers and our Managing Editor to produce in-depth articles offering practical advice on how to tackle indoor air quality issues.

Dust isn’t just a nuisance; it can seriously impact your health, too. While a certain amount of dust plagues all houses, there could be a few reasons why your home feels particularly dusty. These can include having carpets in which dust can hide inside and your little (or even big) furry friend regularly shedding their fur.

Luckily, there are many ways you can reduce the amount of dust, such as vacuuming regularly and grooming your pet. 

An air purifier is another surefire way to rid your home of dust.

If dusting is one of the banes of your life, you’re not alone. It can be annoying when you’ve just dusted, only to spot even more dust! Yet there is a more worrying aspect to all this as dust can seriously affect your health. Sneezing and coughing are just some of the issues it can cause, and we’ll be looking into more of the health impacts in this article. 

To create more of a dust-free house, you need to find out where it’s coming from, and we’ll let you know some of the most common sources. Even more importantly, you’ll discover tips on how to fix the issues. 

Please keep reading to the end of the article for our recommendations on the best air purifiers to help eliminate harmful dust particles. 

6 common causes of household dust (and how to fix them)

Ok, let’s check out the main causes of basic house dust. Luckily they’re pretty simple to fix if you know what you’re doing. 

1. Dust hides in your carpet

Carpet fibers are ideal places for dust and dust mites to gather. This is particularly so if you wear shoes inside because of the dirt being tracked in from outdoors. Similarly, if you have pets, dirt and dust particles can transfer to carpets and rugs from their paws. 

Wiping your shoes on a doormat and leaving them at the front door will significantly help to minimize dust. Frequent vacuuming — ideally daily or every other day — can also help. Just be aware that vacuuming can recirculate some of the dust back into your living space.

  • Pro tip: Use a vacuum that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. This can catch as much as 99% of dust and debris. 

2. Draperies and soft furnishings collect dust

Like with carpets, fabrics and soft textiles accumulate dust. It becomes attracted to such items and is captured in the fibers. Then when you open the curtains in the morning or sit in your favorite squishy chair or sofa, those dust particles are released into the room.

If it isn’t practical to get rid of soft furnishings (or you don’t want to), then be sure to use your vacuum’s attachments, and hoover upholstered furniture and curtains every week. You could also think about having the drapes dry-cleaned once a year to minimize dust further. 

  • Pro tip: If you have blinds or shades instead of curtains, you can use either the brush attachment on your vacuum to clean the dust or a microfiber cloth. 

3. Your pet could be creating dust

Whether you can see the evidence or not, cats and dogs (including shorthaired ones) are always shedding fur and skin flakes. This combination is known as pet dander, and not only can it cause allergic symptoms like sneezing and watery eyes and increase your home’s dust level. If you have more than one kitty or canine, then dust levels rise even more…

A regular grooming routine is essential when you have a furry friend or two. Be sure to brush your pets at least once a week to remove loose hair. If possible, you could also have them professionally groomed. 

  • Pro tip: Wash your pets’ bedding at least once a week in hot water (130ºF) and wash their toys with detergent and warm water every two weeks. Read our full guide to beating pet dander for more tips. 

4. A poor dusting technique 

This one may be surprising, but it’s true. Even if you dust regularly, a poor technique means that you could move all that dust around rather than get rid of it. Using a dry cloth or feather duster often does more harm than good. Equally, dust can be everywhere, so you need to focus on the whole house rather than just those areas where you can see dust build up. 

Like we discussed above, using a microfiber cloth will help trap most dust, meaning less is recirculated. But if you are partial to a rag, dampening it will also help capture dust.

  • Pro tip: If you dust from top to bottom, any particles that escape will settle on the floor, and you can catch these by hoovering. 

5. Gaps around windows and doors can let in dust 

With energy bills rising, it’s crucial to be aware that gaps around windows and doors are a leading cause of energy loss. Yet gaps also mean that outdoor dust and other harmful particles, such as pollen, can enter the house whenever the wind blows. If you live near a dirt or gravel road, this can make a bad situation even worse. 

To prevent dust from blowing in, simply apply caulk to gaps around windows and be sure to replace worn weatherstripping around doors.

  • Pro tip: If you’re unsure whether you have gaps, lighting a candle around the windows and exterior doors can give you a good idea. If the flame dances around, there is airflow, and you have a leak.

6. Your HVAC system can generate dust

An HVAC unit works by bringing air in from the outside and running it through a filter. It then heats or cools the inside of your home by blowing that air out through air ducts. However, if the filter is cheap, it may have larger holes, so more dust can enter your home through the vents. 

Similarly, your whole HVAC system will have to work harder to filter out contaminants if it’s dirty. 

HVAC air filters are rated by their Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) score. This ranges from 1-20, and the higher the rating, the fewer dust particles can pass through the filter. ASHRAE recommends choosing a filter with a 13 rating, but be sure to assess the capabilities of your system first.

  • Pro tip: Even the best filter with a good MERV rating will get clogged with dust. Aim to replace the air filters at least every three months or more frequently if they become filthy.

Dust VS your health 

There’s no doubt about it: dust is everywhere. But what exactly is dust? It combines many components, including dead skin cells, hair, mites (and their body parts), microbes and microplastics. You can identify dust as minute gray specks or tiny balls of fluff. Yet some dust particles may be invisible to the naked eye. 

Okay, so where does it all come from? Most dust pollutants originate outside your home and can be carried inside by shoes and clothing. It can also enter through open windows and seep in through cracks and gaps around windows and doors. Dust mites, however, are one of the leading sources of indoor dust. 

Unfortunately, many health issues are caused by household dust, most notably allergies triggered by dust mites. According to the ACAAI, these symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itching
  • Red, itchy, or watery eyes
  • Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Such symptoms are uncomfortable enough, yet dust can also lead to more serious health problems, like lead poisoning (if the dust contains lead) and lung cancer. Similarly, people with asthma may experience severe respiratory problems and those with eczema can suffer from more pronounced skin flare-ups. 

Equally, those with other pre-existing health conditions like bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may worsen their symptoms.

Put simply, the longer you breathe in dust, the more likely it will affect your health. 

Other people who are more at risk of developing health problems due to long-term exposure to high levels of dust include:

  • Babies and young children
  • Elderly people (aged 65 years and over)
  • Smokers
  • People with heart conditions

When undertaking particularly dusty activities either at home or at work, it’s highly recommended to use personal protective equipment (PPE). Equally, talk to your doctor if you regularly experience shortness of breath or hay fever-type symptoms due to breathing dust.

Final thoughts

Dust can cause serious health problems so it’s super important to keep on top of it in your house. Yet while there may be lots of reasons why your home seems to be plagued by so much of it, don’t worry too much because the issues can often be quickly resolved. 

Frequent vacuuming can make a huge difference. And for an even more powerful way of getting rid of dust, consider using a high-quality air purifier that effectively captures dust particles and other pollutants.


About the author

Marie Cookson

Based in Manchester, Marie is one of the writers at HouseFresh and our resident dust expert. She works together with our in-house researchers and our Managing Editor to produce in-depth articles offering practical advice on how to tackle indoor air quality issues.