Apartment living in the city offers conveniences that staying in rural areas cannot provide.
But work-life is busy, and when you return home each day, you want to spend the remaining waking hours relaxing and avoid extensive cleaning chores.
The bulk of routine cleaning involves dusting and sweeping to create a healthy living environment, but you did your part.
Why is your apartment still dusty?
Where does the dust come from, and how do you minimize the problem?
What Causes Dust in Apartments?
Dust is a mixture of dead skin cells, pollen, insects, fibers, dirt, sand, pollutants, and other tiny solid particles. Dust particles vary in size and can be visible or invisible.
Sources of dust include:
- Your apartment’s external environment.
- Building issues.
- Indoor causes.
Outdoor and indoor sources contribute to dust accumulation in your apartment to varying degrees depending on the property and your lifestyle.
1. Location Matters
Not all dust in the apartment comes from within, and you cannot minimize dust significantly without understanding and addressing the external sources.
Your activities indoors are part of the dust equation, but your apartment’s location and orientation can determine how much dust it gets from outside the property.
They include its location in or proximity to:
- Urban districts – the denser the population, the more human activities that contribute to dust.
- Industrial zones – the wind carries airborne chemical emissions.
- Agricultural land – plowing and grazing cause destabilized soil and dirt in the air.
- Park and beaches – tiny sand particles and pollen can enter your apartment.
- Freeway – vehicles traveling at speed create turbulent wind that blows dust and dirt into nearby buildings.
- Construction sites – expect a ground filled with dirt and mud during the soil excavation phase; as construction progresses upwards, dust and tiny debris remain an ongoing problem from the higher floors. Workers and vehicles exiting the site track the dirt, soil, and sand onto the surrounding areas, and the wind does the rest.
- Windy regions – strong and constant wind forces dust through the smallest of gaps in the building.
- Air pollution – poor air quality affects all properties in the area, but you can take measures to mitigate its effects.
- Neighboring buildings – buildings close to one another mean more inhabitants contributing dust, but an apartment facing an open area suffers from unimpeded wind exposure.
- Street-level – lower floor apartments are nearer to foot traffic and vehicle emissions, but taller condos suffer more wind with dust.
You cannot uproot your apartment, but you can minimize the dust implications from the building’s less favorable location.
Proposed solutions are in a later section.
2. Building & External Issues
The building envelope separates the external sources of dust and your apartment’s internal spaces.
Building defects may be difficult to identify, but the physical conditions that inadvertently allow dust to enter the apartment interior are easier to spot and relatively inexpensive to address.
The building conditions and defects that cause dust to enter the apartment include:
- Damaged window seals – the wind carries dust and pushes through gaps wherever they exist.
- Misaligned sliding door panels – pushing and sliding along different points of the frames over an extended period can cause the panels to close improperly, creating gaps.
- Consequences of water leaks – leaks at pipe joints or burst pipes can happen within the walls or above the ceiling. Water stains cause the paint to debond when dried until it gradually flakes.
- Opened high-level windows – tall windows are an architectural solution to maximizing natural lighting for the interior, and some top sections remain open to ventilate the indoors. Unfortunately, the wind brings in dust no matter the height from the floor level.
- Gap under the front door – gravity dictates that dust accumulates on the floor until the next gust of wind makes it airborne. This gap is a significant contributor to introducing dust from the space outside your apartment door.
- Long hallway outside the apartment – a long narrow space forces the wind to pass through at higher speeds. The higher air pressure pushes dust into your apartment through the gap under the front door.
Other simple habits and everyday practices can lead to more dust indoors:
- Shoes in the entryway – shoes carry dirt, dust, and soil. You bring them indoors when you step in with the shoes.
- Absence of a front door mat – a mat on which to rub your shoe traps and reduces the amount of dirt you bring indoors; without it, you exacerbate your dust problem.
3. Internal Sources
A significant portion of dust comes from you, your pet, and how you live in the apartment. You can mitigate some causes while others are preventable.
Internal sources of dust in your apartment could be:
- Dead skin cells – the skin is the largest organ of the body. Old skin cells shed when new ones are ready to replace them. It is a natural and continuous process when you eat, watch the tv, or sleep (which means your bed should be your primary focus for cleaning).
- Hair fragments – the hair on your head and other parts of your body does not stop renewing.
- Pet fur and dander – happens even if your pet has no outdoor access. Dogs and cats typically undergo shedding more than once a year.
- Food crumbs – happens wherever you eat, but cleaning them becomes burdensome when you eat on the couch or the bed.
- Fabric fibers – natural fibers disintegrate over time.
- Furnace and AC filters – ducts, vents, and filters collect dust on their surfaces. When the fan starts, the wind carries the dust into your apartment space.
- Fans – ceiling, tower, or desk. Fans have many surfaces that are easy for dust to gather but difficult to clean.
- Pests and pest dropping – mice and rats can chew through wall or ceiling boards; wooden cabinets can suffer from termite attacks. Tiny fragments from these materials contribute to dust in localized areas.
- Dust mites – millions of these creatures feed on shed skin, and their waste adds to the dust. They live in soft furnishings, especially bedding, even in the cleanest homes.
- Broken vacuum dust tank or bag – vacuuming is easy, but a broken dust tank or bag leads to an inefficient job and a dusty exhaust.
You can expect increased dust with more occupants living in an apartment.
Your dust problem becomes more pronounced if you have:
- Staticky appliances – static cling occurs on your computer, electronic devices, and fabric and is especially noticeable when humidity is low during the drier months.
- Clutter – more furniture, appliances, and objects in the apartment mean more surfaces to collect dust. Increased horizontal surfaces translate into larger areas for dust to accumulate and more dusting and cleaning for you.
The Health Risks to You and Your Family
Dust on the floor is not a particular health risk until it gets airborne. Children, the elderly, or any person with a compromised immune system are susceptible to its effects.
It can aggravate allergies – if your immune system reacts adversely to pet dander or dust mites, you may require immediate medical attention.
Possible effects of dust exposure include:
- Coughing – large dust particles tend to trap in the mouth and irritate the throat.
- Sneezing – some noses are particularly sensitive to dust.
- Eye irritation and infection – the effects can range from being red or watery to pink eye in one or both eyes.
- Skin rashes – dust mites can cause skin allergies.
- Asthma attacks – dust particles irritate the lungs and cause breathing difficulties.
- Other respiratory issues.
Dust and dust mites can also adversely affect your pet’s health.
How to Reduce Dust in the Apartment?
Identify and address the sources to minimize or eliminate dust in your apartment. You want to reduce dust from external sources as the first line of defense.
The conditions surrounding your apartment building may vary depending on your region, location, and level of human activities, but adjust your approach to suit.
- Ventilate the apartment naturally only at intervals – natural air change is good for you, but you want to keep it to a minimum when you face dust problems.
- Keep the balcony clean – if you have a balcony, sweep it regularly, especially if you have potted plants. Dust accumulation on the balcony floor equals a ready supply of dust for the wind to blow in when you open the balcony door.
- Shut high-level windows – they are great when you want the constant breeze into the home, but the dusty wind should make you think twice.
- Keep the other windows shut (too) – except when you need to naturally ventilate the indoors momentarily (which you need, unless you are facing severe dust issues in your area).
Secondly, address the dust sources internally:
- Use the right doormat type – a doormat before the front door is necessary to trap and minimize dust and dirt that gets into the apartment. Get an outdoor type that has sufficient weight with grip, so it stays in place. Aim for a mat covering at least 80% of your front door width; the typical door width is 39 inches, so the doormat should be 32 inches wide at a minimum; increase the doormat width accordingly for a double door.
- Introduce a door draft stopper – apartment front doors typically face an enclosed hallway, so rain should not be a concern. Choose the appropriate type of door draft stopper to meet your needs. A draft stopper and a doormat in combination is the ideal approach.
- Sweep the area outside the front door – the occasional sweep keeps dirt to a minimum. It falls under the common area, but the benefit is yours.
- Use an entryway boot tray – the ideal shoe station to keep your floor clean and free of dirt, mud, and water.
- Declutter – easier said than done, but it is an effective long-term strategy to reduce dust in your home.
- Wipe down with a damp cloth – strategize dusting and cleaning (see the section below), and using a damp cloth when you wipe down furniture and appliances ensures you don’t create a dusty environment as you work.
- Proper skin and hair care – exfoliate when you shower and brush or comb your hair in the same part of the house. The right skincare and shampoo products help when you have particular conditions to address.
- Groom furry pet outdoor – the balcony works if the outdoor is not practical.
You want to reduce dust as much as possible and avoid allergy triggers.
Your Ideal Cleaning Routine
Adopt the top-down approach for effective use of your time when dusting and cleaning.
- Step 1: Wipe down the appliances, devices, and furniture with a damp cloth, start with the higher surfaces and work your way down. Don’t miss the tables and kitchen counter.
- Step 2: Dust or vacuum the couch. Similarly, for the beds – vacuum/flip/vacuum if you are changing the bedding. Otherwise, dust the bed surface and shake the blanket, preferably every morning.
- Step 3: Sweep or vacuum the floor. Mop the floor weekly. If you have carpets, thorough dusting and vacuuming are necessary (but carpets aren’t the healthiest option if you have dust and allergy issues).
Periodic cleaning will do for the HVAC filters – once every 2 to 3 months.
Your cleaning frequency depends on your schedule and the severity of your dust problems.
Areas You Should Concentrate On
Cleaning and dusting time is limited, so focus your energy on these areas:
- 1st priority: Bedrooms and the living room – the beds you and your family sleep on should be top of your cleaning list.
- 2nd priority: Kitchen and dining – the countertop and dining table are in regular use and wiped down, so the other parts in these zones would only require periodic cleaning attention.
- 3rd priority: Balcony – weekly sweep or wash is ideal, or a higher frequency if it faces an open and dusty zone.
- 4th priority: Guest room – daily dusting of a room not in use is a waste of your effort.
Can You Prevent Dust in Your Apartment?
Dust exists everywhere you go, and whether it is a problem is relative; a tolerable level of dust in the storage will become unhealthy in the living room or bedrooms.
You cannot prevent dust in the apartment, but you can identify the dust sources in your environment and work to minimize the problem to an acceptable level.
Adopt a cleaning routine that fits your schedule to reach a comfortable compromise.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
Natural ventilation is ideal for health, but it is best to shut the windows when you have a dusty environment outside your apartment or poor air quality in the area.
How then do you ensure a healthy living environment inside your apartment?
Technology comes in handy, and the useful indoor air quality appliances you can utilize depending on your situation are:
- Air purifier – consists of a series of filters that traps dust, pollen, animal hair, and other solid particles suspended in the air. It releases cleaner air back into the room.
- Humidifier – helps in the drier months and reduces static cling on your electronic devices. Humidifiers are available in various types, including standalone units for individual rooms and whole-house humidifiers.
- Dehumidifier – removes vapor from the air and is especially useful when you shut the windows, and the indoor humidity builds up.
- Ionizer – charges and injects negatively charged ions into your room to redress the positive-negative ion balance. Indoor air typically includes an excess of positive ions compared to outdoor air. Most forms of pollution, dander, pollen and harmful chemicals in the air carry a positive electrical charge.
What If Your New Apartment Is Dusty?
Brand new apartments suffer from dust problems, but they differ from lived-in apartments where dust sources are easier to identify.
Dust in new apartments comes from construction and interior design finishing work. Building contractors carry out general cleaning before handing over the keys to the apartments but do not expect a professional cleaner’s job.
The best approach for you involves conducting a thorough clean before moving in and a second clean after you moved the furniture in place and unwrapped them.
Adopt a wait-and-see approach after you settle in, and ascertain which causes and solutions earlier in the post apply to you.