How to Control Indoor Dust and Dander
Are you starting to sniffle? Indoor dust and dander can sometimes get more bothersome in the spring and summer. With more windows open, more flora in bloom, and even more pet hair from Fido shedding, it’s easy to see why. But indoor air quality is affected by dust and dander year-round—a fact that allergy sufferers are well aware of.
By identifying the most likely causes (we’re looking at you, Fido) and taking proactive steps to mitigate the dander and dust to begin with, you’ll be able to breathe better every season.
What is Dust and Dander?
Dust and dander are composites of many materials. Some of those materials are brought inside on your clothes, shoes, and skin. The irritants that originate in your home are caused by dry skin, pets shedding, and more. To better understand the causes, it helps to understand what dust and dander really are.
What Is Dust?
The composition of dust can vary from home to home based on factors like skin moisture and the number of occupants.
In most cases, dust is primarily a rather disgusting mix of:
- Dead skin cells
- Bits of hair
- Decomposing insects
- Food debris
- Fibers from clothing, bedding, carpet, and other fabrics
- Animal fur
- Particle pollution from paint and furniture
And those are just the things that originate indoors!
Roughly 60% of dust comes from outside and is made up of dirt, pollen, smoke soot, and air pollution.
What Is Dander?
Dander is the dead skin and hair shed by humans and animals. In fact, the word dandruff comes from the word dander. Dander is microscopic, so small that it hitches a ride on airborne dust particles in the home and floats around, blown from room to room by your home’s ventilation system.
Dander also happens to be the favorite dish of dust mites. Elevated levels of dander eventually lead to elevated levels of dust mites. Both of these irritants, as well as dust itself, are common root causes of allergies. In the US, 8 out of 10 people are exposed to dust mites in their homes, while 6 out of 10 have cat or dog dander.
How to Effectively Control Indoor Dust and Dander
For most families, the best way to control indoor dust and dander is to clean regularly—focusing most on the areas that see the most amount of dust. These surfaces are often fabric.
Some of the most common items that harbor dust and dander are:
- Soft furniture like couches and stuffed chairs
- Curtains and drapes
- Stuffed toys
- Pillows and unwashed bedding
- The leaves of houseplants
In addition to cleaning those items, be sure to give pets regular baths and keep them off fabric furniture if anyone in your home is sensitive to their fur or dander.
Air Filters Can Also Reduce Dust and Dander
Finding the right air filter for your home’s HVAC system is the most effective way to reduce levels of these irritants and improve indoor air quality in general.
Look for the filter with the highest MERV rating possible that will work with your HVAC system. In most homes, that’s usually between 6 and 10. If you aren’t sure what filter is compatible with your HVAC system, check the unit’s owner’s manual to find out what the appropriate MERV rating is for your system.
In general, MERV ratings between 1 and 4, the lowest on the market, will capture larger dust particles like carpet fibers and even dust mites. However, a rating between 8 and 10 means that the filter can capture particles between 1 and 3 microns roughly 50-90% of the time. That’s effective in reducing the fine particles that can lead to allergies in more sensitive individuals.
We recommend using a MERV rating of at least 5 to eliminate the largest particles of dust and dander.
Always replace your filter as often as the manufacturer recommends, which is usually every 3 months!