The Truth about Dust

Have you ever noticed how dust seems to show up at exactly the same time as you have company? There you are, enjoying a lovely dinner, and something catches your eye. No, it’s not the soft lighting playing tricks on you. That’s a giant ball of dust in the corner that somehow you missed until this moment.

I believe there’s a reason we notice dust (and cobwebs) when people are over. We are out of our usual routine. Instead of heating up a pizza and eating it while watching television in the living room, we’re cooking real food in the kitchen and eating it at the table. Our perspective has changed—just long enough to see what has probably been there for a long time: dust.

But just what is dust, anyway?

You may have heard the urban legend that dust is 98% dead skin. Thank goodness, this is not true. Dust is actually a combination of small particles from indoors and outdoors; the outdoor component makes up about two-thirds of the dust we find in our homes.

What follows may make you think twice about the 30-second rule the next time you drop some food on the floor:

Dustologists (yes, that’s a real thing) have listed the following particles found in dust: “animal fur, decomposing insects, food debris, lint and organic fibers from clothes, bedding and other fabrics, tracked-in soil, soot, particulate matter from smoking and cooking, and, disturbingly, lead, arsenic and even DDT.” I would add mold spores and insect feces to that list (even though I’m not a dustologist).

So, what can you do about dust in your home? The more often you sweep or mop, the more likely you are to catch wayward dust bunnies. For cobwebs—which are actually old spider webs that have attracted dust—there’s a handy tool called “Webster.” Its telescoping handle lets you reach corners without dragging out the ladder.

Places that require special dust-related attention are: behind doors that are usually propped open; behind the television and the cable box, both of which actually attract dust; near the front door; behind the radiator; and on the blades of overhead fans. One more place that seems perennially dusty is the top of the fridge.

When dusting, the trick is to capture the dust, not spread it around. I suggest using a damp washcloth—inexpensive and effective—especially on overhead items like ceiling fans and light fixtures. For wood surfaces, you can make your own natural furniture spray that not only smells lovely but also is easy on the environment.

Now, getting back to your dinner party… When you spot that dust bunny lingering in the shadows, don’t panic. Simply grab it with a damp paper towel and dispose of it. If someone asks (and really, who would?) you can always tell the truth: you must have missed it the first time around. No one needs to know just when that first time around occurred.

Conna Shannon

Conna Shannon

Conna is a writer, editor and aspiring filmmaker. She's into DIY, upcylcing and macrobiotic cooking. She lives in Monterey, California, with a yellow lab named Daisy.
Conna Shannon

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