What Causes Excess Dust in a House?

What Causes Excess Dust in a House?
Photo by Anna Barabanova

If you’re allergic to dust, you probably just want to know what causes excess dust in a house and how to get rid of the seemingly endless amount of dust accumulating in your home.

Even if you’re lucky and the dust doesn’t cause an allergic reaction, it’s unsightly and can deteriorate the air quality in your home. In fact, even if you are not allergic to dust, the components present in the dust can affect your lungs and your health in general.

The amount of dust you have in your home depends on different factors, including where you live, the season, how many people live in your home, if you have pets, and even how you clean.

A dusty home is usually the result of a lack of air circulation or a polluted airflow that carries millions of microparticles.

While dust can be inherently annoying, it’s seemingly unbeatable and comes from a variety of sources.

Read on to learn more about what causes excess dust in a house, its impact on health, and how to make a home as dust-free as possible.

Researcher’s Findings on What Causes Excessive Dust in a House

Since some people argue that most of our household dust is made up of human skin particles, some researchers believe this is a long-standing myth, according to BBC Science Focus, who believes this is also not true.

Explained that “two-thirds of the dust in your homes come from outside, as dirt tracked on your feet and airborne particles like pollen and soot.

The rest is mostly lint from carpets, clothing fibers, and animal hair.” Therefore, seeing what dust is made of can help us better defend ourselves against it.

In a 2010 Time magazine article, a study by Paloma Beamer, professor of environmental policy at the University of Arizona, made a claim that “the specific mixture of dust in each house varies according to climate, age of the house and the number of people who live there, not to mention the habits of the occupants who cook, clean and smoke.” It was also stated that “the bulk of household dust—about 60%—comes from outside, through windows, doors, vents and, significantly, in the soles of shoes.” Although her research dates back nearly a decade, no recent study has found flaws in her conclusions.

Since most dust is made up of dirt from the outside world, we may want to see how many of our defenses will want to include proper entry procedures, an effective air filtration system, and ensuring the outdoors are sealed. 

But it should again be noted that most household dust varies considerably from one home to another. Just as dirt, pollen, smoke, exhaust fumes, sand, and many other things can bring dust from outside, many other things around the house also contribute to excess dust, though not up to that coming from outside.

Like skin cells or fabric fibers, it still can be more or less anything that can dry and peel. Books, carpets, rugs, pets, upholstered furniture, and fireplaces contribute to dust loads.

In addition, molds, bacteria, and dust mites are likely to settle and often grow in the dust. Beamer comments: “Dust is a hodgepodge of all kinds of things. It would probably be impossible to list all the possible elements.”

This tells us that not only is it important to know what causes excess dust in a house and having them in our homes but also what the dust is made of itself.

Let’s look at some of the common dust components:

Common Dust Components

Here are some common ways certain dust-generating components can help answer your question about what causes excess dust in a house.

Pollen, Soil, and Particles

As stated above, 60% of household dust comes from outside. Pollen, a well-known allergen, can land on shoes, clothes, and even hair.

As you move around the house, you spread pollen, which then floats through the air and settles on surfaces. This also applies to dirt, smoke particles, and any other outdoor pollutant you can think of.

Dust Mite

Dust mites are natural microscopic parasites that thrive in moist environments. Even if your home isn’t unusually hot or humid, dust mites are likely hiding in your bedding, carpets, and curtains.

Since dust can be made up of animal dander and dead skin, some of dust mites’ favorite snacks, the more dust you have, the more dust mites you have.

Pet Dander

Pet dander, tiny particles of fur shed by animals, is another common allergen found in dust. Even if you don’t have a pet, people who come into your home may have pet hair on their clothes.

When pet hair becomes airborne and settles, it collects dust and dust mites, which compounds the problem.

Dead Skin

It is a common misconception that dust is mostly made up of dead skin particles. While it can be true that dust can and often does contain dead skin, it’s usually not as much as people think.

Instead, dead skin floating around your home acts as a magnet for dust mites and other indoor air pollutants.

Food Debris

If you’ve ever eaten in front of the TV in the living room, you know how easy it is to spill a few crumbs. If you sweep the food debris right away, you won’t have any big problems. Too often, however, small food particles fall out and are forgotten, making them a natural component of dust.

Insects and Insect Droppings

Body parts and droppings of insects, especially cockroaches, are usually found in dust. If you are allergic to cockroaches, this could make allergic reactions worse.

Cockroaches are not picky about the homes they infest. So even if your house is clean, these pests can enter from your outside environment, your neighbor’s house (especially if you live in an apartment), or they can enter through the pipes.

Lead, Arsenic, and DDT

Most components of the dust are allergy triggers but do not pose an immediate health hazard. However, in the study we mentioned earlier, researchers found that lead, arsenic, and DDT can be present in dust, albeit in trace amounts.

Beamer and Layton (another professor of environmental policy and co-author of the study) noted that “about one-third of the arsenic in the atmosphere comes from natural sources… the rest comes from mining, smelting, burning fossil fuels.

Even in very low concentrations, arsenic is not safe, especially for young children who play on the floor and regularly put objects in their mouths.

The same goes for lead, which comes less from wall paint (the source most people would expect) than from car exhaust, smelters, and soil deposits.

The fact that DDT is still found in house dust surprises most people since the pesticide was banned in the United States in 1972. But a house is a lot like a living organism: once you absorb a pollutant, you can never completely eliminate it.”

So Why Is My House So Dusty?

Here are some common reasons for what causes excessive dust in a house.

Faulty HVAC System

HVAC is an abbreviation for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Most houses and commercial buildings have HVAC systems. They are responsible for the movement of air between indoor and outdoor spaces. 

A good HVAC unit protects your home from airborne dust. Your air conditioner may not do this if it’s a cheap model or if it’s dirty.

And it is certainly a common reason in line with what causes excess dust in a house. The HVAC unit brings in outside air and filters it. It then heats and cools your home by releasing air through air ducts.

A dirty HVAC system will not only fail to reduce dust well but will also increase your energy bills. Moreover, it will also reduce the life of the device. Be sure to keep your HVAC systems in good repair and protected to improve indoor air quality.

Dirty Carpet With Dust Mites

Although comfortable and plush, carpets are one of the main dust traps in your home. Over time, dust and dirt accumulate in the air.

Also, your shoes and pets’ paws bring in a lot of dirt from the outside, which adds to the problem. These particles settle into your carpets and settle deep into the fibers.

High pile carpets are worse at holding much less dust than low pile carpets because they have long fibers that tend to trap unwanted particles.

High pile carpets are difficult to clean and require special vacuum cleaners, which not only move the carpet’s fibers to one side but can reach deep into the carpet to clean them properly.

If you use a regular vacuum cleaner on a high pile carpet, you are more likely just to push the fibers and release the dirt into the air instead of sucking it up, and this can also happen with some low pile carpets. This is why carpets can significantly contribute to what causes excess dust in a house.

Leaky Windows And Doors

Windows and doors with gaps can cause energy loss. Additionally, dust and pollen can also enter your home whenever the wind blows through this gap.

The situation gets worse if you live on a dirt or gravel road. You can consider caulking windows and doors as a way to maintain your home’s energy efficiency and fill gaps in the frame.

Accumulation Of Dust On Furnitures, Blinds, and Curtains.

Fabrics and upholstered furniture usually accumulate dust. And every time you draw the curtains or have to sit on the sofa, the dirt that has been trapped is released into the air.

The best remedy is to use a vacuum cleaner to clean curtains or drapes and furniture once a week. If you have blinds or shutters, clean them regularly.

Holes in the Ducts

The air ducts in your house pass through walls, ceilings, attics, and basements. If there are leaks or holes in the ducts, dust can get into the leaky ducts and then into your house.

If you notice more dust after turning on the furnace or air conditioner, it means that the ducts are not adequately sealed.

It would be a good idea to contact heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional and have your duct pressure tested.

Measures to Improve Indoor Air Quality and Reduce Dust

Dust can contain tiny, dangerous particles, such as mold spores, pollen, dust mite remains, human and pet hair, dander, bacteria, viruses, and food particles. It becomes very important to reduce the accumulation of dust. Here are some useful ways to do it.

Dust Properly

Using a dry cloth will only move the dust around without removing it. Switch to a damp microfiber cloth or a clean, damp cloth. It will trap dust particles due to the moisture present.

And always dust from top to bottom. Clean fan blades, walls, base, etc., once a month to prevent dust accumulation.

Vacuum Regularly

Make vacuuming your carpets, furniture, and curtains part of your regular home maintenance routine. It will help you improve the air quality in your home.

If you don’t like vacuuming, you can choose to remove the carpet completely and just have a hard wooden floor. Remember that leather or wood furniture will accumulate less dust than fabric furniture.

Use An HVAC Filter With a Higher MERV Rating

Since cheap or defective HVAC filters contribute to what causes excess dust in a house, it is recommended to use filters with a higher MERV rating which will be able to prevent more dust particles from entering your home. You can opt for a MERV 11 or MERV 13 filter.

It’s also a good idea to check your air filters monthly. If you don’t see the filter media, it’s time to change the filter.

Seal Doors and Windows

Make sure the weatherstripping around doors and windows is in good condition. It will improve your home’s energy efficiency and help keep dust out of your living spaces.

Avoid Wearing Outdoor Shoes Around the House

Your shoes can bring in most of the dirt and dust from outside as it is one of the easiest ways to contribute to what causes excess dust in a house. The best solution is to ask everyone to take off their shoes at the door and put on their house slippers from the shoe rack near the front door.

Keep Your Bedding Clean

Wash sheets and pillowcases once a week to prevent dust buildup. Don’t forget to vacuum your mattress and furniture regularly.

Pest Control

Even if you haven’t seen cockroaches or other pests in your home, it would be a good idea to regularly treat your home and garden with pest control. Prevention is key here because once the pests start taking hold, it can be challenging to control them, which also adds to what causes excess dust in a house.

Turn on the Drain and the Air Purifier in the Bathroom

Running an exhaust fan after showering and using an air purifier will keep things clean and dry. An air purifier removes pollutants from the air in an enclosed space.

Also, keep in mind that excessive humidity or high humidity levels can promote mold growth and the concentration of dust mites. Be sure to maintain a comfortable level of humidity in the house. The ideal indoor humidity is around 50%.


Everyone wants a dust-free home. In addition to making your home less desirable, dust buildup can also cause severe allergies and respiratory problems.

Now that you’ve read our guide on this, you need to act fast to reduce the build-up of dirt before you start to experience stuffy noses, itchy eyes, constant sneezing, or worsening asthma.

It’s a good thing you’ve read our article on what causes excess dust in a house. You should now be able to identify the source of the dust and take the necessary steps to solve the problem. 

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