Part 1: A Deep Dive Into Dust

Cesar Collado
Mar 23, 2022

Don’t… Let the Dust Settle Blog Series

An Inspired Deep Dive Into Dust

I recently made an impulse buy and purchased a cordless “Stick Vacuum” on Amazon. I have heard endless recommendations for these lightweight devices that have excellent suction, rotating brushes, and numerous accessories for cleaning furnishings and hard-to-reach places. I currently have a traditional HEPA vacuum and a robot vacuum (Roomba). I value my indoor air quality and a clean home, however, after my initial impression of the stick vacuum, I realized what was being left behind from my current cleaning routine. This led me to a cycle of vacuuming, wiping, and conducting “flashlight tests,” as a result of this obsession, I am writing this series of articles that will explore more scientific explanations about dust accumulation, distribution of toxic particulates, and cleaning. I call this “The Dust Series,” which will discuss:

• Indoor Air Quality (“IAQ”) and Mold Counts are Always Correlated with Dust
• Harmful Chemicals and Toxic Mold Particulates Circulate on Dust
• Cleaning Dust or Spreading Dust -How to Effectively Clean for Dust
• Hot Fogging to remove biological pollutants

Since I have a more traditional HEPA vacuum for my usual cleaning, I purchased the stick vacuum mainly to clear dog hair and dander from upholstered furniture, above cabinets, my car, and other hard-to-reach places. While it has a HEPA filter, I understand that it is not a true HEPA vacuum with an open canister. However, I cannot ignore the fact that it fills up the canister very quickly with a whole lot of dust and hair with ease.

My initial use impressed me as it was light and very agile. The LED lights at the tip of the vacuum attachment provided shock value to inspire me. When testing on my wood floors that I recently vacuumed and appeared to be clean, the LED light showed significant animal hair and dust particles that were airborne and settled after, or were missed. I often use a similar “flashlight test” in the dark to see dust.  The vacuum head on the floor is a high-quality LED light that is close to surfaces. Thus, my obsessive-compulsive need to learn more began a cycle of vacuuming, wiping, and flashlight tests.

Dust Reservoirs

While testing, I became drawn to what building science experts call “dust reservoirs.” These are corners or spaces between furniture where airflow and furnishings allow large amounts of dust and hair to enter without adequate ventilation to move. The debris will settle. Some refer to this as“dust bunnies.” One test you can do is to regularly monitor the amount of dust and debris in dust reservoirs by taking a photo prior to vacuuming before and after changing air filters.

Below are some of the most disturbing pictures of areas in my own home. Please consider that I value indoor air quality and keep my home clean!

Dust reservoir” debris and dust accumulation prior to vacuuming.

 I vacuum weekly.
 I also run an automated vacuum robot (Roomba) almost every day to pick up dust and dander.
 I change my HVAC air filters once per month using MERV 11 filters. My Trane HVAC is only 6 months old. It was properly sized and installed.
 I spot vacuum with the stick vacuum almost daily.
 Wood floors are steam cleaned and wiped following vacuuming.

In indoor lighting, the table appears dust free. However, the “flashlight test” reveals dust unseen in normal lighting.

MERV 11 HEPA Air Filters Before (left) and After (right) one Month

Finally, I took the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of my robot vacuum. These vacuums are not true HEPA vacuums; however, they remove significant dust, hairs, and debris while keeping the home floors and carpets looking tidy. I have a short-haired dog that requires additional cleaning efforts due to pet dander.

Robot vacuums are a good option if you have pets.

How Dust Can Affect Your Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is the newest vernacular used to discuss indoor air pollution. Dust and pollutants are often products from outdoors; however, many pollutants come from chemicals used inside the home, exhaust from appliances, odors, and particulates that result from cooking, new building materials and furnishings, and moisture-related biological growth. More specifically, the most important pollutants that impact human health include:

  • Asbestos
  • VOCs
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Mold
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Particulate Matter
  • Radon
  • Bacteria
  • Condensation
  • Formaldehyde
  • Stale Air
  • Nitrogen Oxide

About Indoor Air Quality in Homes [1]:

  • Indoor air can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoors.
  • Most Americans spend up to 90% of their lives indoors.
  • 6 out of 10 homes have elements in the air that are hazardous to human health.
  • Almost 37% of homes have experienced water damage that may have caused mold, mildew, or rot in certain places.
  • 98% of basements experience water damage at some point.
  • 37% of homeowners have suffered losses due to water damage.
  • 250 gallons of water can be lost in a single day from a 1/8-inch crack in a pipe.

Five key factors that can affect your indoor air quality

  1. High humidity or excessive moisture
  2. Poor Ventilation
  3. Pets
  4. Dust, allergens, dust mites, and dust mite feces
  5. Volatile Organic Compounds (Chemical and Biological)

In addition to these five, we must also recognize the toxic chemicals we often bring into our homes in the form of cleaning products, pesticides, personal health products, and fragrances.  All of these can have harmful chemicals and irritants.

Fiberglass: A Culprit of Chronic Illness

Finally, there is one important particulate that often falls outside of the topics of dust and VOCs. HVAC and ductwork can develop leaks. This is problematic because negative pressure will pull outside elements into the airflow of a house (Venturi Effect). Fiberglass installation in attics or loose sprayed insulation is installed without being sealed by a barrier.

Fiberglass particulates may not be toxic chemicals or pollutants; but, they often appear to be the root cause of some chronic illnesses, primarily infections.  I am specifically speaking about particles of glass wool used to make thermal insulation.  The insulation dust particles can be spread into the air through ventilation or ductwork.  Any HVACs located in unfinished attics or basements can be exposed to fiberglass.

In 1991, OSHA decided to regulate fiberglass as a nuisance dust, and not as a cancer-causing agent. When these sharp particles are inhaled, they can become trapped in the small sacs of the lungs known as alveoli. Because fiberglass fibers are long, sharp, and irritating to lung tissue, the alveoli close up and trap them in the lungs. This eventually results in the lungs becoming hard, fibrous and inelastic.

When fiberglass is inhaled, the sharp chards can create divots in the sinus or lung wall cavities. When this occurs, eosinophils, under direction of the immune system, immediately respond. The result is a reaction that increases the size of the divot.  From there, bacteria and mold often create a matrix which results in biofilm. You can read more about Biofilm HERE. This film is not resistant to medication and rinsing. Unfortunately, ENTs will often turn to surgery if they believe this is the cause of chronic sinusitis. Many patients undergo multiple surgeries in their lifetime rather than identifying and fixing the cause. Chronic sinusitis is often a condition where infections alternate between bacterial and fungal. Antibiotics can kill both good and bad bacteria resulting in optimal growth conditions for the fungi and vice versa. The result is the Chronic Fungal Sinusitis Cycle.

Chronic Sinusitis is one of the most common chronic illnesses, affecting approximately 30 million adults in the US.  Sinusitis is deemed chronic when patients are impacted for 12 weeks per year despite treatment.  Physicians trained in western medicine primarily treat with antibiotics and do not treat mold.   The single most important thing one can do for chronic sinusitis is to rinse sinuses twice daily with a nasal rinse system and Agrumax citrus seed extract drops.  Similar to brushing your teeth, sinusitis sufferers can benefit from rinsing for the prevention of the formation of biofilm.

In the next article, we will focus on the importance of dust control and how dust correlates with mold and indoor air quality.


  1. “Water Damage by The Numbers”.