Household dust – threat or menace?

A recent newspaper feature from Associated Press warned homeowners in no uncertain terms about the many dangers posed by household dust, “an invisible but substantial threat.

“Toxins in dust”, the health-conscious writer warned, “can aggravate allergies, cause fatigue, headaches, skin irritation and dizziness”.

(Plus it can leave an unappetizing film on your beer if allowed to build up for even a day or two.)

Because of this, everyone needs to regularly vacuum their homes for a healthy indoor environment.

Bravo, I say.

At the risk of seeming a bit obsessive on the subject, I have to admit that I’ve been known to vacuum my apartment as frequently as every eight months or so – it’s the healthy thing to do.

Wondering when to vacuum for maximum benefits?

Here are a few warning signs I’ve learned to heed during a lifetime dedicated to household health and cleanliness:

* Carpet begins to exhibit clearly marked pathways between bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining room.

* Dividing line between kitchen linoleum and dining room carpet has disappeared, although discarded pizza toppings can sometimes serve to delineate the border between these two rooms.

* Your cat begins to complain loudly about the carpet shedding all over the place.

* Your feet begin to stick to the carpet. (Note: This is a red alert warning, since you could easily injure your back or pop a knee trying to get unstuck from a particularly stubborn patch of carpet).

* Remote, shadowy portions of your carpet begin to exhibit subtle movement for no immediately apparent reason. (These areas should be vacuumed last. That way, the noise of the vacuum cleaner will give any potentially hostile wildlife plenty of warning and an opportunity to scurry away before an actual face-to-face confrontation takes place.)

Separate from the carpet issue, of course, is household dust accumulating on furniture, countertops and the aforementioned beer.

It’s amazing how, in as little as six or seven months, dust can build up in an otherwise pristine domicile.

It is, of course, impossible to deal with every surface in your home by using an upright vacuum cleaner, so you may want to resort to a dust rag or a discarded seatcover from your brother-in-law’s old Hyundai.

Admittedly, dusting every three or four months can become a rather tedious chore for even the most fastidious of us.

To avoid continual dust build-up and the back-breaking labor associated with removing it, consider investing in a large, oscillating floor fan.

Running it a few hours a day will keep that dust from settling anywhere and provide a refreshing breeze at the same time.

Controlling dust build-up this way, I’ve found, can result in some general haziness around the household, particularly during the fall.

Speaking strictly for myself, however, I think this is a splendid way to mark the beginning of autumn…

Originally published August 17, 2003