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What Is Dust Made Of?

Derek Hales

Written By: Derek Hales

Updated on:

While you may not notice it all the time, when you pass by a beam of light or slap a hand onto an old couch, that dirty dust tends to appear.

But what exactly is it?

Depending on the environment that it’s in, dust can be made up of a variety of things. This guide is going to look at what dust is made of, how it might be dangerous, and how to keep it at a minimum in your home.

what is dust made of
What is dust made of?

What Is Dust Made Of?

For starters, let’s bust a myth right from the beginning. Dust is not mostly dead skin. While it’s true that old skin follicles do make up a portion of the dust, it is in no way the majority. Ok, now that we’ve cleared the air… let’s continue.

So basically, although it seems like dust comes out of nowhere, in fact, it actually comes from one of two places: indoors or outdoors.

  • Indoor Dust: Indoor dust is comprised of things found within your home. Matter like animal hair, pet dander, textile fibers, paper fibers, human skin cells, human hair, and food particles are just a few of the materials that make up indoor dust.
  • Outside Dust: On the other hand, outdoor dust is generated from outdoor sources. Outdoor dust may be made up of soil particles, pollen, vehicular matter (like exhaust or tire particles), or even insect follicles or parts.

The reality is that most homes contain a combination of indoor and outdoor dust. The exact ratio will differ within each home.

Every time you open a door into your home, you allow access for dust particles to come in as well.

Additionally, soil, matter, and other particles on shoes can easily be tracked inside simply by walking in.

Indoor Outdoor Dust & Allergies
Indoor Outdoor Dust Exposure

The Dangers of Dust

Beyond the fact that’s it’s gross, having too much dust in your house can actually be a health concern for you and your family.

Dust becomes the perfect breeding ground for insects and allergens. If ingested the particles can be harmful to humans and may cause allergic reactions or allow sickness to breed.

CLEANING – Canister vacuums like the Miele Compact C1 and Dirt Devil Easy Lite are great at targeting localized dust havens.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are small microscopic beings that actually feed on this dust and can live within your home without you even knowing it.

They commonly live inside your mattress, within your curtains, or buried in carpet fibers, and can cause a real cause for concern. These mites can unknowingly live in your home, varying from a few thousand to millions of these little guys.

If you discover that your home is infested with dust mites, wash the item using hot water, or freeze the item if it can’t be washed. Both extreme temperatures are intense enough to kill dust mites.

As you might imagine, millions of little critters living in your home and feeding on your dust are likely to produce quite a lot of their own waste. Droppings from dust mites can carry diseases or airborne illnesses.

Allergic Reactions

Having too much dust, or certain types of dust, may cause allergic reactions in some pets or humans. This reaction, although mild in most cases, may be serious, depending on the sensitivity.

The exact cause or treatment plan for people with dust allergies may be a little hard to pin point, mainly because there are so many particles that make up dust.

What is dust allergic reactions
Dust & Allergic Reactions

Signs that you may be allergic to dust in the house include:

  • Sneezy
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, red, or teary eyes
  • Skin irritation
  • Coughing

If you think you may have an allergy to dust, consider getting allergy tested to locate the cause.

During this test, the doctor will test your reaction to a number of individual particles and look for signs of an allergy.

If you want to avoid medical tests, there are still a few things you can do to help prevent a reaction.

Obviously, first things first, maintain a clean home. Dust and then vacuuming your home at least once per week will help to keep dust from building up.

Using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, like the Shark Rocket, Dyson Animal, or Shark Navigator, can help to remove even the tiniest dust particles.

AeroForce Roomba filtration system
Roomba AeroForce filtration system

If you struggle to find the time or will power to vacuum every week, consider getting a robot vacuum cleaner. The Roomba 980 (as well as several other Roombas), Bobsweep vacuum, and Ecovacs Deebot N79 all utilize HEPA filters.

And best yet? You can schedule them to simply run once per day. All you need to do is empty the dust bin every few days.

When a home is dusted and cleaned regularly, dust mites have less of a chance to colonize and build up. You can also:

  • Remove any extra rugs — Dust mites do not burrow into hard surfaces like tile or hardwoods.
  • Remove clutter — Extra things only provide a space for dust and critters to hide. If it doesn’t serve a purpose or have some intense sentimental value, consider tossing it in the name of “Dust Free Living”.
  • Decrease household humidity — Dust mites thrive in high humidity environments and love the extra moisture. Consider putting a dehumidifier in the rooms where you have a problem with dust build-up.
  • Contain your pets — We love our furry friends, but consider keeping them out of the bedroom or segmenting off areas where they can’t roam into.
My poodle, Tibbers
My miniature poodle, Tibbers

RELATED – Need help with your pets? Check out our guide on how to remove dog hair.

Children & Babies

Babies and young children are especially susceptible to the dangers of dust, primarily due to their fragile immune system.

In fact, the health risks to babies from pollutants in regular household dust could be up to 100 times greater than for adults, according to a recent study by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

For many babies, dust inside the home is their first exposure to irritants like pollen, soil particles, allergens, lead, PBDEs, even things like pesticides, carcinogens, and other harmful bacteria.

Although these chemicals and pollutants may not be directly in your home, they are certainly in the air, and as we discussed above, anything outside in the air has the potential to get inside your home.

Babies & the Dangers of Dust
Babies & the Dangers of Dust — Learning to protect the little ones

It’s small, it’s virtually undetected, it’s inevitable — how do you protect your kids from dust you can barely see? Here are a few tips on how to keep your home safe for a baby:

  • Wash infant linens in hot water once a week to kill any potential dust mites.
  • Limit excessive stuffed animals or plush toys, as it serves as a perfect breeding ground for dust mites.
  • Make a homemade cleaning spray for surfaces or fabrics using eucalyptus oil and water, for an all natural cleaning solution.
  • Lowering the temperature to around 70 degrees also helps limits the spread of dust mites (they love warmer temperatures closer to 75-80 degrees).

How To Prevent Dust

Although dust is everywhere and it’s nearly impossible to prevent it completely from entering you home, there are a few things you can do to help keep it at a minimum.

  • Wash bedding weekly — Cleaning your bedding at least once a week, will help to keep dust and bacteria from multiplying.
  • Clean from top to bottom — When you clean, be sure to move from top to bottom. Start with fans, then upper cabinets, then tables, then lower cabinets, then floors.
  • Dust with a damp cloth — Using a damp cloth, versus dry or microfiber, will help you to fully capture dust when you’re cleaning. A dry cloth is notorious for simply spreading the dust.
  • Check air filters — Check your air filters to make sure that they are clean and clean. Replace as needed and be sure to keep extras on hand so you’re not caught off guard.
  • Vacuum regularly — Vacuuming your house regularly will help to clean up dust and particles from building up on the floor. If you don’t have the time to vacuum, consider investing in a robot vacuum, many of which can be programmed to run ahead of time on a rotating weekly schedule. Robot vacuums can be inexpensive and rather basic, like the iLife A4s, or come with fancier bells and whistles like more advanced models.

About Derek Hales

Derek HalesDerek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of He has been featured in Fast Company, Reader's Digest, Business Insider,, She Knows, and other major publications. Derek has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University. Hales has been testing and reviewing products for the home since 2014.

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5 Comments on “What Is Dust Made Of?”

  1. I saw a few typos in this article “series” instead of “serious” and “an official tests”. It lowered my trust and confidence in the information in this article and has made me doubt the quality of the brands recommended here.

    • Thanks, Erin. We’ve corrected those typos (sorry about that).

      We do our best to write and edit this as professionally as possible, but we are first and foremost product testers, not copy editors…so I hope you can forgive our typos.

    • Seriously that made you not trust it? Not that its a stranger but because he made mistakes while writing. Dont be stupid you should recheck things regardless of how they spell it. I hope your not an adult with that thought process.

    • Most likely a combination of dead skin and other ultra fine particulates from various organic matter. All of that stuff eventually breaks down.