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How Household Dust Can Affect Your Health

by Jeff King
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Staying on top of cleaning your home is about much more than keeping up appearances and avoiding awkward looks when unexpected guests drop by. While you might not give your dirty—or “well lived in,” as many of us prefer to call it—home much thought, it could be making you or your family members sick.

Between work, school, taking care of the kids, and other obligations, it’s easy to let cleaning fall by the wayside. A messy home can be so much more than an eyesore, though. Dirt and clutter lead to a wide range of health issues—some of them serious. Keep reading to learn more about how household dust, dirt, and grime can affect your health.

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Clutter Causes Stress

Let’s start with the basics. If you have a bunch of clutter lying around your home, it is probably stressing you out—even if you don’t realize it. When you are unable to find things you need, end up tripping over all the miscellaneous “stuff” that seems to be piled everywhere, and have no where to neatly store all of your possessions, it leads to unnecessary stress. Plus, when you have too much clutter lying around, it creates perfect spots for dust, dirt, and other debris to gather. Cleaning up your clutter could help you improve your mental and physical well-being.

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Dust Contains Microscopic Predators that Can Make You Sick …

Did you know that the average home collects 40 pounds of dust each year? Yikes! And to make matters even worse, that dust is home to microscopic insects that can make you sick. Dust mites may not seem like a big deal, but they are one of the biggest predators residing in your home. Commonly found in mattresses, these microscopic mites cause allergy symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose; red, itchy, watery eyes; and itchiness in the throat or nose. They can also cause asthma-related symptoms like difficulty breathing and tightness in the chest.

 

… And Lots of Other Nasty Stuff

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Dust mites aren’t the only things lurking in the dust in your home. It also contains numerous toxic chemicals that have been linked to respiratory and behavioral problems. Dust settles on every surface in the home, and it is constantly being circulated by your HVAC system. If you aren’t keeping up with the dusting, your family could be breathing all sorts of nasty stuff.

While you may do a good job of wiping the dust off of hard surfaces like hutches or china cabinets, you may not be so thorough about removing it from soft surfaces. Fabric furniture, including sofas, loveseats, chairs, and even mattresses, should be vacuumed regularly to eliminate dust. If you have slipcovered furniture with washable covers, launder the covers frequently.


 

Grimy Floors Are More than Just Gross

If you have tile floors in your kitchen or bathroom and don’t thoroughly clean them on a regular basis, the grout could be harboring toxic mold. Mold has been linked to several respiratory issues, including asthma, and it is particularly harmful to young kids, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. The floors in these rooms are also often covered in bacteria.

Think you’re safe because you have carpet? Think again. Even if your carpet looks mostly clean, it is likely grimier than you think. If you don’t use a vacuum with really good suction and a HEPA filter every single day, your carpet is probably loaded with dust mites, dander, food particles, and more. If you have pets, your carpet serves as a perfect magnet for animal fur and a breeding ground for fleas. Do you really want to walk barefoot on all that nasty stuff or, worse, let your kids play on it?

 


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A Dirty Fridge Could Make You Ill

Keeping your fridge clean involves more than just throwing away the leftover pizza when it starts growing mold. If you aren’t cleaning the shelves and drawers regularly, there is a serious risk of your fresh food becoming contaminated. When any type of liquid spills in your fridge and isn’t properly cleaned up, it starts growing mold, which could get into your other food. Spills involving liquids from fresh meats can also contain harmful bacteria which could, of course, spread to other food items.

The fruit and veggie drawers can be pretty nasty, too. In fact, they often become cesspools of microorganisms that are just waiting to cause infections. To keep them safe for storing foods, they need to be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. Be sure to get into the corners! When you bring fresh produce home from the grocery store, wash it all before putting it in the fridge. This will help keep the drawers a bit cleaner in between washings.


 

Dirty Shower heads Can Lead to Pulmonary Disease

Your shower head probably isn’t something you think about cleaning, but it should be. According to one study, 30% of shower heads carry high amounts of a bacteria group known as Mycobacterium avium. Once swallowed or inhaled, this nasty type of bacteria can result in pulmonary disease and lung infections. While people with weak immune systems are most likely to be affected, Mycobacterium avium can cause illness in anyone.


 

Conclusion

If you’ve always thought that keeping a clean house is mostly for show, think again. Dust, dirt, and grime can harbor all sorts of nasty microorganisms, bacteria, and mold, so staying on top of your household cleaning tasks could quite literally—in extreme situations—be a matter of life and death.

Deep clean your home a couple of times each year and do your best to stay on top of things in between. Clean up messes right away and be mindful of how even the most seemingly insignificant things could impact your family’s health. Create a daily tidying up routine. Before you know it, you will be keeping your home cleaner than you ever imagined possible.

 

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