The Great Dust-Up
Even in enclosed air-conditioned spaces dust appears, powdering surfaces and hiding as dust bunnies in corners and behind furniture. Where does all this dust come from, you must wonder? And how do you clean effectively so it doesn’t get up your nose especially if you suffer from allergies? MedHatter asks microbiologist Toby Saville, Senior Performance Engineer at technology company Dyson, famous for their innovative products.
Toby studied Environmental Biology at Aberystwyth University in Wales, UK. He joined Dyson in 2001, heading a team researching how to make homes cleaner and safer for allergy sufferers. The research is passed to Dyson engineers who ensure that their machines can remove irritants – making the home environment more pleasant. Dyson vacuum cleaners are all approved by the British Allergy Foundation as vacuuming is an important way to remove allergens from the home.
How dust creeps into our lives
Household dust consists of a mixture of ingredients that includes: dead skin shed by people, fibres from upholstery, tracked‑in soil and airborne particles blown in from outdoors. And anything else that might be living in our homes, like dust mites. Their faeces make up a large component of house dust. On average, there are 2 million dust mites on a mattress and each dust mite lays up to 20 droppings a day – meaning just one mattress could contain over 40 million droppings.
City homes include more dust from urban living, such as grimy soot from air pollution and road dust. Homes close to arid desert regions will find an increase in a fine, silt-like sand from desert winds.
Accumulation of dust is an inevitability. Humans can shed approximately 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells a minute, which is around 28 grams of skin cells every month; the weight of a bag of crisps. Road dust is problem for those living in cities like Singapore. Dust kicked up from roads makes up a large proportion of air pollution. It comes from deposited car exhaust, tyres, brake disc wear and construction sites. As we go about our day-to-day business we bring dust into our homes. Certain surfaces and corners of the home act like reservoirs for dust particles.
Are you clearing out dust or spreading it around?
We clean our homes but many cleaning methods are ineffective. Dusting and sweeping only collects large visible fluff and dirt, but it flicks huge amounts of invisible dust into the air and they end up settling back on the floor. Mopping just pushes particles around the floor and deeper into crevices.
Vacuuming is an effective method for tackling dust but not all vacuums will cut it – some vacuum cleaners can’t retain the dust they remove, because they have leaky seals. Others are unable to capture the smaller allergy-causing particles because they don’t have an efficient separation mechanism.
Sneezing, coughing, itching
An allergy is a disorder of the immune system that causes hypersensitivity to certain substances – allergens eg moulds, pollen and pet dander. But dust mites are the main culprits and hot spot areas are where you spend the most time: The living room and the bedroom
On contact with an allergen, the immune system thinks it’s under attack and produces a type of antibody known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE). This is a natural substance that is thought to play an important role in the body’s fight against parasitic infection. Allergy sufferers can have up to 10 times the normal level of IgE in their bloodstream. IgE bonds with white blood cells and makes them release powerful chemicals such as histamine into the body. These chemicals cause inflammation of affected areas – leading to coughing, itching, sneezing, runny nose and other common symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Dyson has developed vacuum cleaners that capture up to 99.99% of particles as small as PM0.3. Our vacuum cleaners have been engineered for a high level of constant dust pick up, allowing Dyson machines to suck up reservoirs of dust and dirt that would otherwise contribute to allergens in the home. While Dyson’s patented cyclone technology uses huge centrifugal forces to separate out dust and fine particles from the air, ensuring the dust is contained inside the machine rather than released back into the air.
It traps microscopic particles down to 1/5,000 of a pinhead. Particles this small include common household allergens such as pollen, mould spores and dust mite faeces.
Simple and effective cleaning
Vacuum regularly to rid the home of allergens and pay particular attention to the mattress, around beds and under beds. And don’t forget to vacuum under the sofa and other soft furnishings – allergens tend to accumulate here too. For hard to reach places Dyson have developed a number of vacuum cleaner tools, the soft dusting brush allows you to get in between blinds, the up-top tool is perfect for tops of picture frames or lampshades and the flexi-crevice tool helps you get into nooks and crannies that hands can’t reach. Finally, where possible remove dust reservoirs such as carpets.
Windows and doors are a gateway for dust to enter our homes. In fact, even taking your shoes off can help prevent dust entering your home. Interestingly, when we conducted research on dust in Japanese homes; we observed that as a result of the Japanese taking off their shoes before entering the home, there is far less road dust indoors. The most effective method for keeping a home dust and allergen free is to vacuum regularly in combination with air purification.
While it’s impossible to completely eradicate dust mites from the home, vacuuming your mattress, bedroom and soft furnishing regularly is an effective way to control dust mite population. Vacuuming a) removes their food source (human skin cells) thus reducing the population and b) remove their allergen-causing faeces.
People want to clean their homes quickly and without too much sweat. Hence, the growing interest in lighter, faster machines with no compromise on performance. The popularity of our cordless machines has really grown. Powered by the Dyson digital motor, the machine is as powerful as a full-size machine but without the hassle of a cord. It’s perfect for smaller homes or quick touch ups.
Dog (or cat) hair may make your nose tickle but that’s not why you’re sneezing. It’s because your pet’s hair has allergens on it – left from licking themselves clean and proteins secreted by sebaceous oil glands. Flakes of dried skin known as dander can also be a problem. Household allergens cling to it too – forming a kind of sneeze induced cocktail. Vacuuming also helps reduce the effects of pet hairs and allergens. We also advise washing your pet’s bed regular at 60 ºC. Vacuuming your pet can help too. Dyson engineers have developed the Dyson groom tool: self-cleaning and mess-free, sucking up pet hair before it falls to the floor. The Dyson groom tool’s stainless steel bristles remove loose hair and dead skin.
Mite new vacuum features work?
Dyson have worked with an independent microbiologist to look at the effectiveness of other mattress tool cleaners.
Some manufacturers claim that the UV lights in their devices are effective at killing dust mites. However for the UV to be effective, it needs to have an uninterrupted view of the dust mite. The issue is that dust mites live below the surface of the mattress and any material that gets between the light source and the target will absorb the radiation needed to kill the mites. In addition each mite needs to be exposed to the light for at least 60 seconds. If you were to use a UV light properly it would take you around 8.5 hours to clean average double mattress. The lights on mattress cleaners don’t have the length of exposure or ability to kill the mites.
Other manufacturers incorporate vibrating pads into their machines and claim that their cleaners can shake out dust mites and other microscopic particles, which can then be sucked up by the vacuum. But dust mites have hooks on their legs which enable them to cling to mattress fibres. The vibrations created by mattress cleaners are too weak to dislodge dust mites and even if they did the suction would be too weak to suck them up.