House Dust

Those trying in vain to keep a house clean detest house dust.  It floats in sunbeams and accumulates on furniture.  Most assume the dust comes from outside, and dirt does come in on shoes and such, but it doesn’t move throughout the house that far.  There’s no less house dust during the winter when the windows are closed.  In fact, there is probably more in winter than in summer.

So where does it come from?  If you look at it under a microscope, it appears to be small flat plates, usually six sided and slightly wrinkled on the surface.  They are in fact, skin cells from us or from pets.  We shed them constantly and in fantastic amounts.  It is the body’s way of keeping itself clean and free from invaders.

Surrounding us is a cloud of shed skin cells too small to be seen with the naked eye.  The formal name for this cloud is “dander”.  The only time you may notice your own dust cloud is if you wear black and see white flakes on your shoulders.  We call that “dandruff” and treat it with medicated shampoos like it’s an ailment. Not so, for skin cells and tiny hairs are shed from every square inch of our body except the palms and soles of our feet.  We produce a constant rain of dust that settles and accumulates everywhere we sit or stand.

Nature is very efficient, and if there’s something to eat, there’s usually something to eat it.  And so we have living with us in our house, dust mites (Dermatopyagoides farinae) too small to see.  They live in the carpet, in our bed, and on all our furniture. Having tiny live-in vacuum cleaners wouldn’t be such a bad thing except for one problem.  They are so tiny we unknowingly inhale a mite or mite parts, and there are lots of those in our house too.  Many are said to have an allergy to house dust, but in reality it’s dust mites that make them sick.

Getting rid of dust mites in your home is impossible, as is getting rid of house dust.  All you can do is vacuum regularly and try to forget the mites are there. But it is interesting that the indoors has its own version of wildlife.  Disturbing, but interesting.

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