- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Keeping a dust-free home means more to some than passing the white-glove test. Dust tiny particles of dead skin, mold, pet dander and carpet fibers can trigger allergy and asthma conditions.

Eradicating dust isn’t feasible, but a combination of strict cleaning measures and air filtration can limit its impact.

Joyce Abdallah of Love My Home cleaning service in Alexandria, says her clients differ when it comes to the dust swirling around them.

“A lot of customers say they don’t have any dust . It depends on their ducts,” Ms. Abdallah says. Others suffer from higher levels of dust because of nearby construction projects.

She recommends changing one’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) filters every month and making sure the home’s ducts have been cleaned at least once over the past seven years.

Ms. Abdallah says house and apartment dwellers have a modicum of control over how much dust accumulates in their homes. Keeping doors and windows open is an invitation to environmental dust, she says.

A basic approach to dust collection is using a damp cloth to wipe surfaces clean.

That’s only one way to approach the problem, though.

Ms. Abdallah uses a glass-cleaning solution on mirrors and other slick surfaces; she turns to furniture polish to wipe away dust on wood.

Some manufacturers offer nonallergenic vacuum equipment, but anecdotal feedback from her clients says it hasn’t helped them with their allergies.

One ray of hope for those who react to allergy-fueling dust is to install an electronic filter onto their HVAC systems. Ms. Abdallah says one of her customers bought such a unit and is happy with the results.

Craig Ellis, director of sales for Fedders HVACR in Liberty Corner, N.J., says electronic air-filter technology has been around for more than 50 years. Increased interest in air quality has made the gadgetry more popular, he says.

“Look at every major newspaper. They give air-quality reports now,” he says.

Today’s electronic filters feature more reliable components than in the past, and his company’s products require users to clean the filter every three or four months. The company’s electronic filters catch dust; dust mites; pollen; mold spores and other particles, including microscopic bacteria and viruses.

The units contain high-voltage ionizers, which give dust particles caught in the air stream positive charges. The charged particles are introduced to two plates. One is charged positively, which repels the newly excited dust particles, sending them toward a ground plate, where they remain.

“Dirt is a natural adhesive. That’s why you have to dust. It doesn’t just fall off your blinds,” he says.

Generally, the units cost between $600 and $900, including installation, depending on the complexity of the project and how accessible the home’s HVAC system is.

Diamond Bracey, managing partner with Another You cleaning service in Bowie, says many of her clients, particularly those with respiratory ailments, use filter systems to keep dust at bay.

The feather duster is the first tool many think of when it comes to dust removal. Ms. Bracey says home dwellers should spring for an ostrich-feather model. It costs more than a standard feather duster about $20, she estimates but dust clings better to the ostrich feathers, and it sheds less.

Ms. Bracey agrees that furniture polish keeps wood shining like new, but she cautions users to read the fine print. Make sure the polish contains a cleaning agent, she says.

“You don’t want something that’s going to shine or cover up . Sometimes, they actually create a film that attracts more dust,” she says.

Some cleaning professionals say glass surfaces can be treated with newspapers rather than paper towels. Ms. Bracey doesn’t use yesterday’s news because the papers can smear on the surface being cleaned and leave a mess on one’s hands.

An allergy specialist can be a valuable source of dust-busting information.

These professionals know all about a major by-product of dust, the indomitable dust mite. These creatures, so tiny that they can’t be seen by the human eye, feast on pet dander and other dust sources, leaving behind waste products that can trigger allergy and asthma conditions.

Dr. Hafez Daneshvar of the Allergy and Asthma Care Center, which has three locations in Northern Virginia, says humidity gives dust mites a warm welcome.

“More problems with dust mites occur near the oceanside,” Dr. Daneshvar says.

One major way to reduce dust in the home is to remove items where dust can collect. That means reducing the number of stuffed toys and removing unnecessary furniture from the home and opting for hard floors over carpeting, which allows dust to settle. Even curtains are dust collectors, he says. Allergy sufferers might consider shades or other less porous surfaces.

For more extreme dust control, he suggests encasing pillows and mattresses in special covers to keep out dust.

Should a pillow or blanket become too cozy a haven for dust mites, homeowners can wash them in hot water to kill the mites, he says.

Dr. Daneshvar doesn’t dispute that air filters can help those with dust allergies, but he says the costs often can be avoided by trying the preceding tips.

If at all possible, he says, the allergy sufferer should have a friend perform the cleanup and stay clear of the rooms for up to four hours.

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