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How Long Can Organisms Live in Dust?


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Dust can gather on pretty much any surface in your home. And though a bit of dust is inevitable, a lot of dust can be very bad for your health.

Household dust can contain thriving cultures of tiny organisms, and some of them can carry a health risk.

In this post we’ll discuss some of the organisms you might find in dust, how long they can live, and what sort of health problems they might bring. We’ll also explore some ways you can help reduce the levels of harmful organisms in your home.

Common Organisms Found in Household Dust

Microbes commonly found in homes include:

  • Fungi – The study found more than 2,000 different types of fungi in household dust. This includes mould spores, which can trigger allergic reactions and cause long-term breathing difficulties.
  • Bacteria – The study also found an average of 7,000 different types of bacteria per household. Some of these, such as Streptococcus, are linked with human skin. But others, such as Bacteroides, are linked to faeces. Not all of these bacteria are harmful. But inhaling some may trigger allergies, and contribute to other health conditions.
  • Viruses – Certain viruses can also live in household dust, such as the norovirus, and those that cause colds and flus.
  • Dust mites – These creatures might not be as small as fungal spores, bacteria and viruses, but they’re still so tiny that you could fit 50 of them on the head of a pin. Some people are allergic to dust mites. Read our guide to dust mite allergies.

In fact, a 2015 study analysed the dust from 1,200 homes. They found that the dust in your home can contain an average of 9,000 different species of microbes.

How Long Can Organisms Live in Dust?

Different organisms have different lifespans. Fungal spores and bacteria can reproduce on their own, so they can thrive pretty much indefinitely in dust. But viruses need a host body to reproduce, so they’ll have a much shorter lifespan in dust.

A microbe’s lifespan depends on many things. Some thrive in heat, but others prefer low temperatures. Some might only live for a few hours. But others can live for hundreds of years.

An individual dust mite might only live for a month or so. Yet dust mites feed on dead skin cells and other organic matter. So if they find a moist and dark place with a good food supply, a microbiome of dust mites could subsist for months.

How Can I Remove Organisms Living in Dust From My Home?

Before we go any further, there are two things you should know:

  1. You will never entirely eliminate these microbes from your home. They’re just part of life.
  2. The vast majority of these organisms are completely harmless.

But as we’ve seen, some of these organisms can trigger allergies and lead to other health problems. So while you’ll always have to share your home with thousands of tiny organisms, there are some things you can do to manage the risk they pose.

How to Reduce the Levels of Organisms Living in Dust at Home

Clean Regularly

Dust your surfaces as often as possible. And when dusting, use a damp cloth to prevent dust from flying into the air while you clean. Also consider decluttering your home, to give dust fewer surfaces to settle on.

Dust can also gather in the fibres of your soft furnishings and carpets. So wash your upholstery as often as you can, and hoover regularly using a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter to trap and kill microbes.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you think the microbes in your home are causing you problems, talk to your doctor. They can help you pinpoint the underlying cause of your condition, and they might advise on some steps you can take to address it. If nothing else, they can prescribe some medication to help you manage your symptoms.

Control Your Pets

Some of the organisms living in your household dust might come from your pets. Your furry friends can also create pet dander, which can also trigger a number of health conditions.

Obviously, you don’t want to get rid of your pets. But if they’re contributing to health problems, you might need to rethink a few things.

Regularly washing their bedding, and any surfaces they sleep on, will help prevent the build-up of pet dander and other harmful substances. And as many allergies can be worse at night, consider preventing your pets from sleeping in, or even entering, your bedroom.

Purify Your Air

Opening your windows can make rooms feel fresher. But many of the microbes found in household dust come from the outside. Also, keeping your windows open can invite other potentially harmful substances into your home, such as particulate matter and pollen.

So if you really want to get on top of a dust problem, combine regular cleaning with a good air purifier.

Our domestic air purifiers use advanced HEPASilent technology to capture 99.97% of all airborne particles down to 0.1 micron in size. This includes dust and the many organisms that live in it, including viruses, bacteria, fungal spores and dust mites. But it will also capture many other common allergens, including pollen and pet dander.

Head here to learn more about how our air purifiers work, and the difference they can make for you and your family.

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