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Do It Yourself: Nobody ever said dust control was easy

Q: We have a serious dust problem in our house, even though we dust and mop regularly. Can you advise us how to get rid of this stuff?

A: Dust control in a house is a never-ending battle because dust has so many sources.

Some experts say much of the dust in homes comes from outside, carried inside on shoes and clothing. But there are also many inside sources of dust, including our own bodies, which shed hair and bits of skin.

Fabrics also contribute by shedding bits of material. Other common sources include forced-air heating and cooling systems, pets and paper.

According to some experts who have studied dust control, the most important thing you can do is vacuum regularly using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. Ordinary vacuums spew much of the dust they pick up back into the air through their exhaust.

You should not only regularly vacuum floors and rugs, but also upholstery and bedding.

If you have a duct system for heating and/or cooling, use high-efficiency filters in the furnace or air conditioner; cheap fiberglass filters trap only the largest particles.

Put doormats at every entrance and use them to wipe your shoes before entering; better yet, remove shoes at the entrance. Keep closet floors clean – they are major dust collectors.

When dusting furniture, shelves and so forth, use damp cloths or special dust-collecting wipes, not dry rags or a feather duster, which simply move the dust from one surface to another.

Area rugs should be taken outdoors and shaken out regularly, or hang them on a line outdoors and use a carpet beater to knock out the dust.

Filter-type air cleaners, sold at most home centers and department stores, can also help.

If all this sounds like a lot of trouble, it is. But dust is so insidious there is no easy way to control it.

Q: I have toilets and sinks installed in the 1950s. After 60 years of cleaning the shine has dulled. I would like to regain the shine, but I’m not keen about reglazing. Any ideas?

A: These old fixtures undoubtedly are finished with porcelain, a very tough glazing. But even porcelain can be dulled by strong cleaners, especially those with abrasives.

I don’t know of any practical way to restore the shine except refinishing, and I don’t think refinishing is practical on bath fixtures so old unless they have some special value.

Toilets installed in the 1950s use at least five gallons of water every time they are flushed; some use seven gallons. This is three or more times the amount of water used by modern toilets when flushed, and if you have a municipal water supply these toilets are costing you dearly.

My advice is to replace the fixtures, especially the toilets. The savings on your water bill will pay for them in a few years.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.