QDust is out of control in our house. We have hardwood floors, but the dust seems to grow overnight. Everything gets a coat of dust. We have gas heat and no central air conditioning. Is there any way to relieve this problem? -- J. Bullock
AIf you can identify the sources of the dust, it will help in controlling it. Desert Dust Management of Tucson, which specializes in dust control, contends that 85 percent of the material that settles on floors and other surfaces comes from outdoors. They recommend entrance mats with deep, brushlike pile to help remove dust and dirt that are tracked inside. Obviously, everyone entering the house has to scrape his shoes diligently.
Central air conditioning can also help reduce dust because windows can be kept closed year-round, significantly reducing infiltration of outside dirt. But tight sealing of homes and lack of adequate ventilation can spawn other problems, including higher concentrations of mold and radon.
Ducts attached to central heaters and air conditioners are common sources of dust and molds. If ducts have not been cleaned for several years and a house is experiencing dust-mold problems (such as allergy symptoms among residents), an inspection of the ducts by an experienced cleaning service would be a good step. The Web site of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (www.nadca.com) is an excellent source of information and includes a list of certified technicians.
High-efficiency filters for furnaces and air conditioners, sold at many home centers, can screen out much of the dust and mold spores that would otherwise be circulated into the living areas.
Filter-type, electronic air cleaners can also be helpful in removing not only dust but also contaminants such as mold, pet dander and even tobacco smoke. Air cleaners can be installed in a central location as part of the heating/air-conditioning equipment, or are available in room-size models. I have had good results with Honeywell room-size cleaners (floor models) sold at home centers and department stores at prices starting around $100.
An in-depth discussion of air cleaners by the American Lung Association is available at www.lungusa.org/pub/cleaners/air_clean_chap1.html.
Always use cleanup methods that pick up dust so it can be removed from the home, not dusters or dry mops that simply move it from one place to another. Vacuum cleaners with high-efficiency filters, damp mops and damp cloths are helpful. Note that other types of vacuum cleaners can spew dust into the air. Bedding, curtains, throw rugs and other items that collect dust should be washed as often as possible.
We have an older vinyl-tile floor in our kitchen with an imitation-brick finish that has small pores in it. The floor has been waxed a number of times, but it is beginning to look dull and is difficult to clean. What can we do about this? Can we give it a coat of polyurethane to brighten it up? -- J. Poole
I would definitely not try to put polyurethane on the floor. It does not adhere well to wax, and I doubt if you could remove all traces of the old wax no matter how thoroughly you cleaned the floor. If you want to keep this old floor, my advice is to check out the many vinyl-care products sold by supermarkets, home centers and flooring dealers. Special cleaners and polishes could restore the floor to a good appearance.
If the tiles are beyond restoring, it is relatively easy to install a new vinyl floor. Many times, new vinyl flooring can be installed right over the old material. In this case, since the flooring does not have a smooth surface, the best bet is to install a layer of 1/4-inch underlayerment over the old flooring, then install new tiles or sheet flooring.
How can I restore the aroma to my cedar-lined closet?
One way is to lightly sand the cedar with 80-grit sandpaper to expose new wood cells. This is not difficult if an electric finishing sander is used. Be sure to wear a dust mask and goggles.
Another method is to wipe the surface with cedar oil, which is distilled from aromatic cedar. A distributor that sells Giles & Kendall cedar oil in small quantities can be reached at 800-555-3694. An eight-ounce bottle costs $11.50 plus shipping; a 32-ounce bottle is $38.95 plus shipping.
Readers' questions and comments are welcome and should be sent to Gene Austin, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 861, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to email@example.com. Questions cannot be answered personally.