Thursday, January 6, 2011

What is dust made of?


Actually, there are three main components of dust: first, dead skin cells, second, the dried feces and dessicated corpses of dust mites (lovely thought, eh? When people develop a house-dust allergy, this is usually the component they are reacting to), and the last component by volume is tiny fibers shed by clothing -- cotton is bad for this, and jeans are the worst. This is for ordinary house dust. (Incidentally, dust mites are not generally visible, except with a microscope; they are 200-300 microns long, they eat dead skin cells and live in bedding, carpets and soft furnishings. Always. Trust me on this, anything a year old or more has a good population of them.)

In the case of a new basement, on the other hand, the primary component of dust is likely to be the obvious: concrete. Elsewhere in a brand-new house plaster and plasterboard both "shed" copiously over the first few weeks.

And outdoor dust is fine particles of soil and stone dust (composition dependent on location and prevailing winds), with a hefty component of pollen and other plant material.

So it does depend on where you are.


If you take a few fingers full out of your vacuum cleaner, put it in a plastic bag, and bring it to school, you can look at a glob under a microscope at various powers and see all kinds of really nasty looking things in there. You'll need to pull the blobs apart to differentiate some of the more twisted items - but it's totally hideous.


Question: Some hippie was rambling about how we are all just reanimated star dust and I am wondering if this is true. I like the idea. It's nice to think that the molecules in my body used to be a star. I would like to better understand this concept. Is it based on fact or just the musings of a hippie?

Best Answer - Chosen by Voters:

Pretty much. The hydrogen atoms in you were made when the universe began, but all other atoms were manufactured by stars. The only elements that weren't made in stars are hydrogen, helium and a little bit of lithium.


  1. The Universe and Forever

  2. I find this all strangely reassuring. You're never really alone are you. It's always you and ten million little bugs.....The star dust too!

    "every man and every woman is a star" - Aleister Crowley

    "you're a shining star, no matter who you are" - Earth, Wind, and Fire

    -Shay S.

  3. We are stardust
    We are golden
    And we've got to get ourselves
    Back to the garden
    -- Joni Mitchell "Woodstock"