Story Time: Adventures in Dust Busting

I have come to two realizations lately.

First, I dislike Mondays. Mondays are the cleaning day in my household. While I love the results of the cleaning, I dislike that I now subconsciously associate Mondays with having allergic reactions. Usually, my skin starts to get itchy and atopic just as I am mixing up my homemade furniture polish to use when dusting.

Why is minimizing dust hard?

We have employed as many strategies as possible to minimize the dust we live with. However, it’s an endless uphill struggle because of my second realization:

I cannot entirely air purify and elbow grease my way out of a dust problem that is caused by faulty air ducting in our ancient rental townhouse.

What challenges does our house present?

This place is nearly 70 years old and when it comes to the electrical, plumbing and ducting/HVAC, and general construction of the townhomes I have found myself continually astounded. The electrical and ductwork in particular are a real doozy. I do lots of the small repairs myself when appropriate (and landlord approved).

I’ve enjoyed learning the skills as I feel it will help my partner and me when we take the plunge and become first-time homeowners. But, man, the number of times I have gone to fix something and find myself confronted with electrical, plumbing, or ducting anomalies is too dang high!

You may be wondering what I mean by “anomalies.” To illustrate that I will have to provide an example.

What happened with our washer and dryer?

We got our first washer-dryer set a few years back. I was so excited because up until then we had been using the building's laundry room. It was a perfect installation and I felt proud of myself.

After the first month, we began to notice our dust problem was getting worse. My atopic symptoms resurfaced after several years of dormancy and my partner's snoring got worse. All four of us began to display allergic symptoms more frequently.

What did I find?

My newfound pride as a self sufficient repair person was diminishing. I thought it must have been something I did wrong. Regardless, I was determined to fix the problem. I took the dryer out and inspected the vent. After an hour of trying to find the problem I still couldn’t see anything amiss so I had the idea to stick my phone down there and take a video.

Lo and behold, I found the problem! And I didn’t cause it! A dryer duct is supposed to do one thing: feed the hot air from the dryer directly to an outside vent. It should be shaped like the letter “I.” One way in, one way out. My video showed that while the duct did vent to the outside, it also vented the hot, dusty dryer air back into the main ducting. Instead of being shaped like the letter “I” the vent was shaped like a lowercase letter “t.” So for a month, we were breathing pure dust.

Could the problem be fixed?

Fortunately, I was able to temporarily fix the problem by accessing the outside vent panel and capping the “t” vent and turning it into a makeshift “I” vent.

Honestly, I found it quite annoying that such an oversight could have occurred. Not only was that level of dust exposure a health hazard for myself and my family, but it was also a fire hazard. I brought my concerns to my building manager and was told that to repair it formally could mean we’d have to find a new rental as it would require renovation. I also got the same old rigamarole I’d heard from her when I encountered strange problems before.

“It’s an old building and the building codes have changed over time so things might not be how they should be.”

Was this work up to code?

I had to stop myself from remarking that I seriously doubt that these places were up to any code, at any time. I did some research a while after and found that in the case of the wonky ducting, I was right. I didn’t share that tidbit with my building manager lest I come across as snarky.

I’ve had to come to a place of acceptance of this situation. While the dust situation has improved greatly after capping off the problem ducts, it is not perfect.

Do we move or wait until we have our own home?

Unfortunately, we either live with the allergic symptoms now and in a few years we have our own home where we can make any necessary repairs to reduce or eliminate the problem or we move to a new rental and maybe it will be better for our symptoms but we will have to forgo home ownership as a result.

Ugh. It’s a frustrating situation all around. I hope that one day I can look back on these times when we have our own, significantly less dusty home and laugh! Until then, I am glad to have a place like this to vent!

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