Tips for Controlling Dust in the Garage

What you don't want your garage to look like. Source: Benoit Doidic, Pintrest

In most homes, the garage serves a multitude of purposes beyond just storing vehicles. The garage may also be a storage locker for keeping excess furniture, a garden shed where tools and lawn equipment are cleaned and stored, a chemical storage cabinet where paints and solvents are kept, a woodshop where lumber is sawed and stored, and a mechanics shop where cars and motorcycles are tinkered with. All these uses make the garage a place that gathers a lot of dust and grime. It sometimes seems that no matter how often sweep and clean the garage, the dust reappears as fast as you can remove it.

Causes of Garage Dust

The multiple uses of a garage goes a long way toward explaining why this space gets so dusty, but another part of the answer might surprise you: the concrete floor. The number one cause of dust inside the garage is the concrete slab. Concrete that isn't properly sealed will eventually begin to break down slightly when moisture and substances such as oil or grease seep down into it. This causes the concrete to eat itself, producing a fine sheen of rock and Portland cement dust. When you walk, drag items, or drive a car through it, this dust becomes airborne and settles everywhere.

Because garages have large doors that are constantly opening and closing, a lot of outdoor dirt and debris can get blown into the garage. Garden soil, grass clippings, bits of leaves and twigs are all part of the debris you may notice each time you sweep the garage or empty out your shop vacuum.

Other causes of dust inside your garage are likely to be the same as those of dust inside your home: pet fur, hair, bits of fabric, and flakes of skin. Not pleasant to think about, but common dust has a way of building up naturally wherever people reside.

But there are several ways to control dust inside your garage and simplify cleaning chores.

Begin With a Thorough Cleaning

If the garage is quite dusty, start with a good, thorough cleaning. Do this systematically, beginning by cleaning high shelves and workbench surfaces of all dust and debris, and working your way down to the floor. Use a three-tier approach: begin by sweeping up dust and debris, then vacuum all surfaces using a shop vacuum, then damp-mop or use a microfiber dust cloth to remove the finest dust from all surfaces, walls to floor.

Pay particular attention to any powder efflorescence on the concrete foundation walls and floor. Make sure the concrete isn't currently shedding. If so, make sure seal the concrete.

Seal the Concrete Slab

Seal every concrete surface in the garage with a good impregnating or penetrating concrete sealant. This will not only stop your concrete from producing excess dust in the future; it will also help prevent staining in the case of spills or oil leaks. Make sure you get a sealer that goes into the concrete, rather than just sitting on top as a surface layer. A good penetrating gel sealer will impede any kind of moisture or staining, which is what causes the concrete to begin to break down. They will also help fill any hairline cracks in the concrete, which will help prevent future damage and make your floor and walls last even longer.

Repair or Replace the Door Seals

A surprising amount of dirt and dust can blow into the garage underneath doors that have bad or missing seals. Check the condition of the seals on the main garage door and any side passage doors to make sure they are in good condition. Reattach any that are loose, or replace seals that are cracked or torn.

Change the HVAC Filter

Do you have an AC or HVAC system heating or cooling your garage? If so, it may be time to change the filter. Filters on your AC or heating unit help pull particulates out of the air. When the filter becomes clogged, it can't do its job as effectively. This makes your garage dustier than it should be, and it also causes your HVAC system to work harder, driving up your energy bills and requiring more frequent maintenance. Replacing your filter or investing in a better performing model can help reduce dust buildup in the garage.

Install an Air Filtration System

If you don't heat or cool your garage with a filtered appliance, consider running an air filtration system of the type sold for use in woodworking shops. These systems work only to clean the air—they don't affect the air temperature. Most work with an electrostatic filtration system to pull particulates like dust out of the air while it circulates. So if the dust in your garage is caused by animals, wood dust, or other debris that can't be eliminated, this may help.

Clean Lawn Equipment and Garden Tools

After each use, clean your lawnmower and garden tools outoors before storing them away in the garage. Grass clippings and garden dirt from tools comprise a surprisingly large amount of the dirt and dust in a garage. Outdoor play equipment should also be cleaned before storage.

Vacuum, Don't Sweep

Once your garage is thoroughly cleaned and you have taken the logical steps to reduce and control dust, you will still need to perform ongoing cleaning. When you clean, a shop vacuum with a good internal filter is a much better way to keep things clean then pushing around dust and dirt with a broom. The dust in a garage often consists of very fine, almost microscopic particles, and a broom may simply redistribute this dust rather than remove it. Clean or replace the filter on the shop vac regularly so that it continues to catch fine dust.

Use Sealed Storage Containers

If you are storing things like potting soil, grass seed, playground sand, fertilizers, clothing, sidewalk salts, plaster or drywall compounds in the garage, make sure to keep them in covered and sealed containers. Any loosely stored materials can contribute to dust in the garage. Buy some convenient plastic storage containers to keep these items safely sealed. Sealed containers will also prevent rodents from infiltrating your belongings.