Guide To Low Dust Drywall Joint Compound (Mud)

How Much Dust Does It Really Give Off? Does It Look Good?

There are many things you can do to attempt to reduce drywall dust.  There are air-tight, negative pressure plastic dust barriers.  There is the wet sanding method--effective only for small areas. Then there are sanding machines that purport to suck away dust as you sand. They all make admirable efforts, but they are no match for drywall dust.

  • 01 of 08

    The Enemy: Drywall Dust

    Applying Mud to Sheetrock
    George Peters / Getty Images

    Drywall dust is incredibly talcum powder-fine and it loves to travel.

    One aspect of its nasty personality is that it is a master escape artist. If you happen to have a hole in your dust barrier the diameter of a dime, drywall dust will find it and escape.

    Once out, it will travel farther than you can imagine. An appreciable amount of escaping dust will end up at the other end of the house.

    You may think you did a good job of controlling the dust, but you will wake up the next morning, run a finger across your dresser, and your fingertip will come up white.

    Enter low-dust, or dust control, drywall compound.

  • 02 of 08

    Dust Control Compound: Its Dust Is Like Sawdust

    Low Dust Joint Compound
    Before committing to low-dust mud, I read plenty of forums to see if anyone could accurately describe what kind of dust this compound gave off. Most often, forum members would say, "It falls straight down." This is partially correct.

    The closest comparison is sawdust from a jigsaw. If you've ever cut a piece of wood indoors, you'll know the range of sawdust clean-up. It's just like that. The bulk of the dust will pile up directly below the work material. Then, you'll have a layer of fine dust radiating out another two feet or so. Then, you will find a very fine layer of dust about ten feet away. Ten feet seems to be the limit of low-dust mud falling from a 7 foot-high sanded joint.

    Methodology? Very scientific. I began with a clean floor and used no dust barrier. When the work was done, I dusted outward with a black cloth until no more white dust appeared on the cloth.

  • 03 of 08

    You Still Need a Dust Barrier

    So, low-dust mud does not mean you can sand drywall with abandon. You'll still need to erect dust barriers. It just means that the dust is less prone to escaping from small holes and traveling from one end of the house to the other.
  • 04 of 08

    The Finish Is Less Than Perfect

    Drywall mud
    Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
    Even though I hate the dust produced by conventional joint compound, I love the finish. With good mud, you can step down your sandpaper grit, and by the time you have reached the finest grit, the sanded compound is nothing less than hard and glass-smooth. With the reduced-dust mud, you achieve a finish that is medium-hard and rougher surfaced, just short of glass-smooth. Thus, you will not want to use low-dust mud for the final skim coat of a Level 5 drywall finish.
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    It Is a Little Harder to Sand

    Drywall Sanding
    Drywall Sanding.
    I've heard that low-dust compound was more difficult to sand; one forum member even said that it was like sanding hot, wet mud. That is an exaggeration. However, it follows to reason that any material which does not break up readily into fine particles will be more difficult to sand. I found it only slightly harder to sand, though.
  • 06 of 08

    It Is More Expensive Than Regular Joint Compound

    Man at hardware store
    Christian Hoehn/Getty Images
    It should be no surprise that dust-control mud is more expensive. At The Home Depot, Sheetrock Brand 1-Gallon Pre-Mixed Joint Compound is $7.57. At Lowe's, SHEETROCK Brand 5 Gallons of All-purpose Drywall Joint Compound is $15.32, which works out to be $3.06. That's a whopping difference of $4.51. Even accounting for the fact that the all-purpose variety will be cheaper because you are buying in bulk, the difference still remains.
  • 07 of 08

    Your Drywall Contractor Will Not Use It

    Drywall mud
    BanksPhotos/Getty Images
    Because of this higher cost and superiority of conventional mud, most drywall companies will not use low-dust mud, as they are experienced at dust control methods. Dust-control is as much for the workers as it is for you, the homeowner. Most firms and individuals can be counted on to do a good job of controlling dust.
  • 08 of 08

    It Is Possible to Sweep Up This Dust

    Sweeping up home
    Gideon Mendel / Contributor/Getty Images
    Another comedy of errors with conventional drywall compound's dust occurs when you try to sweep it up. Every sweep of the broom seems to send more dust airborne than is deposited in the dust pan. Another reason why it's best to suck it up with a shop vacuum fitted with a drywall dust-compliant bag. But with the low-dust variety, it is possible to sweep up the majority of the pile without creating too much of a dust cloud. Shop vacuuming is still recommended for low-dust mud, though.