How to Reduce Dust When Sanding Drywall

Sanding during renovation
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When sanding drywall joint compound, drywall dust seems to get everywhere, no matter how hard you try to eliminate it. Until a better wall system is invented that doesn't require sanding, this fine, talcum powder-like byproduct of sanding drywall is a fact of life whenever you want to remodel a room. While eliminating drywall dust altogether is difficult, there are a number of ways to significantly reduce drywall dust when sanding.

Dust Control Drywall Compound

  • Reduces drywall dust

  • Can be used without a barriers

  • Can be swept up

  • Expensive

  • Can be difficult to sand

  • Dust does not go away

Dust control or low-dust joint compound is much like regular joint compound, but its modified formula makes it heavier.

Dust control joint compound has a higher limestone content than regular joint compound (up to 50-percent, rather than regular mud's 35-percent). Plus, the part of drywall dust that tends to travel the most, the talcum, is substituted with perlite.

Sanding with dust-control or low-dust joint compound does produce dust. But the dust is more like the sawdust you get from cutting wood. Heavier particles drop straight to the ground, rather than going airborne and floating to the farthest reaches of your house.

Another time-saving benefit of dust-control joint compound is that it can be swept up with a broom and a dust pan. If cost is not an issue, then low-dust drywall compound is your best bet. For those occasional small touch-ups after you've taken down the dust barrier, you can even sand the low-dust joint compound without erecting the barrier again.

How to Use Dust Control Joint Compound

Apply dust control joint compound the same as you would conventional drywall compound, though adjust for a lighter consistency. So, use lighter tool pressure.


If you don't have mixing tools like a drill and drill paddles, use a potato masher to mix the dust control compound.

Wet Sanding

  • No dust

  • Barriers not needed

  • Very little prep

  • Flat joints difficult

  • Slow

  • Messy

Wet drywall sanding means using a damp sponge to soften and smear the hardened drywall joint compound. Because drywall joint compound is water-soluble, it can be softened to some degree on contact with water.

If you have ever wiped dried flour dough from a kitchen counter, it is much the same thing. Wet sanding works fine on a small scale—for just a joint or two.

Of all of the ideas for reducing drywall dust, this is the only one that actually does completely eliminate it, not just reduce it. But it is difficult to wet-sand an entire room, much less an entire house.

How to Wet-Sand Drywall Joints

  1. Prepare a bucket of clean, warm water.
  2. Dip a drywall sanding sponge in the water, then squeeze it out.
  3. Wipe the sponge over the joint, moving it slowly to let the joint become saturated.
  4. Frequently soak and squeeze out the sponge. Dump the bucket frequently and replace it with fresh water.
  5. After the joint is dry, it may be necessary to dry-sand with a sanding screen or drywall sandpaper.

Barriers and Fans (Negative Pressure)

  • Dust entirely contained

  • Use any sanding method

  • Creates small working area

  • Messy

  • Removing barrier creates dust

Barriers made of sheet plastic available at any hardware store prevent drywall dust from traveling past a sequestered area. Set up a box fan, with the air flowing outside, to expel some drywall dust. Though the fan will not remove all dust, it will significantly cut down on the amount of dust clouding up the air.

If you never remove the barrier, and if the barrier has absolutely zero holes, the clean area should remain clean.

Even the tiniest hole in the plastic will, surprisingly, allow drywall dust into the clean area. Moving the plastic aside even once to pass through will do the same thing. So, all cracks and holes need to be blocked.

How to Reduce Drywall Dust With Barriers and a Fan

  1. Identify the smallest possible area that's still large enough for you to comfortably work in it.
  2. Support the plastic barrier with a pole-based system (such as Zip-Wall).
  3. Tape the edges of the plastic against floors, ceilings, and walls to separate the dust zone from the area you want to remain clean.
  4. Tape any holes or tears in the plastic with painter's tape.
  5. Limit access in and out of the barrier after sanding has begun.

Drywall Vacuum Sander

  • Reduces most dust

  • Good for small areas

  • Traps dust in water

  • Hard to move sander on wall

  • Requires special equipment

  • Water must be emptied

Reduce drywall dust by sanding with a drywall vacuum sander. The drywall vacuum sander is a hose attached to your wet-dry shop vacuum. On one end is the sander, a special grid-like implement that sucks the drywall dust away and down through the hose. At the other end of the hose is a bucket of water. Dusty air runs into the bucket, trapping the dust in the water.

A drywall vacuum sander works well for small areas like a seam or two. But for an entire house of drywall—or even a room's worth—using a drywall sander will be slow and difficult since the suction on the sander head makes it hard to move the sander.

How to Reduce Drywall Dust With a Drywall Sander

Low-cost manual sanders use a handheld sanding block and sanding screen attached to a vacuum hose. The hose pulls away the dust and deposits it in a bucket of water. Some models keep the drywall dust in the vacuum.

Rotary, variable-speed drywall vacuum sanders with telescoping handles are easier to use than manual sanders. If you are installing drywall in several rooms, it may be worthwhile purchasing this tool. Most cost between $100 and $300.

Drywall dust is so pervasive and damaging that some vacuum manufacturers void your vacuum's warranty if you use it with drywall dust. For example, Dyson's statement in its warranties that "Industrial use...such as vacuuming gyprock dust or builders’ dust may void your Dyson guarantee" is typical of many vacuum manufacturers.

Article Sources
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  1. Sheetrock Lightweight All-Purpose Joint Compound Product Application Plus 3 Ready-Mixed. USG Corporation

  2. Dyson Operating Manual. Dyson