4 Ways to Reduce Drywall Dust

Sanding during renovation
GeorgePeters / Getty Images

Drywall dust seems to be everywhere, no matter how hard you try to eliminate it. It's so insidious that some vacuum manufacturers instantly void your vacuum's warranty if you use it for sucking up drywall dust. 

Until a better wall system is invented that doesn't require sanding, this fine, talcum powder-like byproduct (gypsum) of sanding drywall joints is a fact of home remodeling and building life.

Are there any ways to reduce it in the first place? There are four ways to help limit, but not entirely eliminate, drywall dust in your home.

Use Low-Dust Drywall Compound

  • Effective at reducing drywall dust

  • In a pinch, can even be used without a dust barrier (only on small scale, though)

  • Expensive

  • Heavier material can be hard to sand down

Sanding with compound produces dust, but it is more like the sawdust you get from cutting wood. Heavier particles drop to the ground, rather than going airborne and floating to the farthest reaches of your house.

If cost is not an issue to you, then low-dust drywall compound is your best bet. Some of the drywall dust will still be air-borne, but far less of it than with regular drywall compound.

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.

Dry Sand the Drywall With Barrier and Negative Pressure

  • Good at keeping dust away from rest of house

  • Lets you use any type of sanding method that you like

  • Sequesters dust in small area

  • Fan only moderately effective at removing dust

Barriers made of sheet plastic available at any hardware store are only a partial solution. Tape the plastic against floors, ceilings, and walls, separating the dusting zone from the area you want to remain clean.

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

But 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. An instant barrier like Zip-Wall is great, but you really need even less permeability in order to keep drywall dust out.

The other half of the equation is to create negative pressure. Setting up a box fan, with the air flowing outside, is enough to expel some drywall dust. Though it will not remove all dust, it will significantly cut down on the amount of dust clouding up the air.

Use a Drywall Vacuum Sander

  • Reduces most of the dust

  • Good for even moderate-scale sanding

  • Physically difficult to move sander head

  • Requires special equipment

Another way to reduce but not entirely remove drywall dust is to set up a drywall vacuum sander.

The drywall vacuum sander consists of 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.

While an ingenious idea, the idea is often better than the reality of it. The issue is that the suction on the sander head makes it very hard to move the sander on the wall.

However, the drywall vacuum sander will work in small areas. For example, you might have a joint or two that you need to sand down. But for an entire house—or even a room's worth—of drywall, it would significantly impede your progress.

Wet Sand the Drywall Joints

  • Creates no dust

  • Great for small areas

  • Slow

  • Messy

  • Poor at creating flat joints

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. But it is difficult to wet-sand an entire room, much less an entire house.

Of all of the ideas for reducing drywall dust, this is the only one that actually does completely eliminate it, not just reduce it.