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In the main room of the older apartment I live in, dust is accumulating very quickly. There is no carpet (only hardwood floor), no curtain, no air vent, no pet, no bedding, no clothes. Previous tenants had the same problem so it's not something I brought in.

I cleaned thoroughly, including the baseboard radiator (which, as a test, I covered with cloth to ascertain it's not the cause), behind the range and the fridge (there is a small open kitchen corner). Yet, here's what a surface looks like 3 days after wiping it clean:

enter image description here

The dust looks more like tiny fibers. In raking light, as seen here, it's quite impressive.

Any clue would be greatly appreciated.

For those who may have the same problem, the dust was fiberglass from inside the electric range. When burners were on, convection was sending tiny bits of it in the air.

  • would you be able to divide the room in half using a painter's tarp? – jsotola Mar 19 at 7:08
  • I could try. It's a rather small room. That would be a way to identify where the dust comes from, you mean? – JeanB Mar 19 at 12:32
  • Q1: there is a range and a fridge but no vents for air circulation in this room? Q2: what is directly above this room? – Willk Mar 19 at 13:54
  • A1: It's an open kitchenette with an electrical range, a fridge and a sink. No vent that I can see (why should there be one?). A2: It's the top floor so above is the apartment building roof. – JeanB Mar 19 at 14:02
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For those who may have the same problem, the dust was fiberglass from inside the electric range. When burners were on, convection was sending tiny bits of it in the air.

  • How did you finally conclude this? – DaveM Apr 27 at 21:53
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    By elimination. Hanging sheets showed the problem was in the kitchen. Then using cloth I blocked all possible outlets under and on the sides of the fridge and the range. It didn't work. The only thing left was the range burner holes. I removed the burners and saw a patch of fluffy fiberglass underneath. I thought fiberglass was only around the oven but some of it is under the top burners too. – JeanB Apr 27 at 22:14
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    Your right, that's normally used to insulate the oven, and it's usually behind a thin wall.. This is probably what passes for the top layer.. Maybe you could cover it with foil and ( I'm improvising here) use some HVAC foil tape to seal it up. – DaveM Apr 27 at 22:23
  • It's only a small patch. I trimmed it and it seems to work. Foil is a good idea. – JeanB Apr 27 at 22:33
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    Thank you for answering your own question. Would you edit your comments into the answer? That way future visitors are more likely to benefit from your experience. And, you can choose your own answer as the correct one by clicking the big checkmark. Thanks. – Daniel Griscom Apr 27 at 23:17
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You can identify the type of dust using a microscope and stain. For example, pine pollen in spring can make a driveway look as if painted yellow. Some plant fibers, perhaps from a nearby textile mill of from paper insulation in the ceiling, looks like twisted ribbon.

It might be varnish or paint flaking off from some material in the room, perhaps the ceiling or even the flooring itself.

Hopefully, it's not fungal hyphae, or mineral dust containing asbestos.

A local university might provide some help in that identification (it would be an interesting project for environmental science students).

  • We are in winter, all windows are closed. I thought about ceiling and walls and wiped them too, to no avail. – JeanB Mar 18 at 22:53
  • And what did the microscope show?? – DrMoishe Pippik Mar 19 at 17:29
  • Thanks for following up. I don't have the equipment to observe dust samples at the microscopic level shown in your (interesting) article. – JeanB Mar 19 at 18:46
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Here are 2 guesses. Guesses!

1. Insulation dust. This is my first choice because in your photo dust looks homogenous.

A. This old apartment was poorly sealed. Poor sealing is why no air duct is necessary. It was expensive to heat in winter.

B. The landlords arranged for fiber insulation to be blown in - possibly between walls but I suspect in some space between ceiling of living space and roof of building. Poor sealing was not addressed before this was done.

C. Poorly sealed living spaces allow fiber insulation to trickle down into living spaces, probably thru the ceiling.


2. Dryer vent dust.

Dryers generate large amounts of dust / lint. There is a dryer somewhere nearby that is improperly vented or with a clogged exterior vent. Instead of expelling air and lint outside, this material is making its way into your living space.


Insulation dust should all look the same under a magnifying glass. If you don't have a magnifying glass you could download a reading glasses app for your phone. Post photo? If insulation, the source of this dust should be apparent as giant clumps of stuff above ceiling or behind walls. Possibilities are cellulose, fiberglass or mineral wool.

Dryer dust will look like the various clothes producing it. As a test, you could dry something with a characteristic color (e.g. dark blue wool blanket) and look for appearance of dust containing dark blue wool fibers or just blue dust when wiped with a white cloth.

  • Thanks for your input. Your 2 guesses concern the building itself, which I believe is a correct assumption at this point. The dust fibers look like it would come from clothes. When I look closely I see the same ones on the clothes I'm wearing. However, the dryer is in the building basement, 4 floors below my apartment. Insulation dust is something I was wondering about. They key point here, as you wrote, is that it would penetrate through the ceiling. But I would see that and I don't. I wiped the ceiling to ascertain there wasn't hanging dust, and it didn't change a thing (same for walls). – JeanB Mar 19 at 14:59
  • If the dust is on everything it is on your clothes too. Re ceiling - dust might not be coming down diffusely thru the ceiling, but thru discrete cracks or points of ingress & you have not found them yet. Related: does your electric range have a vent fan? If so you could turn off the lights, use it to create negative pressure in your room, then look for dust plume coming down with a flashlight. – Willk Mar 19 at 15:24
  • You're right about the clothes since the dust is everywhere. And I'm breathing it too! There is no vent fan. When sunlight beams through the window I'd expect to see some fiber dust floating around but I don't. The room is small and when I inspected the ceiling I didn't see any noticeable crack. A lot of insulation dust would have to come down through them to cover every surface in 2 or 3 days. This is driving me nuts. – JeanB Mar 19 at 15:45
  • You could use a fan in a window or a shopvac set to blow (out the window) to create negative pressure in the room, then look for the dust in the dark with a flashlight. I am sorry it is happening to you but it is an intriguing mystery! – Willk Mar 19 at 16:14
  • I'll try it when it's warmer. I'm wondering if there are such things as dust specialists one could hire for an inspection. I can't help but think I'm missing something rather obvious. In any case, thanks for your time. – JeanB Mar 19 at 16:23

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