THE Best Way To Clean Up Drywall Dust Off of Walls and Floors

Ah, drywall dust – that notorious, uninvited guest lurking around every time you’re cutting or sanding drywall sheets. This stuff is more than just a nuisance; it’s a crafty invader. Composed of silica, gypsum, and mica, drywall dust isn’t just messy – it’s a health hazard, a fact I’ve confirmed with a few contractor associates of mine who deal with it regularly.

One of these experts, a seasoned contractor with over 20 years in the business, once told me, “If you don’t handle drywall dust properly, it’ll turn your workspace into a sneeze-fest.” And believe me, he wasn’t exaggerating. When sanding and cleaning aren’t done with care, this stealthy dust makes itself at home on your floors, windows, doors – practically everywhere.

So, drawing from both my experiences and those of my professional colleagues, I’ve listed the best, contractor-approved method to effectively clean up drywall dust. These aren’t just tips; they’re tried and tested strategies that work in the real world. Let’s roll up our sleeves and tackle this head-on.

Since drywall dust particles are very tiny, I recommend you use a shop vac with strong suction and great airflow – such as the Dustless D1603 Shop Vac – for the best results or the Dewalt Dust Extractor for more Commercial (Heavy Duty) use. Those are what I use on the job.

DEWALT DWV010 HEPA Dust Extractor with Automatic Filter Cleaning, 8-Gallon
  • Automatic Filter Clean of the dust extractor pulses every 30 seconds for continuous operation without stopping to clean filter
  • 15-amp motor of DEWALT dust extractor delivers 150 CFM of airflow
  • Power Tool Actuation controls the On/Off operations of the vacuum with a power tool
  • Meets the EPA Lead Related Renovations, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule for Hepa Vacuums only when DWV9330 Filters are used
  • Universal hose connector provides a secure connection with swivel capability

Cleaning Drywall Dust

Before cleaning, wear a dust mask to protect yourself from inhaling harmful dust. I recommend the NASUM Reusable 8200 Face Cover for both drywall DIYers and professionals.

How to clean up drywall dust

Here’s how to clean up drywall dust

Time: 25 minutes

1. Open all the windows in your house

Open windows to ventilate the house before cleaning up drywall dust

Open the windows and doors in your house to increase ventilation and allow fresh air into the house. Also, ensure that all the vents, heating, and air conditioning systems are switched off. This will keep the least drywall dust circulating in the house while you clean it. Wear a dust mask or a respirator to avoid inhaling harmful drywall dust that might get kicked up during the cleaning process.

2. Place a fan at the window pointing outside

Place a fan near windows to get rid of drywall dust in the air

Since you will sweep some of the dust into piles and collect it, some dust will spread into the air. Placing a fan at the window and setting it to face outside is a great way to direct most of that dust outside. (A good portable fan such as the Lasko High-Velocity Quick Mount Fanu is great for this job. This step will be more efficient if you can open two or more windows, and if possible, you can put a fan in each. But the open windows would still work if you don’t have many fans in your house.

3. Sweep and remove the bulk of the drywall dust

Sweep and collect excess drywall dust in dust bags

Sweep most of the drywall dust into a pile using a broom and collect it in dust bags using a dustpan. You might want to spray a water mist onto the dust to make it less airborne. Remember that you’ll not be able to get all the dust this way, but you will get most of it. Collect the drywall dust in a garbage bag or pail, then wait for it to settle for about 15 minutes before proceeding to the next step.

4. Vacuum the floor and other surfaces

Vacuum the remaining drywall dust

Use a good vacuum for drywall dust such as the Dustless D1603 Shop-Vacu, because these are made to collect tiny particles such as drywall dust, or use a brush attachment like this one from Hyde Tools and vacuum from top to bottom, left to right, and move gradually because drywall dust usually clings to walls. If you sprinkled water onto the dust, you might want to use a strong dry/wet shop vacuum to clean up the drywall dust without clogging the HEPA filters.

5. Clean the floor with a mop and water

Mop floors and wipe all surfaces

After running your shop vac on the floor, the final step is cleaning with a damp cloth or a wet mop – but according to the type of flooring or surface you have. For example, use a microfiber cloth if you’re cleaning hardwood flooring. Use a commercial wet to clean drywall dust residue for concrete flooring in your garage. The damp cloth will easily pick up the dust residue, and you will also not have to stress about it turning into mud. Use a damp cloth to wipe the drywall dust from rough surfaces such as masonry and tile grout.

6. Ventilate the room

Keep the house ventilated

The last step is to ventilate the room adequately before using it. Also, check to ensure no new dust particles have settled onto other surfaces in the house before using it.

Supply:

  • PowernFace Mask

Tools:

  • Dustless VacuumnPortable FannPush BroomnMop and bucket

Materials: Extension Cord

Note: If you don’t wear a mask or a respirator and are exposed to drywall dust frequently and for an extended period, you might develop long-term respiratory problems.

Is it OK to vacuum drywall dust?

You can vacuum drywall dust but not use a regular household vacuum cleaner. Use a good shop vac to clean up fine drywall dust, or make sure you fit your regular vacuum with a heavy-duty HEPA filter to clean up drywall dust effectively.

The problem with a regular vacuum cleaner is that when you use it to get rid of fine dust, the bags and filters get clogged quickly, making the vacuum spew dust back into the air.

Dust that fills up the air in your house can lead to respiratory problems, especially if you are not wearing a dust mask.

Your machine will also overheat when collecting fine drywall dust and can easily get damaged.

How To Remove Drywall Dust Before Painting

Okay, so we’ve learned how chalky drywall dust can be and how to clean it up generally. But in most cases, you’ll need to properly prepare and clean the drywall before painting over it. If you don’t remove the drywall dust properly, you will trap it with paint, and the wall will be bumpy and unattractive. So use the following steps to remove drywall dust before painting over it:

  1. Use a dustless shop vac to ensure all the fine particles are trapped and not blown back into the room. The brush attachment will be ideal for this step as you moved it slowly up and down and left and right to ensure you cover the entire area evenly.
  2. Follow with a microfiber cloth or a quality dust rag.
  3. Now you will use a wet sponge with cold water. Rub evenly in sections to absorb all the dust or to push it down the wall to the floor. Be sure to rinse after each small area to ensure you are using clean water in each section. If you are doing a large room, change the water every 10 feet or so.
  4. Wait for the drywall to dry completely, then you can use a black rag or shirt to rub on the wall to test if any white dust is coming off. If so then repeat the wet sponge run down.

Remove Drywall Dust on Concrete Floors

If you’re working with sheetrock with dust falling on the concrete floor, it is best to keep it a little wet to trap the dust easily. Concrete floors don’t scratch easily, so you can clean up drywall dust by scraping up the mud from the floor with a trowel.

Apart from the trowel, you’ll need some water in a spray bottle, a sponge, and a cloth or microfiber pad.

Here’s the best way to clean up drywall dust from concrete according to BobVila’s site:

Scrape up excess drywall mud from the concrete floor using a trowel, then spray some water on the dirty spots. Scrub the floor with a sponge, adding more water to any stubborn drywall dust spots and repeating the process. Wet-mop the floor using a rug and keep your house well ventilated.

Alternatively, if the sheetrock dust isn’t much, vacuum it off the floor using a dry-wet shop vac with a brush attachment. Mop the floor with a wet microfiber pad to remove any particles of drywall compound that remain on the concrete.

Remove Drywall Dust from the Carpet

Carpets can absorb dust that can become very difficult to clean up. If, for some reason, sheetrock dust got its way into your carpet, you might want to rent a carpet cleaning machine to get rid of it effectively.

Steps to clean up drywall dust from the carpet:

  1. Dampen the carpet with clear water.
  2. Run a carpet cleaning machine in small sections.
  3. Repeat the process to remove all the drywall dust particles from carpet fibers.
  4. Allow the carpet flooring to dry completely before using the room.

If you’re working on a home improvement project, you might want to remove the carpet first to prevent it from absorbing too much drywall dust. Alternatively, use duct tape to cover it with heavy-duty plastic sheeting held down on the edges. Once you’re done, fold away the plastic sheeting with the drywall dust and dispose of it safely.

Remove Drywall Dust on Doors, Windows, and Ceilings

Drywall dust goes airborne quickly and can settle on doors, windows, ceilings, and inside grout lines on your floor tiles. Cleaning the compound and dusting off these surfaces depends on the material.

  • Doors: For doors, wipe the dust off the surface with a damp cloth then allow them to dry. Wipe with a clean piece of microfiber cloth to remove any streaks or lines left on your doors.
  • Windows: Most windows have glass panes, so gently wipe them with soapy water and a soft microfiber cloth. Rinse with clean water, then wipe them with WD40 to remove any streak marks.
  • Ceilings: If your ceiling is sheetrock, do not sprinkle water on it. Simply dry-wipe it or use a brush attachment with a long hose on your vacuum to clean up the drywall dust from the ceiling.

Use a Dust-free Drywall Sander to Prevent Dust

If you frequently deal with drywall dust or work in such an environment, you might want to invest in the right equipment to help reduce the amount of drywall dust released into the air. Dust-free sanders such as this popular one from WEN are a great example of tools you can start using to prevent exposure to such construction dust.

Here are some of the best dustless tools for drywall applications:

  • Dust bubble drill- this drill enables you to drill without dust.
  • Abranet ace HD film
  • HYDE dust-free sponge sander works best on flat surfaces, including wood.
  • Abranet Max Sponge is a net suited for the wood industry as it is substantially dust-free.

Apart from dust-free sanders, wet-sanding drywall sheets is another option I found to work great. It goes a long way in preventing dust from contaminating the air in the house. All you need is to add a wet-sanding attachment to your drywall sander and you’ll be able to get rid of the drywall dust easily.

Using the correct tools greatly reduces the amount of work, especially during the clean-up stage.

Is Drywall Dust Toxic?

While drywall dust in small quantities isn’t considered toxic, it’s important to understand its composition to gauge its impact on health. A significant component of drywall dust is gypsum, a mineral known for its irritant properties rather than toxicity. When you inhale or come into contact with drywall dust, the gypsum particles can irritate sensitive areas like your throat and respiratory tract.

OSHA has not classified drywall dust as a toxic substance. However, according to HouseGrail, exposure to high levels of this dust can lead to various health issues, including respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. It’s also known to cause eye and skin irritation, headaches, and allergic reactions in some individuals.

Consistent exposure to drywall dust, especially without protective gear like masks or respirators, can lead to long-term health issues due to this irritation. If you find yourself frequently exposed to drywall dust, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance and take appropriate safety measures during exposure.

FAQ’s

Can I prevent drywall dust from spreading during sanding?

Absolutely! To minimize the spread of drywall dust while sanding, consider using a dust barrier system or plastic sheeting to contain the area. Additionally, attaching a vacuum to your sanding equipment can capture dust at the source. I remember once when I didn’t use a barrier, and I ended up with a thin layer of dust throughout my entire house – lesson learned!

What should I do if drywall dust gets into electronic devices?

If drywall dust infiltrates your electronic devices, it’s crucial to clean them carefully to avoid damage. Use compressed air to gently blow the dust out. Make sure the device is unplugged and avoid using a vacuum, as it can create static electricity. I learned this the hard way when I had to take my computer for repairs after a DIY project!

Is it safe to leave drywall dust in my home overnight?

It’s not recommended to leave drywall dust in your home for extended periods, especially overnight. The dust can affect air quality and might lead to respiratory issues. I always make it a point to clean up the same day, ensuring a dust-free and healthy environment.

Can I just sweep drywall dust into my regular household trash?

Yes, you can sweep drywall dust into your regular trash. However, ensure it’s securely bagged to prevent it from becoming airborne again. I like to double-bag it for extra security, especially after that one time when the bag broke, and I had a mini dust storm in my garage!

How do I protect my furniture from drywall dust during renovation?

The best way to protect furniture is by removing it from the work area if possible. If not, cover it with plastic sheeting or drop cloths. Trust me, it’s worth the effort – I once had to deep clean my entire sofa after neglecting to cover it properly!

Does Sweeping Compound Work on Drywall Dust?

I can confidently say that sweeping compounds are a lifesaver when it comes to tackling drywall dust. These compounds are designed to absorb dust and prevent it from becoming airborne. In my projects, I’ve found that using a sweeping compound significantly reduces the amount of dust that gets kicked up into the air. It makes the cleanup process not only more effective but also safer for your respiratory health.

Is It Better to Mop or Vacuum Drywall Dust?

This is a common dilemma, and through trial and error, I’ve found a combination of both works best. Vacuuming with a HEPA filter vacuum is my first step. It efficiently removes the majority of the dust without spreading it around. After vacuuming, I follow up with a damp mop. This helps pick up any residual dust that the vacuum might have missed. The key here is to avoid wetting the dust before vacuuming, as it can make the situation messier.

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