No matter how you use your garage, whether it’s for storing tools, detailing your car, woodworking or storing your extra stuff, there’s one thing all of our garages have in common:
Growing up, my parent’s garage never seemed to get dusty, but my mom has always been a bit obsessive about cleaning, so I never thought it was a problem.
Today, my garage seemed to create dust out of thin air, no matter how much I cleaned it and how little I kept in there.
I found some things that help limit the dust, and I want to share them here.
Why is my garage always dusty? The main reason your garage is so dusty is actually your concrete floor. Concrete is a porous material that lets water seep in, but that water eventually breaks down the concrete, forming dust. Your garage also attracts dust from bits of leaves and other debris breaking down as well as flakes of our own dead skin and pet fur.
No matter how many times you sweep the floor, it seems like the dust never goes away.
After some research and a lot of asking around, I found some easy, inexpensive ways to keep your garage as dust-free as possible.
The #1 Reason Your Garage Is Dusty
I won’t bury the lead here. The number reason your garage is dusty is your concrete floor.
Let me explain why.
Concrete is made up of three major components: a cement powder, sand or some other aggregate (filler) and water.
Those three components live in (hopefully) a perfect balance.
If you don’t have the right mix of those three components, things get out of balance and your concrete mix is weaker than it should be and will degrade faster over time.
According to the National Ready Mix Concrete Associate (NRMCA), a concrete floor will dust when the surface is so weak that it can be scratched by a fingernail or even sweeping with a broom. (source)
When concrete breaks down, it will start to form a layer of dust all across the floor.
What causes concrete dusting?
Which brings up the question: what causes concrete to degrade and start dusting?
There are many reasons but most really only apply to industrial or outdoor applications. The mains things that homeowners should worry about are moisture, temperature and abrasion from physical contact.
Moisture: When motor oil, spills from the chemicals you’re using or even water come into contact with your garage floor, they’ll gradually start to break the surface of the concrete down. You’ll start to notice small pits and even cracks in the concrete as different areas degrade faster than others.
Temperature: Like anything, concrete will expand and contract slightly with different temperatures. The main challenge is in colder climates. If your concrete garage floor was poured when the outside temperature is below freezing, it may not have had the proper amount of time to solidify before freezing, which weakens the concrete overall.
Abrasion: Physical contact wears everything down eventually. Every time you walk or drive across your garage floor, you wear off a small layer of the surface, kicking up dust. The more use the floor’s surface gets, the more dust will accumulate.
So if your bare concrete floor is the culprit, how do you stop it from kicking up dust, covering everything in your garage?
How to Prevent Dust in Your Garage
There are several possible solutions at many different price levels.
No matter what, your bare concrete garage floor will need some sort of coating to cut down on the dust. It can be as cheap as a coat of paint or as complex as a full epoxy coating.
It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend and how long you plan on living in your home.
Here’s an overview of the three major floor coatings:
- Epoxy: This is by far the most expensive option, but it’s also the most durable. I wrote a detailed article discussing whether you should epoxy your garage floor. Check it out if you’re on the fence!
- Sealant: Sealing your garage floor adds a protective, water resistant coating that cuts down on dust. To seal the floor, you are going to need to use a good concrete sealant.
- Concrete Paint: If sealing your garage floor isn’t an option, a cheaper option is to paint it. Killz makes a special concrete paint (link to Amazon) that adds a thin layer of protection to your bare concrete floor. It’s not as strong as an epoxy coating, but it will help cut down on dust. You’ll have to repaint it every two years or so because it’s not as durable overall.
Once your floor is sealed or coated, here are some other tips that may help cut down on the dust in your garage.
- Replace the door seals: The second leading contributor to the dust that’s entering your garage is your garage door’s seals. If the seals on your garage door are worn out, dust will find its way inside, even with the door closed. Replacing the damaged or missing seals around your garage door will help out a lot.
- Change your AC Filter: If you have an AC or an HVAC system that produces heat or air conditioning for your garage, your old filter could be a big reason on why there is dust. You need to regularly clean your system’s filter, and replace it if it is really old. A dirty filter will stop filtering the hot or cold air that is entering your garage.
- Buy an air filtration system: Adding an air filtration system in your garage will really help. These systems will filter the air that is circulating inside your garage, which helps clean the air and stop dust from spreading.
- Vacuum instead of sweeping: Anytime that you are going to clean your garage floor, it is very important to always vacuum the floor instead of sweeping it. Sweeping will cause the dust to spread while vacuuming it will suck up the dust and contain it.
How To Get Rid Of Dust In Your Garage
To start, we need to get your garage back to a point where it has as little dust as possible so you can track your progress.
Think of it this way. If you have dusty shelves way up high any air-flow at all will spread that dust around and your garage will seem dustier.
Makes sense, right?
So to help prevent dust from covering your garage, the main thing that you have to do is clean the garage first.
If you haven’t already invested the time to declutter your garage, I wrote a huge article that details the steps I take to make it as quick and painless as I can.
I recommend starting there first, so there’s less to dust and less stuff for dust to accumulate on.
Dust from the top down
Once you’ve done that, start by dusting high shelves, cabinets, tables, and benches.
This will knock the dust from the higher levels to the floor at the bottom. After a good dusting of the higher areas, you should wash these high areas with soap and water, or use a microfiber cloth.
You could use air to blow the dust of these high areas, but I don’t recommend it. The air will need a lot of time to settle on the ground before you can clean. In the mean time, it’ll spread throughout the rest of the garage, making your job harder.
Not to mention you’ll be breathing all that dust in while you wait.
After a good thorough dusting of the high areas, you should follow these next steps to help get and keep your garage clean.
Sweep and clean up the big debris
Once the dust from your cabinets and shelves has had time to settle, the next step is to pick up any big items that are laying on the garage floor. Kids are a great help in this step and they’ll probably have some toys on the floor anyway!
It is also a good idea to clean the driveway or path that leads to your garage so you don’t track more dust and debris in from the outside.
I make it a point to use a leaf-blower on my driveway every few days. It only takes a minute or two and it goes a long way to help limit the amount of outside debris and dust that gets in my garage. I’ll say again, I do NOT recommend using a leaf blower inside your garage.
Vacuum the floor
After picking up the big debris laying around your garage, the next step in obtaining a clean garage is to vacuum all of the surface areas and the floor.
You could go old-school here and sweep out the dust with a broom, and that’s fine. But this will also throw dust particles in the air and they’ll inevitably find they’re way to areas that you’ve just cleaned.
I recommend using a vacuum or Shop-Vac instead to vacuum all the areas in your garage – including the cement floor.
Pressure Wash or Mop the Floor
Sweeping and vacuuming will get most of the dust and dirt off your garage floor, but to really get a deeper clean, the next step is to pressure wash your garage floor.
If you don’t have access to a pressure washer, you can use a mop and some Simple Green, but you’ll need a little more elbow grease to get the job done.
It is important to sweep and vacuum the area thoroughly before you mop. If you don’t, you will just be smearing around the dirt.
Dust is a pain. You’re never going to completely get rid of it, but you can take steps to minimize it.
With a newly sealed garage floor and new seals on all the windows and doors, you’ll notice a definite improvement in how much dust you have in your garage.
Your garage may be dusty now, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.