How to Eliminate Drywall Dust During Your Next Project

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated October 7, 2021
A young girl dancing in an empty room
Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Don't let drywall dust rain on your reno

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While there's nothing quite as exciting as a major home renovation, the moment drywall comes into play, the dreaded clouds of dust can overwhelm your home. Drywall dust can sneak into your carpets, stick to your clothing, and even clog up your vacuum—it's essentially the glitter of construction materials. Follow these start-to-finish tips to keep dust at a minimum and rid your home of dust the moment your project wraps up.

Difficulty: 2/5

Time: The length of your project

Tools Needed:

  • Plastic drop cloth

  • Painter’s tape

  • Protective mask

  • Protective eyewear

  • Work gloves

  • Fan

  • Plastic room separator

  • Wet sponge

  • Spray bottle with water

  • Drywall vacuum sander

Drywall Dust Hazards

So, what's the big deal about drywall dust? You may be prepared to make a bit of a mess when redesigning the kitchen or building a new home addition, but the mess from drywall dust is a bit more complicated.

Health Concerns

The CDC notes that the compounds in drywall dust—such as silica, talc, gypsum, calcite, and mica—can lead to "varying degrees of eye, nose, throat, and respiratory tract irritation." Over a long period of time, working with this material can even increase the chance of lung cancer and silicosis—a disorder brought on by breathing too much silica.

Environmental Threats

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group also outlines how some drywall varieties contain low levels of VOCs, mercury, and sulfur. However, you can ask your contractor to choose a drywall option that has reduced pollutants.

Damage to Your Home

Outside of the drywall ingredients themselves, the dust has the infamous ability to spread throughout your home with impressive stealth. Leftover dust can damage your hardwood floors or even wear out the motor on your HVAC system.

Each of the steps below can help you decrease the threat to your health and home, no matter the size of your project.

1. Make a Dust Plan

You may be fighting the urge to jump right into your project and skip the pre-construction prep phase. But with the right dust plan, you can save yourself a whole lot of headache both during and after working with drywall.

If you're tackling the project yourself, map out where you plan to travel between the project space and the outside of your home. Drywall dust can stick to your clothing, making stops along the way into your rugs, floors, and vents. Make a plan to protect all hallways and rooms along the way.

If your contractor is handling the drywall, speak with the team about how you can prep your home—from the workspace to their truck in the driveway.

2. Protect Your Space

A plastic drop cloth over kitchen cabinets
rzcreative/Stocksy - stock.adobe.com

Plastic drop cloths and tarps are your best bet against invasive drywall dust. Lay down the cloths across your floors, carpets, and furniture securing it in place with surface-safe tape. Blue painter's tape is a great option.

Remove delicate or hard-to-clean items like drapes, decor, and artwork, unless they are easy to fully seal with the plastic drop cloth.

Last but not least, seal up unused doorways with your protective plastic sheets, closing up the edges with painter's tape. We'll go into how to handle your functional exit below.

3. Control the Air

If it's not possible to work outside, depressurize the room to control how the dust travels. You can easily pull this off by setting up a strong window fan to blow air out of your space. This tactic redirects all the air and dust from your work area towards the window and lessens the likelihood of it traveling through the rest of your home. The EPA recommends leaving this ventilation system in place for at least 72 hours after completing the project. Be sure to switch off your HVAC system, especially if you have house-wide ventwork.

You can also set up a two-sided plastic barrier in the doorway that you plan to use as an entrance and exit—a bit like a double door at a restaurant to keep out cold air in the winter. If possible, hang a barrier on both sides of the door, providing an extra space for the dust to settle before entering a hallway.

4. Gather Your PPE

Now that you're ready to get sanding and sawing, be sure to have construction-strength masks, protective eye gear, and gloves at the ready. Consider covering your clothing and shoes with coveralls as well.

5. Consider Low-Dust Drywall

Low-dust drywall is an excellent alternative if you want to significantly cut down on dust. The one downside here is that this alternative is also more expensive, adding to the overall costs of your drywall project.

6. Use a Drywall Vacuum Sander

While it won't keep all the dust from creeping around your house, cut down on drywall remnants by using a vacuum sander. This innovative attachment links to your wet-dry shop vac, pulling out the dust as you go. A forewarning, however: Drywall vacuum sanders can make the sanding process much more difficult, so get ready to use some elbow grease to fight against the pressure of the suction.

7. Consider Wet-Sanding

If you have the patience of a saint and truly hope to avoid dry-sanding, you can break out the sponge. Wet-sanding is the process of using a clean, damp sponge to soften the drywall and smooth out the surface by hand. 

As you can imagine, wet-sanding takes much longer and is only ideal for small patches of wall that require paint touch-ups. If you opt for this route, be sure to keep your sponge clean between passes—the wet drywall can easily clump up and complicate the process.

8. Clean Carefully

When all is said and done, follow these tips for a post-construction dust-free home.

  • Do not use a traditional vacuum. Opt for a wet–dry vac that can handle the minuscule particles without damage.

  • Use a spray bottle with water to coat any areas before wiping them down.

  • Bring furniture outside if they've come in contact with dust. Blowing the furniture with a fan in the open air will take off the initial layer before giving it a deeper clean.

  • Keep your workspace ventilated, but do not open it up to the rest of your home for at least three days.

  • Clean wood with a damp mop or microfiber cloth after removing the plastic tarp from the floor.

Not all drywall projects are DIY-friendly, but knowing how to deal with the dust is helpful both when working with a drywall pro or handling the construction yourself. At the end of the day, avoiding those sneaky piles of dust around your home is well worth the extra prep work.

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