How Long Does Drywall Dust Stay In The Air?


When you cut or sand drywall, there’s always going to be dust. It floats in the air at first, but eventually will settle onto your floor and other flat surfaces.

How long do you have to wait before the dust clears?

Drywall dust only stays in the air for a few minutes. However, it’s very easy to make it airborne again after it settles. It’s important to clean drywall dust and wear appropriate protective gear to avoid getting drywall dust into your body. While usually not harmful, drywall dust can irritate your eyes, nose, and lungs.

Drywall Dust Settles Within A Few Minutes

There is no official or proven time for drywall dust to settle. However, it’s generally thought that waiting about ten to fifteen minutes is sufficient enough time.

But you have to be careful because even small movements can kick the dust back up into the air again.

A good idea is to do a preliminary cleaning, wait another fifteen minutes, then do a final cleaning round. This will ensure that you get as much of the tiny dust particles out of the room as possible.

Is Drywall Dust Harmful?

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The CDC explains that while drywall dust can cause irritation, there are no serious risks to encountering it. It’s still best to wear protective covering and follow NIOSH guidelines, though.

This includes eyewear, as the small dust particles can cause redness, irritation, or even a scratch on the eye’s surface.

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If drywall dust does enter your eye, quickly flush it out with room temperature water. If you wear contacts, be sure to remove them until the dust and irritation are gone.

What Happens If You Breathe In Drywall Dust?

Just like natural dust you find in your home, drywall dust can be irritating if it gets in your face. You may feel the need to cough if you breathe it in or sneeze if it enters your nose.

Over a long enough time, your lungs can start producing phlegm to try to get rid of the particles. This can lead to more coughing and sneezing as well as difficulty breathing, similar to the effects of asthma.

You may feel these effects more if you smoke or have pre-existing respiratory or sinus issues.

However, these effects are typically short term. Eventually your body will expel the drywall dust with little to no lasting harm.

To avoid this kind of irritation in the first place, always wear a mask or respirator when working with drywall. It should cover your nose and mouth.

The Dangers Of Silica

Although most drywall is relatively harmless, if irritating, the exception is drywall compound that contains silica. Respiration of silica increases your risk of silicosis and cancer.

Silicosis causes swelling in the lungs and will eventually harden and scar your lung tissue. This is known as fibrosis, and it affects the function of your lungs.

Those with silicosis may experience a persistent cough and shortness of breath, as well as fatigue and weakness.

The good news for the more casual home improver is that silicosis takes years of exposure to silica to occur. You would need to work with silica-containing drywall for a long time without proper protection.

In short, if you do breathe in some silica dust, you’re still not at immediate risk. Even so, you should always wear a mask to avoid irritation.

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How To Clean Drywall Dust

There’s not much you can do to keep drywall dust from getting everywhere aside from laying tarp. Cutting and sanding drywall inevitably leads to dust, even if it does settle quickly.

Once you’re done working, the dust needs to be removed from your home or work area. Small movements can kick the dust back up, and you’ll breathe in more than you have to. It’s also just messy.

Cleaning drywall dust is simple and only takes a few basic tools. Let the dust settle for ten to fifteen minutes after you finish your work. Then follow this simple guide to remove the potential irritant.

What You’ll Need

  • An electric fan (optional)
  • A broom
  • A garbage bag or can
  • A vacuum
  • A wet mop
  • A spray bottle of water (optional)

1. Open Any Windows In The Room And Place Fans

An open window offers a route for drywall dust to escape your work area.

While an open window or two is helpful, it’s even better if you have an electric fan in each one. Turn the fans to face outside and turn them on to suck some of the dust out of the room.

2. Sweep The Floor

Sweep as much drywall dust as you can into piles and collect it in a garbage bag or can. Sweeping won’t get rid of all of the dust, but it will get the majority of it.

You can also mist the dust with water to reduce how much goes back into the air. However, be careful of how much you spray. You may need to use a wet vac later if the floor gets too wet.

3. Wait 15 Minutes, Then Vacuum

It’s vital to let the remaining drywall dust settle again after sweeping. Again, even small movements will send it airborne, and sweeping requires a lot of movement.

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Once the dust settles again, go in with a vacuum. Start with the floor, then use the hose and a brush attachment to clean the walls. Make sure to also get any shelves or other high, flat surfaces.

After you finish with the shelves and walls, go back over the floor one more time to catch any fallout.

4. Mop The Floor

If your room has carpet, please don’t mop it. You can finish vacuuming and move on to ventilation.

For hard flooring, finish cleaning with a damp cloth or a full mop. Take into consideration the type of flooring you have and choose an appropriate cleaner to do the job.

Even if you use a mop, a damp cloth is good for small crevices like baseboards and moulding.

5. Ventilate

It’s a good idea to leave any windows open and fans running for a few hours cleaning. This ensures any remaining particles find their way out of the room.

In Conclusion

Getting drywall dust in your lungs, nose, and eyes isn’t pleasant. It can cause irritation to your soft tissues while it’s in the air if you don’t have proper protection.

Luckily, drywall dust settles in about ten to fifteen minutes. Once it settles, it’s important to clear it out of your workspace. Drywall dust can easily float back up into the air with small movements.

This can be irritating to your body, but drywall dust is only dangerous if it contains silica. Even then, it’s only a hazard after years of exposure.

However, letting it settle out of the air and cleaning it up will keep it from becoming an irritant.