How to Clean Up Drywall Dust

Cleaning drywall dust.

Drywall is an incredibly durable yet cost-effective material suitable for any home improvements. All you have to do is install some drywall along the interior walls of your home, facing away from the other buildings. The process takes a few days and requires just a few tools you likely have lying around — no cement, lath, or plaster needed!

The only downside is that you’ll have to deal with a lot of drywall dust. Whether dry or wet, that pesky white stuff leftover after you’ve cut and sanded your drywalls can be a pain to clean. Luckily, with the proper techniques, you can get rid of it in no time.

Today, we’re diving into the basics of drywalls — what they are and how to clean up drywall dust. With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll be able to keep your home peaceful and spotless!

Drywalls 101

Unless you work in construction, you’ve probably never given drywall much thought. So, you may be surprised to hear that this material is everywhere. You’ll find it in houses, public buildings, and office spaces. As a material, you can use it to build various design features like archways, eaves, or other architectural elements. Construction companies use commercial drywall to cover up steel beams or to top off masonry walls.

But, at its core, drywall is most commonly used to pad walls and ceilings in homes and apartments. It consists of two paper sheets that sit in between two panels made of high-grade Calcium Sulfate Dihydrate, or gypsum. Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral you’ll usually find in huge beds that closely resemble white sand.

Gypsum, in its natural state, has a high amount of water crystals. The crystals dissolve and turn to liquid when gypsum comes into contact with high temperatures. The heat makes the water boil and evaporate, thus keeping the material cool. This is the reason drywalls can contain flames in the event of a fire.

Furthermore, manufacturers mix gypsum plaster with paper-fiber, fiber-glass, and plasticizer. Lastly, they add a pressurized foaming agent to the mix to make it resistant to mold. All these ingredients come together to form an incredibly lightweight yet durable material suitable for residential homes. You’ll most commonly find it in kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and other areas that are a fire risk.

What Is Drywall Dust?

After you’ve finished hanging your drywalls, all that’s left is to admire your handiwork! Well, not quite. You still have to clean up the drywall dust that’s leftover from the sanding and drilling.

While the water crystals found in gypsum are excellent fire retardants, they also make the material very dry and chalky. As a result, sanding or drilling drywall can leave a thin film of dust on its surface. 

The dust will also drift and coat your home in a powdery white film. Worse still, if the dust gets wet, it could end up staining your wooden floors or cabinets. Therefore, you should do everything you can to clean it up ASAP.

How to Clean Up Drywall Dust: 6 Easy Tips

Fortunately, there are several cleaning methods you can use to make your home spotless again.

1. Brush

When you see dust, your first instinct is to grab a wet cloth and wipe it off. However, water and drywall is the last thing you want to mix. For starters, drywall is faced with a layer of paper. As you can imagine, adding moisture to paper makes it soggy and prone to tearing.

Secondly, drywall dust hardens when it comes into contact with liquids. The resulting plaque is very tough to get off and may require you to scrape it off using a sharp blade. This creates an even bigger mess and could potentially damage your furniture.

Therefore, your best bet is to stick to a plain hand brush or soft broom. Lightly dust off any loose powder from the drywall. Be sure not to apply too much pressure. Afterward, use it to sweep up any fallout from the floor or other surfaces.

2. Tack Cloth

A brush is great for dusting off large sections of drywall. However, it’s not so good for all those small nooks and crannies. In such cases, you’re better off using a tack cloth. A tack cloth is a special type of rag that’s designed for picking up dust particles. Manufacturers make it using a combination of cotton gauze and hydrocarbon resin. They coat the fiber in a plasticizer, which in turn, gives it that sticky surface.

As a result, the cloth is able to pick up dust particles even when it’s not wet. That is perfect for when you need to sweep up any excess dust off your drywall. But just be careful not to press down too hard onto the cloth. Too much pressure could embed the wax into the drywall paper, which is very difficult to fix afterward.

3. Vacuum

If sweeping isn’t your cup of tea, then maybe it’s time you whip out the good ol’ vacuum. A shop vacuum is perfect for removing excess drywall dust, provided you outfit it with the right extension. A wide or brush nozzle will work well in this case.

Simply turn on the vacuum and lightly go over the drywall, top to bottom. Once again, be careful not to press too hard. You don’t want to embed the wax into the porous papery surface.

4. Wet, Drywall Sponge

In case you want to go the full specialist route, then a wet drywall sponge is also an option. As its name implies, this is a special, two-sided sponge that’s used specifically for drywalls. One side has an abrasive surface which you can use to wet sand your drywalls. The other one is useful for wiping up any excess debris.

So, when you want to clean up, soak the sponge in water, and squeeze out the excess. The sponge will feel almost completely dry to the touch. Afterward, wipe the wall gently using downward strokes. Once again, be sure not to apply too much pressure, and replace the water once it starts to get too cloudy.

5. Apply Hot or Lukewarm Water

You’re likely scratching your head at this one. After all, we just stressed how important it is not to use a wet cloth to clean up the drywall. However, in case your drywall dust gets wet, using water is absolutely necessary.

When water touches drywall dust, the material does not immediately set. Instead, you have a small grace period where the dust will turn into a goopy, viscous substance. In such cases, you can use wet tools to clean it off.

First, let your tools sit in hot or lukewarm water for around ten minutes. Then, applying gentle pressure, use a scrape to remove it. Since the goopy drywall is still semi-water soluble, it should come off. If there is any goop leftover, clean it with a damp cloth.

6. Sand It Down

While goopy, semi-wet drywall is easy to clean, hardened drywall is a different story. In cases where your drywall has hardened, your only option is to sand it down.

You can use a classic sander or a special pole sander. If the dust hardened atop a counter or other flat surface in a glob, you might need a putty knife to scrape it off. 

Fair warning, though. Scraping or sanding can cause damage to your furniture, especially if it’s made of wood. So try your best to be gentle when you’re working.

In Summary

Drywall is every DIY builder’s dream. It’s affordable, durable, and incredibly easy to work with, even for home improvement newbies! Its only downside is that it leaves quite the mess. Drywall dust is notoriously hard to clean up, especially if it gets wet.

However, with the right tools, some elbow grease, and our easy-to-follow tips, you will know how to clean up drywall dust from your home.

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