Dust: The Silent Killer

Written by Joel Parisi

Updated: February 17, 2023

We live in a desert here in Arizona. And, like most deserts, the dryness here leads to an abundance of dust in the air. That dust slips in through the cracks in your walls, your open doors and windows, your swamp cooler, and any other gap it can find. From there, its entire mission in life is to mess up your electronics. In this post, we’ll briefly cover some of the issues dust can cause and what you can do to mitigate it.

Why does dust affect electronics?

There are couple reasons for this. The first and most obvious reason is that dust, especially when mixed with cloth fibers, pet dander, or human hair, does an excellent job of clogging vents. Not only does it clog vents, but it can coat the blades of the cooling fans, block airflow over heatsinks, and insulate other components, ensuring they don’t cool properly. A year or two of dust buildup is more than sufficient to put your computer in danger of overheating and damaging the components.

The second reason dust affects electronics is its electrical conductivity. Enough dust in a given computer or piece of equipment can swirl around inside while the machine is on and parts are moving, bumping into sensitive pieces of the equipment and exposed electrical pathways, causing short-circuits, voltage dips, and other unpleasant electrical effects.

How do you contribute to dust buildup?

Many clients are unaware that their habits and house are contributing to the eventual demise of their equipment. If you’re a smoker and you smoke indoors, the tar from your cigarettes, cigars, or pipe will make dust buildup about five times worse, as the tar-bearing smoke easily infiltrates tight spaces and coats every surface it contacts with a sticky film. The picture at the top of this post is a laptop heatsink, and the clog is the result of only a year of use in a smoker’s home.

If you have indoor pets, their dander will make a sizable contribution to the clogging power of dust. If you run a swamp cooler or leave your windows open for most of the year, even more dust will be introduced from outside. And if you have carpet throughout your house, it compounds the problem by holding and releasing tons of dust.

How can you prevent dust buildup?

Unfortunately, unless you’re living in a hermetically sealed environment, there’s no way to prevent all dust buildup. You can certainly mitigate the growth of dust by vacuuming frequently, limiting your smoking to outside, and running the A/C instead of your swamp cooler, but dust still exists and will find its way into your electronics. Thankfully, dust is fairly easy to remove for a trained technician. We have specialized blowers designed to counter the conductivity of dust, and we’re familiar with the internals of most computers and laptops. If you’ve noticed your computer putting off more heat than usual lately, you should give us a call and schedule an appointment. You may need a new internal fan or two, but most likely, having your computer dusted out will resolve the issue.


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