How to Clean Up Drywall Dust & Keep It From Spreading

If you've ever removed drywall, you know that dust gets everywhere! Discover how to keep drywall dust from getting everywhere & how to clean it up.

Published August 15, 2023
broom in a room with drywall dust

All those posters you stapled to your wall in seventh grade seemed like a great idea until years later, when you’re slathering the walls in drywall joint compound to fill each pinprick. Working with drywall is a necessary evil sometimes, and with it comes not a dark cloud, but a powdery white one.

You might think you know how to clean up drywall dust, but it’s not just arming yourself with a shop vac (although that's a start). Instead, learn all about the prep work and three cleaning steps you should know to kick drywall dust out for good.

Prepare Your Space to Limit Drywall Dust Debris

Like anything worthwhile in life, the prep work matters. Prepping your ingredients before you get started on a big recipe can be the difference between a delicious meal and so-so one. And prepping your space before you start working with drywall can be the difference between white powder everywhere and limiting how much you have to clean up. Master your home renovation by prepping your space before tackling any drywall work.

Turn Off Your AC/HVAC

When you’re working with drywall and sanding the freshly laid patches (or cutting into existing drywall to remove it), dust will fly everywhere. If you leave your AC/HVAC systems on, it’s going to get filtered through your units, which can break down your filters and decrease your air quality. So, to stop the debris from spreading. Don’t start a drywall project until you’ve turned your units off.

Cover Every Surface With a Plastic or Cloth Tarp

Everything you can’t pull out of the space/room you’re working in, make sure you cover it completely with a plastic tarp or a cloth one. We’re talking floors, countertops, appliances, and any furniture you’ve got. Tape the tarp in place to really lock it down and make cleanup a quicker affair.

Use Zipper Walls/Doors to Keep Dust Inside

You don’t have to work in construction to get the benefits of zipper plastic barriers. These hanging barrier systems are made of plastic, and you can zip them open and closed. Drywall dust creates such a fine powder that it spreads everywhere once airborne, and these barriers at each of your entry points will keep the stuff from spreading all across your house or apartment.

3 Steps to Clean Drywall Dust From Every Surface

Cleaning up drywall is more tedious than difficult. But, if you properly prep your space and clean as you go using these three steps, your house shouldn’t look like it’s covered in fingerprint powder at the end of the day.

Vacuum Everything That Can Be Vacuumed

With drywall dust, a shop vac is going to become your best friend. Its open chamber is perfect for sucking up the tiny particles and not getting clogged the same way a traditional vacuum might. But, at some point, you might have to change your filter depending on how much debris you’re cleaning up.

In that case, keep an extra filter on-hand should your vacuum start running slower and having less suction.

Use a Sweeping Compound for Non-Carpeted Floors

Sweeping compound is an oil-based material that you can scatter on ceramic, concrete, and unfinished wood floors to help get rid of dust and debris. The compound sticks to the tiny particles and keeps it in place when you go to sweep it up, and you can get bags of it at any local hardware store.

If you’ve ever fought a couple of pet hair dust bunnies around your kitchen, you know just how maddening it can be. Toss some sweeping compound onto a drywall dust-covered floor and clear it with a push broom and a big dustpan.

@brooke.renee.diy Sweeping compound is my drywall dust and home renovation cleaning savior Although there’s going to be more dust from the drywall finisher, living with drywall dust floating around isnt fun so I wanted to get it mostly cleaned up while I wait #diyhome #diyhouserenovations #homerenovation #livingroomrenovation #livingroomremodel #cleantok #drywall #drywalldust #sweepingthecompound Cute EDM(1033122) - みずいろK

Claudia Acuna recommends on TikTok to spritz a little water on your dusty floors if you don’t have sweeping compound to trap the dust in-place.

@claudia_acunam Use water in a spray bottle to wet the floors and the dust don’t rise up #cleantok #fyp #cleanwithme #cleanwithclaudia #cleaningtips #foryoupage FEEL THE GROOVE - Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

Wipe Everything Down With a Microfiber Cloth

No matter if you’ve got countertops, floors, or couch cushions in the same space the drywall work’s being done, don’t finish for the day until you’ve wiped everything down with a damp microfiber cloth. Granted, you’ll probably want a ton of cloths at the ready, because you’re going to go through them fast.

Quick Tip

Even if you’ve already vacuumed and swept to your heart’s content, you still need to go back over it with a damp cloth. Now, you could mop the floors instead if you’ve got the time, but a damp cloth will work too.

If All Else Fails, Try the Wet Sanding Method

Wet sanding is an unusual technique you won’t read about on the back of a drywall joint compound container. Wet sanding involves letting the drywall set enough that it’s mostly dry and scrubbing a wet sponge or rag back and forth to ‘sand’ down the larger bumps.

Refining the drywall sections before you attack it with sandpaper cuts down on how much drywall you have to remove and the amount that’s turned into fine dust.

@terae.b Drywall || Pro tip || tired of having to dry sand all your drywall? Use this tip to reduce the amount of dry sanding you have to do using wet sanding ! #fyp #drywall She Share Story (for Vlog) - 山口夕依

Still Finding Drywall Dust Months Later? Call a Professional Cleaning Service

Even with all your prep work and avid cleaning, you might still find drywall dust months later. If every time you plop down on your couch, you spray dust into the air, it's time to call in the heavy hitters. Professional cleaning services have access to better cleaning machines that will give your upholstery and floors a deeper clean than anything that you can buy off the rack.

Keep the Dust Bowl in the Past

If you own a home, then working with drywall is something you’ll have to do at some point. Instead of making mistakes along the way, keep these prep work and cleaning methods in mind. Because ideally, we’d like to keep the Dust Bowl in the past.

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How to Clean Up Drywall Dust & Keep It From Spreading