I can't say that I've ever felt compelled to examine all that closely the dust particles that my vacuum cleaner accumulates; I'm rather more interested in getting it out of the house. You too? I'm not surprised. However, a project by electrical goods manufacturer Electrolux not only investigated what the dust churned up in different houses across the world said about their respective environments, it produced enlarged images of different types of dust particles and turned them into Tumblr and Pinterest posts, too. Intrigued to know what plant residue with iron rich clay found in Stockholm looks like? Or how about calcium phosphate from Singapore? What of titanium white paint in Seoul? You can take a look at them on the Dust Art Tumblr or Pinterest run by Electrolux.
As well as the unexpectedly pretty pictures, Electrolux's research turned up the perhaps-not-so-unexpected findings that our dust says a lot about our individual lifestyles—do lots of laundry and you'll have a higher than average zeolite particle numbers, play tennis and there might be grass or clay amongst your dust—and about where we live. On average 58% of the dust particles in a home come from outside of it. (Want to help reduce that? Take off your shoes when you come inside and open the windows when it rains.)
What city-specific findings did the researchers turn up? Well, if you live in Taipei you're more likely to have iron-rich gypsum particles amongst your dust because it's used as a coagulant to produce Chinese-style tofu. Old buildings in Paris had high lead particle counts, because lead used to be added to paint to help it dry and make it more durable. Brazil is the world's top producer of aluminium, meaning that Sao Paulo's prevalance for bauxite dust shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Los Angeles homes had traces of marine organism skeletons in their dust. And Singapore's damp climate means that its houses have little by way of external mineral content because it's harder for the wind to distribute it.
I'm never going to look at a vacuum cleaner in the same way again.