Concreate, Inc. delivers concrete polishing and custom staining for both commercial and residential projects primarily in Virginia and Maryland (but also up and down the East Coast). We work hand in hand with with designers, architects, project managers, general contractors, tradesmen, and home owners alike from start to finish. We welcome the opportunity to serve your polished concrete needs in every way possible.

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Polishing Concrete Dust Cleanup: The Clean Way to Get the Job Done

Polishing Concrete Dust Cleanup: The Clean Way to Get the Job Done

A Concreate worker using a hand grinder.

Are you working on a concrete polishing project but don’t know how to clean the dust? Here is how to do it properly and avoid health hazards.

Key Takeaways:

  • Concrete dust can be dangerous if inhaled
  • Using a dust collection system is essential
  • The system should include a vacuum, filter, and collection tank
  • Wet polishing can reduce dust as it binds the particles
  • Wear a respirator and eye protection, and wash hands/change clothes after concrete polishing to avoid concrete dust inhalation and contamination

Polished concrete has become a popular flooring option for its excellent light reflectivity, durability, stain resistance, and low maintenance costs. However, polishing concrete floors creates fine dust that can be dangerous when inhaled. 

Concrete dust contains crystalline silica, which can cause cell necrosis and lung cancer. Inhaling concrete dust can also lead to respiratory problems, such as wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Taking preventive measures when polishing concrete floors is essential for protecting your health. 

Wet and dry polishing are two ways to polish concrete. Wet polishing uses water to suppress the concrete dust, making it less airborne. Dry polishing doesn’t use water, so a dust collection system is essential. Such a system will have a specialized vacuum with a tank or bag to collect the concrete dust. The vacuum will also have a HEPA filter to remove the concrete dust from the air. 

Read on to learn more about concrete dust, the dangers of inhaling it, and how to collect it when polishing concrete floors.

Dangers of inhaling concrete dust

Concrete dust is created when concrete floors are polished with a machine. The machine’s abrasive pads grind down the concrete surface to create a smooth, shiny finish. Concrete dust contains high volumes of crystalline silica, which can be harmful when inhaled. Common dangers of inhaling concrete dust include:

Lung cancer

Crystalline silica found in concrete dust is classified as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This means there is sufficient evidence that inhaling concrete dust can cause lung cancer. 

Several studies have found a link between concrete dust exposure and lung cancer risk. The risk of developing lung cancer from concrete dust exposure is increased for smokers and people with pre-existing lung conditions.

Cell necrosis

Inhaling concrete dust can damage the cells in your lungs, leading to premature cell death (cell necrosis). Concrete dust is abrasive and can cause inflammation when it rubs against the lung tissue. Cell necrosis can lead to several respiratory problems, such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, and a persistent cough.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung conditions that make breathing difficult. COPD causes airflow blockage and breathing difficulties caused by inflammation and lung damage. Inhaling concrete dust can worsen COPD symptoms and cause permanent lung damage.

Concrete dust cleanup is essential for protecting your health and preventing lung damage. Understanding how to collect concrete dust depending on the type of polishing is essential for the safety of you and your project. 

Wet polishing

Like dry polishing, wet polishing uses a machine with abrasive pads to grind down the concrete surface, creating a shiny, smooth finish. However, wet polishing also uses water to suppress concrete dust. This makes it less airborne since the water will bind to the concrete dust particles and weigh them down.

Wet polishing is the best option for concrete dust cleanup because it significantly reduces the amount of concrete dust created. Unfortunately, when dust mixes with water, it creates a slurry that can be difficult to clean up.

During wet polishing, water is sprayed onto the concrete surface to prevent concrete dust from becoming airborne. Water also lubricates the concrete to reduce friction and heat buildup from the polishing process. The concrete dust is collected in a slurry that must be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

Dry polishing

Dry polishing is the most popular method for concrete polishing. It’s faster and doesn’t create a slurry that is difficult to clean up. However, it creates a large amount of concrete dust that poses a serious health hazard if not appropriately collected. Removing the dust is also essential to expose the scratch pattern and produce a consistent finish.

To prevent concrete dust from becoming airborne, dry polishing must be done with a dust collection system. Since concrete polishing grinders lack built-in dust collection systems, a separate system must be used. 

A dust collection system provides suction that pulls concrete dust away from the polishing process and into a tank or bag. This cuts down on the amount of concrete dust that becomes airborne and decreases the risk of inhaling it.

Most dust collection systems use a specialized vacuum with a hose that attaches to the concrete polishing machine. They also have a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that captures 99.97% of concrete dust particles before they can be released into the air.

The concrete dust is drawn into the vacuum and collected in a tank or bag. When the bag or tank is full, it must be emptied and disposed of appropriately to prevent pollution. 

A dust collection system with a continuous bagging system is more convenient, eliminating the need to constantly empty and dispose of concrete dust as with a tank system. If you pursue the tank system, avoid using over 50 lb. capacity tanks, as they can be difficult to empty. 

How to prevent inhaling concrete dust

The effects of inhaling concrete dust are severe and can be life-threatening. Being cautious and using the proper concrete dust cleanup methods can help you with your polished concrete project. Here are some tips to prevent concrete dust inhalation:

  • Wear a P-, N-, or R-95 respirator when polishing concrete. These respirators remove at least 95% of concrete dust particles from the air, making it safer to breathe. A dust mask can also help but will not protect you from inhaling concrete dust as a respirator would.
  • Wear eye protection when polishing concrete to prevent the dust from getting into your eyes. Dust goggles form a protective barrier over your eyes, keeping concrete dust out.
  • Wet polish concrete whenever possible to reduce concrete dust. Water binds the dust particles, making them less likely to become airborne.
  • Use a concrete dust collector with a HEPA filter to capture concrete dust particles before they become airborne. HEPA filters can remove 99.97% of concrete dust particles from the air.
  • Wash your hands and face after polishing concrete to remove concrete dust that may have settled on your skin. A change of clothes before leaving the work site will help prevent carrying concrete dust particles home with you.

Let the pros at Concreate help you with your concrete polishing project

Polishing concrete is a dusty job that, when not handled correctly, can lead to concrete dust inhalation. This can lead to lung cancer, cell necrosis, and COPD. Taking the proper precautions can help you avoid inhaling concrete dust.

At Concreate, we have the experience and equipment to handle your concrete polishing project quickly and efficiently while minimizing concrete dust. Our highly trained concrete pros use top-of-the-line concrete polishing machines with dust collection systems to keep your home or workspace clean and safe. Visit thisisconcrete.com or contact one of our concrete specialists today for more information about our concrete polishing and dust cleanup services.