Mon-Fri: 8:00AM - 4:30PM
Why Water Is Not a Good Dust Control Method

Why Water Is Not a Good Dust Control Method

Justin Rollin

Using water on top of untreated surfaces is a popular method for treating dust in the short term, however, as a long-term solution, water isn’t the most ideal option. Are there alternatives to this age-old industrial problem? In many different industrial operations, finding a sustainable and effective dust control method is important.

From dust control products to other dust control methods, there are other alternatives to consider. Let’s get into some more specifics on why water isn’t the best dust control method on the market.

How Does a Water Spray System for Dust Control Work? 

Spraying water over the body of the fugitive dust material is one of the oldest methods of controlling dust. The weight of each dust particle increases as it becomes wet; this is achieved by wetting the fine particles as they lay in the bulk materials or as they’re carried by air. As the weight of each particle increases, it causes the particle to stay grounded and not fly up into the air. 

The moisture from the water increases the cohesive force that’s between dust particles, creating a larger grouping of particles that are better at fighting the air when it tries to create movement. The most effective way to apply the water is through a series of strategically designed spray nozzles at a point where the material expands and consumes air. The water can also be applied in a “curtain” manner around a transfer point. 

Disadvantages of Using Water for Dust Control

The water spray system for dust control is advantageous but it also comes with many disadvantages to consider. One downside to consider is the high surface tension on the interaction with dust control particles of different chemistries that end up repelling the water. Beyond that, let’s explore some specific disadvantages of using water for dust control below. 

Water Is a Short-Term Dust Solution

dust control methods

It couldn’t be simpler or more affordable to use water as an effective dust control method, however, it is a short-term solution. In order to do this successfully, it’s important to use a combination of sprays, mists, and water guns. Ideally, you’ll apply light, frequent applications rather than heavily spraying the surface in less frequent intervals. The nature of water molecules means that the treated areas dry quickly. At scale, this fast drying time can result in frustrations that make it an ineffective short-term solution, forcing companies to find other alternatives. 

A Huge Amount of Water Is Needed

Perhaps one of the biggest downsides of using water as a dust control solution is the volume that’s necessary to be effective. Oftentimes, there is a significant amount of water that’s wasted during the process. This is especially the case in dry areas as outdoor dust control operations require roughly one gallon of water per square meter daily. Consider a road that is 3 miles long and 15 feet wide; this would require roughly 6,000 gallons of water every day to control dust. For context, this is the equivalent of the amount of water that a family of four would use in an entire month. 

Water Dust Control Is Impractical and Unsustainable

Don’t overlook the environmental concerns associated with using water as a dust control method. Water needs to be readily available in your community and recycling water that’s used in this manner can be very challenging. These factors combined with the sheer volume of what's needed show that this is an unsustainable option to keep dust under control. 

Advantages of Using Water to Control Dust

Water as a dust suppression technique also comes with some advantages to keep in mind. 

  • The application systems themselves are relatively simple to both design and operate;
  • Water is inexpensive and usually easy to obtain;
  • Water is safe for the environment and safe for workers to deal with on a daily basis;
  • The systems themselves that use water are usually simple and don’t require costly elaborate enclosures;
  • Any changes can be made after starting with minimal downtime and expenses;
  • Installation water-based systems are simple to install and aren’t as likely to face problems with air velocity or wind due to the large orifices in their spray nozzles;
  • When compared with dry dust collection systems, using water to control dust is cheaper to install and uses less space.

What Can Make Water Effective as a Dust Control Method? 

dust control solution

Using water additives to control dust can be highly effective. These additives work by reducing the surface tension and improving the ability to form wet surfaces and droplets. Using water additives as an effective dust control method is ideal on mine sites, construction sites, farming, and even military sites where dust control is incredibly important. 

In many cases, the water additive is added to the water cart of the site, already reducing the volume of daily water required to be effective. By using liquid polymers in water, it can bind and coat the surfaces to better control the dust. The largest source of motivation to use liquid polymers is to reduce the volume of water that’s needed to reduce both time and costs. 

When deciding to use certain liquid polymers in dust suppression applications, the choice is based on water solubility, biocompatibility, the phase at room temperature, and how environmentally friendly it is. Liquid amphiphilic polymers show a significant amount of dust control relative to the liquid hydrophilic polymers owing to the dual effect of the liquid state in addition to the amphiphilicity of the polymer. 

Alternative Dust Control Methods

Beyond a water spray system for dust control, there are other dust control methods to consider. Both magnesium chloride and calcium chloride are ideal for controlling dust, each with its advantages.

  • Magnesium chloride
    • Magnesium chloride is a hygroscopic salt that absorbs the moisture from the air and helps keep roads moist;
    • It is available in liquid and flake form;
    • It contains smaller molecules compared to calcium chloride;
    • Its ability to control dust stems from the chemical makeup and the ability of the water ions to bond to the metal ions of magnesium and calcium. 
  • Calcium chloride
    • Calcium chloride is another dust suppressive that comes in both a liquid and flake form;
    • It works by taking the moisture from the air and dampening the road surface to reduce the production of dust;
    • There is usually a very high concentration;
    • This is ideal if you are working in a dry, hot environment.
Ready to get started?

Ready to get started?

Make sure you have a salt team that can deliver

Get a Quote


Water isn’t the ideal dust control method as it has limitations to how it interacts with different dust particles. On top of that, it isn’t environmentally friendly and can be a challenging solution when covering large areas of land. If you’re interested in finding a reliable dust control product supplier or you’d like to get a quote, please get in touch with us at Ninja De-Icer today!