Puzzle Dust: Everything You Need to Know

blue puzzle pieces

Puzzle fans and the puzzle naive may notice that, among some of their treasured sets, a layer of fine or not-so-fine dust may share the inside of a box with a puzzle’s pieces. Different manufacturers’ sets may yield so-called puzzle dust, which can be a frustrating and unwanted element to an otherwise enjoyable game.

While some people may not care if there’s dust in their box, others will stop buying puzzles from a given manufacturer altogether if the mess is distracting or even allergy-inducing. But there is no need to hide from otherwise enjoyable puzzles because of a little (or a lot of) dust.

Read on for everything you need to know about puzzle dust and how to get rid of it in a few simple steps.

Key Takeaways

  • Puzzle dust is normal, depending on how they were manufactured.
  • Puzzle dust is relatively harmless, though it can sometimes cause a mess or induce allergies.
  • It is easy to eliminate puzzle dust with a few simple steps and tools.

What is Puzzle Dust?

The first step in handling unwanted puzzle dust is understanding how it ends up in your box in the first place. Jigsaw puzzles are crafted using many materials, ranging from diverse types of cardboard to chipboard. In fact, most store-bought puzzles are typically made of cardboard, which is preferred by manufacturers since it’s so easy to cut.

During the puzzle-making process, some cutting techniques may produce little bits of dust as they create the shapes of the jigsaw. Most puzzle manufacturers will use a jigsaw puzzle die to cut the full pattern into the cardboard simultaneously, which comes apart as the final collection of puzzle pieces. Cardboard especially leaves quite a mess when cut.

Cleaning the dust from this cutting process takes time; some manufacturers skip it or spend less time on it than needed. The result is that a dusty puzzle gets boxed up and shipped to the stores, and the consumers are left to deal with the dust. It’s never fun to clean up someone else’s mess, and the leftover dust can cause serious discomfort during allergy season.


How to Get Rid of Puzzle Dust

A few different, easy options are available to help rid your puzzle pieces of pesky dust.

Use a strainer

Empty the puzzle pieces directly into a strainer or colander is a fast way to dump puzzle dust out of your life. It’s ideal to do this outside, taking advantage of the fresh air and avoiding getting dust all over your house. If outside isn’t available, gently shake the strainer over a sink or trash can to separate the dust from the pieces without launching dust particles into the air.

Use the puzzle bag

Some puzzles come packaged in a plastic bag, which can be a helpful tool for eliminating unwanted dust. Shake the unopened bag to gather dust pieces into one of the corners. Then, snip a small piece (smaller than a puzzle piece) off the corner and shake the excess dust out of the bag and into a waiting trashcan.

Sorting trays with mesh

Advance puzzle solvers may have a mesh sorting tray on hand to help assemble. These trays are also handy for separating unwanted dust from puzzle pieces. Make sure to dump the pieces while the tray is over a trashcan or sink to stop the dust from falling on the table or surface below.

Pick out individual pieces

This process is simple yet time-consuming. Remove each puzzle piece by hand from the bag, leaving the dust behind, ready to toss.

Use a mesh laundry bag

Another helpful tool, a laundry bag, is easy to pour puzzle pieces into, allowing the dust particles to pass through and separate from the pieces easily.

Try vacuuming

Full-size vacuums are inappropriate here, but several tiny dust-busters on the market can pick up small dust particles while leaving the larger puzzle pieces behind.

Buy used puzzles

Surprisingly, puzzles sourced from thrift stores or online puzzle exchanges usually are dust-free. This is because previous owners have already undergone the tedious process of removing puzzle dust from the pieces, leaving an allergen-free set ready to be enjoyed.

The Bottom Line

Puzzle dust is a hot-button issue among puzzlers, where opinions range from complete disregard to enraged reactions to the sight of a speck. But just because a puzzle is dusty is no good reason to skip out on these fun, time-filling activities. The above tips can help you quickly and effectively eliminate dust if it bothers you and let you freely enjoy your next puzzle without worrying about allergies.

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