What is the best dusting tool?
October 20, 2011 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Haven't dusted in three years. What's a good tool or technique to make this fast and easy? I'm looking for an 80% or 90% solution - don't need to get everything.

Except for wiping the dust off the furnace (for fire safety) and vacuuming a few times, we haven't dusted our home since we moved in to it three years ago. I want to get most of the dust off everything, as painlessly as possible. If either of us was 'in to' cleaning it wouldn't have been three years without dusting, so painless is important. My ideal would be some kind of cloth or brush that I can just swoosh over surfaces and maybe not get huge wads of dust-bunny floating down or curling up on the side. Some surfaces that need to be cleaned:

- ceiling (tried a brush but ended up with dust bunnies and cobweb-tangles in my face)
- blinds
- flat and semi-flat surfaces
- flat and semi-flat surfaces with stuff on them (e.g., the electronics cabinet, the top of the refrigerator - can I do 90% of the job without having to take everything down and dust it all individually?)
- carpet (planning to vacuum)
- ceiling fan
- fan intakes - window fan and computer
- tangle of electronics cables

Currently have:
- cloths and rags
- paper towels
- vacuum cleaner without any attachments
- willingness to go buy something (although not a $100+ new vacuum cleaner. Maybe a dust buster or a long-handled brush?)

Not actually trying to start a 'dusting routine' here, although suggestions for things to do every couple of weeks or months that only take a few minutes are OK. Mostly I'm looking for what to do to make the biggest impact now.
posted by Lady Li to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
You need a canister vac with handheld brush attachments. That will get most of it. Microfiber cloths will wipe up most of what remains. Use a spray cleaner to loosen anything that's stuck on.
posted by jon1270 at 9:40 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Swiffers work surprisingly well, and they are kind of a novelty, so they are fun to use.

Also adding a duster end to your vacuum or shop vac will suck up the serious stuff first.
posted by Vaike at 9:40 AM on October 20, 2011

Always dust top to bottom. If you dust top items last, then the dust will fall and you'll have to dust that lower area all over again.

Swiffer products are your friends. Their cloths have some static-y stuff in them so they pick up the dust easier, among other things. I adore their long-handled brushes.
posted by Melismata at 9:41 AM on October 20, 2011

There's a bunch of products made of electrostatic materials, which basically "attract" small particles of dust to them when you wipe them over a dry, dusty surface. The most well-known is probably swiffer cloths but there's also long-handled doo-hickies with cloths on the end for cleaning fan blades, and so on.

I usually just use the cheapest brand swiffer-knock-off product to dust. It does particularly well on electronics stuff (TV screens and bodies, speakers) and a pretty good job on hard unpainted surfaces. Sometimes it takes a little more work (in terms of swiping more than once) to do things that have a painted or irregular surface, like the top of a refrigerator, but it's still a lot better than regular cloths as long as there's no goo-ey stuff needing to be scrubbed.

Anyway. The swiffer-type cloths, not just marketing hype, they actually work for dusting!
posted by iminurmefi at 9:42 AM on October 20, 2011

Best answer: For dusting surfaces, I've found an actual duster to be the best way to go (better than any of what you currently have). The simplest way to go is to pick up a swiffer and a box of replacement cloths, should be under $20.
posted by advil at 9:42 AM on October 20, 2011

I don't really see you get 80-90% there with a single tool. But a swiffer and a vacuum with attachments will go a long way.

The big problem I see is if you haven't done anything in the kitchen for three years you've got not only dust but grease/grime. And that means yes, you've got to take that stuff down and address them all with some sort of wet/damp solution.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:43 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like the swiffer duster too, because it has replaceable dust catchers that you can throw away and replace when they've gotten too dirty to do you any good.
Start high and work your way down. No sense in having to dust everything twice.
posted by Gilbert at 9:43 AM on October 20, 2011

Re swiffer: I just buy replacement dry wipes for their floor duster and use them as hand wipes.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:49 AM on October 20, 2011

Best answer: I would start with the vacuum, especially behind furniture, on fans, ducts - anywhere where it's going to clump. We have a $15 Dirt Devil stick vac that is super easy and lightweight, and has a little nozzle attachment that's perfect for this.

Then swiffer away!
posted by radioamy at 9:53 AM on October 20, 2011

Mostly I'm looking for what to do to make the biggest impact now.

Have you considered hiring a professional for a one time heavy duty cleaning?
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:58 AM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

We vacuum almost everything in my home. One major collector that we don't vacuum is curtains. Which are a PITA. We've got cheapo Ikea curtains that are actually cheaper to replace than to have professionally cleaned and pressed.

Surfaces that have stuff on them: you need to bite the bullet, clean the stuff, and clean the surface. Our bookcase is the one place we (metaphorically) stick our fingers in our ears and sing "lalala I can't hear you" at when it comes to dusting.
posted by adamrice at 10:00 AM on October 20, 2011

Best answer: In addition to the dust pickup methods mentioned above, consider wearing a particle filtration mask while you are doing the dusting.

I'm normally not an allergic person, but I've done clean-ups of the sort you're describing before without wearing anything and had my immune system knocked down hard afterwards.
posted by de void at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For flat surfaces the cheapest swiffer-like sheets at the grocery store works well when just held. Get a big box...get two big boxes...and be aggressive about tossing them when they're covered with dirt (this can be after two swipes, if it's intense).

For the fans, blinds, and ceiling, the swiffer 360 with an extender is what you want. Some of it WILL come down if your ceiling is dusty enough, but with the extender you can stand to one side. Remember to dust from top to bottom.
posted by anaelith at 10:02 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might look into sticky mops or sticky cleaners. They're like large versions of the sticky lint rollers used for clothing, that you can use on floors and other large surfaces.

(I didn't know such things existed until I took a close look at a hotel housekeeper's cleaning cart one time.)
posted by needled at 10:05 AM on October 20, 2011

Definitely sounds like the Swiffer is your friend here. For more thoughts on routine, although mostly they just make me feel filthy, you might Ask a Clean Person.
posted by kickingthecrap at 10:07 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Kitchen's fine, I keep the kitchen in good shape because I use it. On the other hand we don't generally use or even look at the ceiling, and it's one of those 'popcorn' ceilings so it's collected a pretty serious amount of dust. Not sure if a swiffer-type thing would work there, but maybe a static brush.

You need to bite the bullet, clean the stuff, and clean the surface
Unfortunately, 'bookcase' is precisely the type of scenario at hand. Odds are good I won't get to that.

I like the idea of a hand vac with some sort of brush attachment. They all look super pricey for this sort of on-a-whim project - maybe I'll see if I can borrow one from a friend, or borrow a real vacuum with attachments.
posted by Lady Li at 10:10 AM on October 20, 2011

The 360 has strips of swiffer material and looks more like a traditional duster. It should work better on a rough ceiling.
posted by anaelith at 10:15 AM on October 20, 2011

Response by poster: Oh - and hiring a pro is a good idea that's definitely on the list, but it's a pretty big project for us to get the house ready FOR a pro and make sure that all our DIY electronics/jewelry/modeling bits and pieces aren't buried in the carpet where they'll be lost forever in the vacuum. Right now, I have a few days off work so I'm tackling one small-but-visible project at a time.
posted by Lady Li at 10:16 AM on October 20, 2011

You can still do a spot-dust - at least running the swiffer cloth on the exposed shelf surface, and it just takes minutes.
posted by canine epigram at 10:32 AM on October 20, 2011

Feather (ostrich) dusters are indispensable for areas that are difficult to wipe.
posted by rhizome at 10:33 AM on October 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I'm going to run out to the store and get a particle mask and something in the swiffer-360 family (and maybe some regular swiffer cloths too). There are more good answers here than just the ones I marked 'best' - I tried to get one from each category, basically. Thanks to all of you for responding!
posted by Lady Li at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2011

> it's one of those 'popcorn' ceilings so it's collected a pretty serious amount of dust. Not sure if a swiffer-type thing would work there, but maybe a static brush.

Ooh, careful. They sometimes have asbestos in them, which you really don't wand to knock down.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:17 AM on October 20, 2011

- Ceiling - use a broom, and wear a mask and safety glasses to keep dust globs out of your eyes.
- Blinds -swiffer dusters are really effective. Blinds down. Set the blinds as closed as possible. Dust both sides, e.g., facing the window and facing the room. Then set the blinds all the way closed in the other direction, and dust both sides.
- flat and semi-flat surfaces - wood - use the swiffer, follow with generic lemon pledge, which smells so lovely. Vinyl, glass, formica, etc., - use generic windex. You can use generic pledge on formica or fake wood surfaces if you like the smell as much as I do.
- flat and semi-flat surfaces with stuff on them - use the swiffer on the stuff, treat the surface as above. Yeah, you have to move the stuff. Motivate yourself with the thought that maybe you'll find money or stuff you 'lost' during the cleanup.
- top of the refrigerator - generic windex - the dust in the kitchen is often combined with grease.
- carpet (planning to vacuum) vacuum a couple of times. Don't forget to have extra vacuum bags, if you need them
- ceiling fan. Stand on a chair, swiffer - no one sees the tops of the blades.
- fan intakes - window fan and computer - swiffer. Window fans get grotty because the dirt combines with humidity. I am able to ignore this successfully.
- tangle of electronics cables - I'm on your cleaning schedule, but I hate tangled cables. If you have any empty plastic laundry or milk jugs, you can cut out a rectangle, then cut in a big notch on the 2 opposing long sides. Use this to wrap cables around. If you can live with tangled cables, 1 person lifts up the tangle, the other vacuums underneath.

Battery-operated hand vacs don't last long. Me, I resolved the problem by hiring someone to come in and clean. It's my contribution to economic recovery in my community. She was unfazed by my indifference to the dust.
posted by theora55 at 2:03 PM on October 20, 2011

I recently bought a hoover vacuum at Target, on sale for less than $60.00. A vacuum with attachments will get you started with ceiling fan, blinds and layers of dust on smooth surfaces. You can even vacuum your furniture, including mattress.

For everything else, damp paper towels work well. The dampness keeps the dust from flying and paper towels are inexpensive and disposable.

Remember to change your air conditioner filter before and after you are done and then every few weeks forever after. This will help keep the dust down.
posted by myselfasme at 6:46 AM on October 21, 2011

If you willing to spend a hundred bucks, but don't want to make a routine, why don't you just hire one of those mobile maid services to come in and dust. In half a day, they will do more then you will even think of doing in a full week of cleaning.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 12:29 PM on October 21, 2011

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