Dust to Dust
August 21, 2013 7:27 AM   Subscribe

How can I clean dusty surfaces more effectively, so that it actually gets removed rather than moved around?

When I dust, sometimes I think I'm getting stuff clean, but sometimes I'm not so much picking up the dust as pushing it around. I can see the little line of dust which is not being picked up by the cloth - I end up pushing it close to the edge and then pretty much picking it up with the cloth. The next day, there's a new layer of dust. Not as much as I cleaned off the day before, but enough that anyone looking at it would probably not think that it had been cleaned the day before. Is this normal? Or am I just scattering the dust into the air, so that it just lands back down 30 seconds later?

And venetian blinds! How do I even clean these? It's like every row of slats just spreads the dust to every other row!

The cloth I use is pretty random, can be rags made of old clothes, but I've had the same thing to a greater and lesser extent with cloths which are marketed for cleaning. Do I need to use something different? If so, what? (Note: in Australia, please don't recommend anything that isn't readily available or shippable here for a reasonable fee).

Do I need to clean more often? This won't happen. I try to wipe down everything at least once a week.

Is there some source of dust I need to eliminate? I vacuum about once a week as well. It looks like ordinary dust (not black or sticky), this happens whether or not the windows are regularly open. I don't have any air conditioning ducts or anything.

Or is it just that I'm noticing the dust more because the days are getting sunnier, I'm generally trying to stick to a cleaning routine so paying more attention and also decluttering so there's more cleanable surface area? Even if this is the case, I would still like your dusting tips!
posted by pianissimo to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Windows closed, proper air circulation through heating/cooling system.

Clean your vents. Change air filter regularly.

Wash your (cloth) curtains.

Clean with static-electricity to attract the dust (i.e. swiffers).

Dust includes dry skin. Keep moisturized.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:32 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I understand that old-fashioned feather dusters, made with real ostrich feathers, have tiny barbs that actually pick up dust specks and carry them away. I bought one online and it seemed to work very well the couple of times I used it. You just drag it lightly across the dusty surface. Then just take it outside and shake it out or whack it lightly on the fence. It was kind of fun, as I recall, and it did the job surprisingly well. Dunno why I don't do it more often.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:49 AM on August 21, 2013

Most of the large surface areas should be vacuumed [Venetian blinds, above doors and windows, furniture]. The idea is, suck it up, bag it up, dispose outside of the house. If your vacuum cleaner has an efficient filter, it should not shoot dust out the back end. Look into a canister vac with a long hose attachment, and multi-stage or HEPA filter. There are a variety of helpful dusting attachments, including multipronged brushes for venetian blinds and soft brushes for furniture.

Dust is partly generated by activities within the household, and partly by external sources.

Do you have animals? There are vacuum attachments to vacuum the hair directly from the animal [no intermediary such as the floor]. Do you have a lot of linty things-- stuffed animals, fuzzy clothes, old carpets? Do you dry your laundry inside the house? Strip down all the lint-shedding items, get rid of them if you can.

If you live in a dusty area, near a lot of construction or heavy traffic, you need to keep your windows closed, as St. Peepsburg mentioned.

Google "how to dust your house" or "cleaning tips." There are a lot of tutorials and guidelines, from Obsessive Compulsive to breezy.
posted by ohshenandoah at 7:51 AM on August 21, 2013

That sounds like a lot of dust -- maybe add an air filter to capture some of it?

Dust cloths should be treated for cleaning to increase effectiveness -- if your furniture is amenable to it, lemon oil or similar oil-based furniture polish can be used to treat cotton rags to increase how much they will pick up. (Of course being careful about rag disposal as oily rags can spontaneously combust. I'm not sure how common a dusting hazard this is, but I use linseed oil on a few pieces of furniture and I'm always careful.)

Here in the states, I can buy microfiber cloths in the car cleaning section for cheap (they look like the cloths you get for cleaning computer screens, but a bit thicker) and they work well also, and can be washed.

When dust is bad, try an initial vacuuming run (with an attachment that won't hurt the surfaces in question). Using the vac is also good as a first stab at the venetian blinds.

Dust before cleaning floors with the vac. Hopefully that way the vac will get anything that redeposits on the floors before you can kick it up again.

Make sure your vac isn't blowing dust into the air -- if there's an optional HEPA filter, add it. If you have a bagless vac, cover with a garbage bag to change the "bagless" to minimize dust generated.
posted by pie ninja at 7:52 AM on August 21, 2013

Are you using a dry cloth?
Try wiping things off with a damp cloth that you rinse off frequently. I'd do it once thoroughly, as a baseline, and then observe how long it takes for things to get dusty again.
posted by egg drop at 7:54 AM on August 21, 2013

My dad swears by Endust, which you spray on your rag to make it better at picking up dust. He is pretty passionate about dusting. Whenever he sees me dusting with a damp cloth he starts to lecture me about it. At this point I think I haven't bought any Endust just because it's such an effective and low-effort way to get my dad's goat.

I mean, I grew up using the stuff to dust. I can attest that it works better than a damp rag.
posted by town of cats at 8:06 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Do you have animals? There are vacuum attachments to vacuum the hair directly from the animal [no intermediary such as the floor]. Do you have a lot of linty things-- stuffed animals, fuzzy clothes, old carpets?

No animals, but come to think of it, a fair amount of linty things. And have been using a lot of tissues recently which throws up a bunch of dust. Grrr. Also dry skin as mentioned by St. Peepsburg.

Are you using a dry cloth?
No, a damp cloth. I have noticed that a dry cloth seems to leave less dust behind where I've wiped, but it's pretty useless as almost none will actually stick to the cloth.
posted by pianissimo at 8:07 AM on August 21, 2013

Use microfiber cloth instead of cotton or polyester or wool, or whatever the old clothes you've been using are made of.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:01 AM on August 21, 2013

Do you live in an older house with lathe and plaster walls? I've found since moving that those things are a pain for making things dusty, the extension in our house with normal drywalls only seems to get half as dusty.

Also change your filters in your aircon/heating regularly and make sure they fit properly.

You don't say what sort of cloth you are using to dust but damp Micro fibre clothes are great for dusting too as they trap the dirt.
posted by wwax at 9:41 AM on August 21, 2013

I checked, and it seems that you can buy Swiffer dusters in Australia, parts of it at least.

Swiffer dusters are fluffy little things made out of something that feels like a cross between a paper towel and a cotton ball. It may seem ridiculous to buy a whole special thing just for dusting, but these things do an amazing job. You can tell by how easily they get dirty and need to be replaced.

I live in a very dusty home, and I swear by them.

When I'm out of Swiffer dusters, anything that makes your cloth damp will work. Window cleaner, even just a bit of water. The dust will stick to a damp cloth instead of flying around and redepositing later.

I also recommend getting a good air purifier. It will trap a lot of the airborne dust before it can land on your surfaces (or get sucked into your lungs).
posted by ErikaB at 10:33 AM on August 21, 2013

Instead of using just one or two cloths to dust, use many! I buy washcloths sort of like these and when I start doing cleaning chores I get several of them ready: a few wet, a few damp and a few dry and then I use them as necessary. When I feel one is already too dirty to keep using it, I toss it aside and use the next one. When I'm done I can just throw them in the laundry with the rest of similar-colored clothes (or just get white ones) or wash them in their own cycle if they're too dirty.

The terry cloth is great for almost anything. I use a clean, dry one, for example, to "brush" my sofas so that dirt and food bits or whatever go to the floor for later sweeping. I use a damp one on my wood furniture. And wet ones to go over bathroom counters or stains on floors that won't get moped right away.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:04 AM on August 21, 2013

Also from a technique point of view, try to dust from top to bottom - vacuum/ sweep the floors at the end. Otherwise you'll get dust fallout on surfaces you have literally just cleaned.
posted by kitkatcathy at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2013

About once a year I remove my Venetian blinds and wash them in the bathtub with some Oxi-Clean. The washing gets the nooks and strings clean in a way that dusting can't. When they're clean pull them out of the tub and set them on an old towel to air dry a bit. When they're dry enough that they won't drip, hang them back in the window.
posted by workerant at 6:47 PM on August 21, 2013

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