Out, out, damn dust!
September 15, 2007 3:48 PM   Subscribe

City dwellers! How do you dust?

I live in New York City, but I assume this issue can be found in any big, dirty city.

I'm the tidy sort, and I generally dust and vacuum and clean 3-4 times a month. But the dust that accumulates in my apartment is a whole other kind of dust than what I'm used to. There is a lot of it, which I expect. But ... it's black. And it's sticky - for example, when I wipe my windowsill with my usual method of damp, clean rag, the dust doesn't get picked up, it's just smears around at most. It takes persistant attacking with cleaner, numerous rags, and sometimes, for goodness' sake, scrubbing. What is this madness?

I've tried Swiffers - no better (and I don't like paying for them). I've tried vacuuming first - not great. And keeping my windows closed is a winter-only option, as I would much rather dust more often than use an air conditioner. I just want a better dusting option.

Any and all help - different materials, home-made ideas, etc - much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by minervous to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
When I lived in NYC (a couple of blocks from the location in your profile), I used to have the same black dust and the same problems. I used liquid cleaner (Mr. Clean, to be precise), diluted in a big bucket of water as per the directions. It was still tricky, but that seemed to work pretty well.
posted by sueinnyc at 4:03 PM on September 15, 2007

I should clarify that I applied it and rinsed with a cloth. Perhaps that was obvious, though.
posted by sueinnyc at 4:04 PM on September 15, 2007

I live in Los Angeles and this is a constant thorn in my side. This black crap gets everywhere. I imagine that includes our lungs, unfortunately.

I never have found a great solution except elbow grease, same as you. Not a completely satisfactory answer and I'll be watching this thread in case someone has a better solution, but scrubbing is the only thing that works for me.
posted by Justinian at 4:06 PM on September 15, 2007

Have you considered buying an air purifier?
posted by charlesv at 4:16 PM on September 15, 2007

I also live in NYC and had the same horrid dust problem, exacerbated by living on a ground floor, corner (facing 2 streets) apartment with 2 dogs.

I've had an air purifier for about 2 weeks, and it HAS helped, already.
posted by bunnycup at 4:31 PM on September 15, 2007

Response by poster: Great suggestions, all, thanks.

Bunnycup and Charlesv - any specific recommendations? I hadn't thought of using an air purifier because I rather assumed they were for people with allergies or pets, not for getting rid of dust and dirt. Any more info is appreciated.
posted by minervous at 4:55 PM on September 15, 2007

I found that those fancy "ionic breeze" style purifiers were pretty useless, while a big honking HEPA filter one worked pretty well. YMMV but I'd say get one of those hatbox shaped ones they sell at home depot. Not super expensive and do suck up a lot of dust.
posted by frieze at 4:59 PM on September 15, 2007

Best answer: Mine is a Bionaire, an ionic breeze type standing-tower, which claims to have "HEPA type filtration efficient at removing airborne particles such as pollen, dander, household dust, smoke, and mold spores." One advantage is that the filters are incredibly easy to clean - pull it up and run a vacuum along it. I picked it up for $150 at the Target at Atlantic Center, which seems a good price for the model after comparing online just now.
posted by bunnycup at 5:09 PM on September 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ah, yes. This stuff is the bane of my existence, particularly on window blinds. Washington, D.C. here, but we get the same city dust too.

I use Murphy's oil soap diluted in water with a good low-lint cotton dust rag that can be washed in the laundry and reused. Mostly because Murphy's is good as a de-greaser, which I think is what's making it extra sticky, but also because I like the smell. If it gets really, really bad (if I go out of town for a long period, say) then it's Lemon Clorox Clean-up time. That stuff will almost peel paint off windowsills, though, so I use it sparingly if I can.

In a small apartment with lots of books, I also get a ton of "normal" dust, and that's what Swiffers are for - mostly to keep my electronics and books dust free, but I've found that Swiffers are worse than normal rags on the black, sticky stuff.

I had been considering an air purifier anyway, but here is apparently another reason to buy one...
posted by gemmy at 6:22 PM on September 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Demand that management put in double glazed windows and make the point that you're paying more than enough as it is. My rental on CPS had single-glazed casement windows with the same problem--and leaks!-- management told me the first time I complained that the rent would go up if the windows were replaced, then told me the Landmarks Commission wouldn't allow it. The woman I spoke to at LC told me that as long as the replacement windows closely resembled the existing ones there would not be a problem. By that time I had bought a condominium and was about to leave. My new place has double glazing, grit is no longer an issue--but noise still is.
posted by brujita at 10:00 PM on September 15, 2007

Hmm. Exhaust soot. Best not to think of it as dust. Think of it as dirt. I lived near a freeway for a while and had to deal with this slow, black particulate snow on my windowsills and surfaces everywhere. You need a wet cleaning to truly remove it. Perhaps a good scrubbing with a vacuum cleaner's brush-hose will work on some surfaces.
posted by scarabic at 10:26 PM on September 15, 2007

I swear by my microfiber cleaning cloths (Miracle Cloth at BB&B, but every store's got some version in the cleaning aisle now). They get greasy stuff up in the kitchen with just warm water and maybe occasionally a spritz of cleaner, and I haven't found any other household dirt they can't cope with. I really only use paper towels for pet mess now, and they are miles better than rags or bar mops.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:26 AM on September 16, 2007

While I haven't found a method that doesn't require a fair amount of elbow grease, I found that plain old Windex (or equivalent) works better than any other surface cleaner. But I will be trying Murphy's oil soap now.
posted by twoporedomain at 6:40 AM on September 16, 2007

Best answer: For a natural clean air boost try to plant some flowers or plants in your windowsill. It does a good job of filtering some of the dust and city dirt. Helps my dust issue in the city but granted will not solve problem 100%.
posted by jek at 6:42 AM on September 16, 2007

Response by poster: Murphy's Oil Soap! Brilliant.

An off-line friend offered this suggestion when I told her about this question - she suggested getting glass or acrylic cut to size and putting it down on the windowsills. Not only a good barrier against leaking from flowerpots and open windows during rainstorms, but easier to clean, too.

Thanks again, everyone. I appreciate your great suggestions.
posted by minervous at 7:57 AM on September 16, 2007

Move to Queens, baby!
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:57 AM on September 16, 2007

Dr. Bronner's castille soap is also great for degreasing and cleaning up these kinds of things (dilute a little in hot water, or on a very wet rag and then ring it out). I use the lavendar and it makes the house smell nice, too.
posted by occhiblu at 9:20 AM on September 16, 2007

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