You Can't Get Rid of Dust, but You Can Control It

By: Melanie Radzicki McManus  | 
dusting with microfiber clother
Use a microfiber cloth when dusting for best results. Brooms and feather dusters just spread the dirt around. urbazon/Getty Images

You probably don't look forward to house-cleaning. And dusting can seem particularly annoying because it doesn't take long for everything you've just cleaned to become dusty again. But it's actually a necessity for good health.

Why's that? Dust is a rather nauseating combination of dead skin cells, pet dander and decayed insect particles. It also contains dust mites and their fecal matter, human hair, and fibers from clothing, furniture and carpets. Nearly two-thirds of household dust content comes from the outdoors via dirt, pollen and airborne particles, some of which may contain toxic chemicals. So, keeping your home as dust-free as possible is important to not only keep allergies at bay, but to boost overall health.


How Often Should You Dust?

In general, you should dust your home's most exposed surfaces on a weekly basis. This means items such as tables, shelves, beds, dressers, countertops and windowsills. Don't use hand brooms or feather dusters, which simply push the dust around. Use microfiber or natural-fiber cloths that will pick up the dust.

Change your bedsheets weekly, as dust mites especially love bedding. Items that don't collect dust as readily, like doors, vents and blinds, can go a month without cleaning. Every three to six months, clean behind and under furniture, and wash your pillows and comforters.


Since so much dust comes in from the outdoors, you can cut down on the amount accumulating in your home by keeping doors and windows closed as often as possible, and placing doormats on both sides of exterior doors. It also helps to remove your shoes whenever you come home, swapping them for a pair of slippers or dedicated house shoes. Vacuum weekly.

Make sure your HVAC filters are clean as well. If they're dirty, your furnace or air conditioner will blow more dust and dirt into your air whenever they kick in. Fiberglass filters generally need to be changed monthly, while more expensive versions can last several months.

If you have pets, brush them outside to help keep your home as clean as possible. Get rid of clutter, which is a dust magnet, and be careful how you handle paper and fabrics, both of which shed fibers that accumulate in dust. Break down boxes in the garage or outside — not in the house — and promptly recycle magazines and paper. Since fabric both collects and sheds dust and fibers, regularly wash any decorative throws on your furniture and don't toss clothing on the ground.

When you're getting ready to clean a room, always work from the top down and vacuum last. If you vacuum first, or dust from the bottom up, the dust on the highest surfaces will drift down to everything you've just cleaned.


Dusting Tips for Different Surfaces

woman cleaning artificial plants
Don't forget to clean those often-forgotten items, like leaves on artificial plants. Morsa Images/Getty Images

Here are additional dusting tips for specific areas of your home.

Baseboards: Many people overlook dusting their baseboards, since they're not as visible as, say, the dining room table. But they collect a lot of dust, especially if your home has floor vents. First vacuum them with a round brush attachment to remove most of the dust, then finish by wiping them with a microfiber cloth or dusting mitt. Some say dryer sheets pick up baseboard dust more readily.


Ceiling fansCeiling fan paddles collect dust quite easily. Grab a step-stool or chair, then wipe both sides of the paddles and the rest of the fixture, using a damp microfiber cloth. If your ceiling fan is too high to reach, try using your vacuum cleaner's extension hose. Special extension tools are also available for fans set exceptionally high, such as on a vaulted ceiling.

Electric appliances: It's easy to overlook your appliances, as they don't spring to mind as items to dust. But televisions, computers, speakers, keyboards, modems and more are actually notorious dust magnets. Wipe these down with a damp microfiber cloth or screen cleaner, making sure to unplug them first. Don't forget to check the cords or vents, as they are often quite dusty as well.

Hardwood floors and carpet: Lots of dust settles on carpets and floors, so vacuum both regularly. Consider using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which traps even more dust particles.

Furniture: Try dampening a microfiber cloth, then adding a few drops of an antibiotic essential oil (like tea tree or eucalyptus) to dust your furniture. This is considered an extra-effective way of lifting the dust and removing it, versus simply pushing it onto the floor. Make sure to check the legs on your furniture, which are often overlooked. And vacuum underneath your furniture, where dust bunnies often hide. Cloth-covered pieces should be cleaned with your vacuum's upholstery tool.

Vents: One of the dustiest places in people's homes and businesses are the vents. Use your vacuum cleaner's round brush attachment to first suck up the thickest dust, then wipe with a damp microfiber cloth. If you can see a lot of dust on the vent's interior, remove it from the wall and wash in the sink. Many bathroom vents can be easily removed from the ceiling and cleaned in the sink as well.

Overlooked Places: Plants, whether real or fake, are often very dusty, as are the books in people's bookshelves. The tops of your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator likely need cleaning, too. Sometimes the dust here is difficult to remove because it's mixed in with grease from cooking. You may need to scrub these areas, using dish soap and hot water on a rag or sponge.

Don't forget to occasionally dust the tops of your doors, door frames, window frames, curtain rods, picture frames and the corners of your ceiling. You'll be surprised how dirty they are. Walls can also benefit from an occasional washing, as dust can cling to their surface.