‘White Glove’ Clean: Secrets to a Dust-Free Home

‘White Glove’ Clean: Secrets to a Dust-Free Home
Regular dusting makes for a cleaner, healthier home. The key is to do it right.(fizkes/Shutterstock)

You can place a coffee table over a spot in the rug or hang a painting over a dent in the wall, but there’s no way to hide dust. This is actually a very good thing, as dust is made up of dead skin cells, dust mites, pollen, animal dander, fungi, and bacteria—things we want to get out of the house before they transform into the dreaded dust bunnies found behind and underneath furniture.

Before you rush out and buy a new home, know that even a large family of dust bunnies doesn’t normally cause severe illness. Regular dusting, however, can go a long way toward preventing the coughing, eye irritation, and sneezing associated with mild allergies and illness; the key is to do it right and not just shift the dust around.

Dustcloth 101

After realizing what’s in dust, the first impulse is to grab a rag from the pile of cut-up old T-shirts and swear to dust more often. Stop! Cotton rags, and worse yet, dusters, actually agitate the dust as you work, causing it to fly around, resulting in additional work.

Microfiber cloths are the most effective tool for dusting, as their synthetic fibers are charged with static electricity that pulls the dust—with its bacteria, pollens, and other irritants—from the surface of your shelves, tables, computer keyboards, and more, binding it to the microfiber. They’re also absorbent, so they’ll hold any cleaners you may use—which should always be applied directly onto the cloth, because spraying it onto the furniture results in the dust going airborne.

If you run out of clean microfiber cloths, coffee filters and dryer sheets work in a pinch.

Microfiber cloths are the most effective tool for dusting. (Dmytro Melnyk/Shutterstock)
Microfiber cloths are the most effective tool for dusting. (Dmytro Melnyk/Shutterstock)

Looking Up

No matter how methodical you are, dust will fly around the area, which is why you want to work from the top down and let gravity do its job, with sweeping and vacuuming as the final step.

Start with the ceiling vents; you’ll be amazed at what gets stuck up there. In most cases, a quick wipe down will do the trick. If the vents are particularly dusty, you can run them through a gentle dishwasher cycle. Ideally, this should be done at least once a year, with the bonus that they’ll look brand new. For vents you can’t unscrew, wrap your microfiber cloth around a ruler, and slide it between the slots for a thorough cleaning, flipping to a clean surface as you work.

While the same microfiber-ruler tool works for blinds, the best blinds trick is to wrap two microfiber cloths around the end of cooking tongs and secure them in place with rubber bands to make a handy wipe-down tool. Switch to clean sections of the microfiber cloth and rewrap as needed.

While there are dedicated ceiling fan dusters, you can also use your handy blinds-cleaning tongs as a blade cleaner. Or, put an old pillowcase over each blade and pull it back toward the tip, cleaning all sides at once, and catching the dust inside the case.

Dust gets on lightbulbs as well; if they’re looking a little less than pristine, wait until they cool, then put a few drops of rubbing alcohol onto a microfiber cloth and wipe gently. Your room will be brighter when you’re done. While you’re up there, you may notice dust and webs in the room’s corners. Get out a soft bristle broom and sweep them down to be vacuumed up later.

Ground Level

Don’t just dust your furniture but everything on it as well. This means taking each item off a table or bookcase shelf, dusting the flat surface, and then cleaning each item as you put it back. Ideally, this would be done monthly to avoid unsightly buildup, or, at a minimum, once every four months.

Home electronics are dust magnets, so wipe them down every week or two with a dry microfiber cloth. Keyboards and other small crevices are best cleaned with a soft brush—a small paintbrush will work great, or you can use a vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool in place.

Appliances are another dust favorite, and in particular, the refrigerator. Every two to three months, brush the coils with a refrigerator coil brush and vacuum up the loose particles. After making sure the radiator is cool to touch, wrap a microfiber cloth around a ruler, hold it in place with a rubber band, and clean between the metal pieces and behind it.

Lampshades also need special consideration, so spiff them up as needed with a lint roller, available at most dollar stores.

Dust accumulates on plants, too, clogging their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Give them a refreshing air-rinse with a hairdryer set to cool. Vacuum up the airborne dust after it settles on the floor.


Preventing Dust Buildup

Dusting is a mundane task. Who doesn’t want to reduce dust at home and make cleaning easier? Here’s how to do it.

Not-Welcome Mats

That welcome mat does more than just invite friends in—it also traps particles that would otherwise result in higher levels of dust in the air. For maximized protection, place a second mat or a small carpet inside the door as well. At least once per week, take them outside to shake them clean, or vacuum them regularly.

Hard Surfaces

If you truly want to win the war on dust, it’s best to have wood, tile, or other hard-surface floors. If you have carpet, vacuum it at least twice a week. Consider purchasing or renting a steam machine twice a year to freshen carpets and kill any dust mites you may have missed.

Filter It Out

Not all heating and air conditioning filters are created equal. Minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings range from basic models (MERV 4) up to those that protect against pollen, mold, pet dander, bacteria, and even particles that carry viruses (MERV 13).
Sandy Lindsey is an award-winning writer who covers home, gardening, DIY projects, pets, and boating. She has two books with McGraw-Hill.
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