Dust is an inevitable part of life. It settles on surfaces and in corners almost as soon as you’ve removed it, and for that reason, dusting seems like a Sisyphean task. But ask any cleaning expert and they will tell you that, like disinfecting, dusting is a critical part of cleaning your home.
Dust originates from two places. It comes from your household: your hair, dead skin cells, clothing fibers, bacteria and dust mites. It also comes from outside: soil, pollen and other allergens.
All this dust can make for an unhealthy environment that can cause breathing issues, dry eyes and other annoyances, or even illnesses. If not dealt with frequently, it can get into your HVAC system and circulate, which means that you’re breathing it even if you aren’t seeing it. Left untouched, dust will collect not only on your HVAC filters but also in your ductwork, causing your system to work harder, affecting its efficiency and efficacy.
To find out how to remove dust, I turned to Gisela Gomez, senior vice president of operations for the outsourcing division of Hospitality Staffing Solutions, the largest supplier of housekeeping and janitorial services in the United States, and Taryn Williford, lifestyle director at Apartment Therapy.
Gomez, who is responsible for implementing cleaning programs in some of the nation’s largest hotels, resorts and casinos, says to start by gathering your supplies, including microfiber cloths, which she likes because they act like magnets for dust particles and won’t damage painted, wooden or leather surfaces. They are also reusable; just toss them in the washer to clean them. Gomez suggests color-coding cloths to prevent cross-contamination between surfaces.
Williford, whose videos on Apartment Therapy’s site address various cleaning tasks, also likes microfiber, particularly dusting gloves, which can be found at auto-parts stores.
“It allows you to be so dexterous when you are cleaning,” she says. “It’s great for intricate objects and when you are kind of ‘lazy cleaning,’ that type of cleaning you do when you don’t necessarily want to take everything off the shelf.”
Williford also suggests getting a microfiber duster with an extendible handle to clean light fixtures and ceiling fans, the tops of door frames and picture frames. Gomez recommends having a feather duster (dusters with ostrich feathers are best because they carry a natural negative charge that attracts positively charged dust particles) and/or a microfiber duster wand (her favorite is Rubbermaid’s HYGEN microfiber duster). Her kit also contains a Swiffer, a disinfectant spray (she says you might as well disinfect as you dust), and a vacuum with attachments and a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
Start dusting at the top of a room, allowing gravity to work for you. Gomez teaches her staff to follow an “S” pattern when dusting. “This brings the dust from high spots, across the midpoint and down to the lowest point, where you will eventually vacuum, mop or sweep up,” she says.
Be smart about the order in which you clean, Williford says: If you have a bedroom ceiling fan, dust it right before changing the sheets so you can wash the dust away.
Gomez says to be aware of the number of swipes you make; you don’t want to keep going over surfaces with a dirty cloth. Ideally, you would swipe only once per side.
“Our team usually takes with them about six cloths per room,” she says. Fold the cloth into a smaller square so it has eight sections: four on one side, four on the other. As you dust, switch from one side to the next, flipping it until the entire cloth has been used.
Follow the same technique for bathrooms, but use more than one cloth. “You will need one for the sink, one for the toilet and one for the shower, so that you don’t cross-contaminate,” Gomez says.
Baseboards and corners are typically the dustiest spots in a room, which is why a vacuum with attachments is so helpful, Gomez says. “It’s the only way to get in those corners where dust mites tend to settle.”
But first, dust your shades, sheers and curtains by patting them with your hands. “Pat starting from the top, then mid, then low, making sure to spread the curtains apart, so you are patting and stretching all parts. Let the dust fall, and then vacuum,” she says.
In terms of frequency, hotel rooms get a once-over every day, a deeper clean upon a guest’s departure, and then, depending on the hotel, a very deep clean (what we think of as a spring-clean) two to four times a year. For those deep-cleans, Gomez says, all the furniture is pulled into the center of the room, so high corners and moldings can be dusted — with the help of ladders and long feather or microfiber dusters. Gomez recommends doing the same at home, making sure to dust behind beds, sofas, curtains and any large armoires or case pieces.
Frequency depends on several factors. “If you have pets or if you are someone who is really sensitive to allergies, you might need to dust more often,” Williford says. Once a week should take care of visible surface dust, but if you don’t have a lot of stuff, then you might get away with dusting only once a month.
Elizabeth Mayhew is a “Today” show style expert, former magazine editor and the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”