The solution to most household problems
is to attack the source. But you can't eliminate
the sources of household dust. You can't
even do much to reduce them, because more
than 90 percent of household dust comes from
people and fabric. Our bodies constantly shed
tiny flakes of skin. Our clothes, bedding and
furnishings constantly shed barely visible fibers.
These flakes and fibers float on the slightest air
currents and settle on every surface in your
house. In a spot sheltered from air movement,
the particles stay put. In other areas, they constantly
rise and settle as doors swing open and
people pass by.
Even if fighting dust is a battle you can never
completely win, you can save a lot of time and
energy with these dust-busting strategies.
Keep closet floors clear for easy cleaning
Closets are dust reservoirs, full of tiny fibers from clothes,
towels and bedding. Every time you open the door, you whip up
an invisible dust storm. You can't prevent clothes from shedding
fibers, but you can make closets easier to keep clean and vastly
cut down on dust.
- Box or bag items on shelves. Clear plastic containers are
best—they lock fibers in and dust out and let you see what's
inside. When you dust, they're easy to pull off the shelves and
- Enclose the clothes you rarely wear. Those coats you wear
only in winter shed fibers year-round. Slip garment bags or
large garbage bags over them. They help to contain fibers
and keep the clothes themselves from becoming coated with
- Keep closet floors clear. If the floor is cluttered, chances are
you'll just bypass it while vacuuming. But a wide-open floor
adds only a few seconds to the vacuuming chore. And a wire
shelf lets you clear all those shoes off the floor without losing
Upgrade your furnace filter
If your home has a forced-air heating or cooling system, it can help control dust
by filtering the air. Most visible dust settles on floors and furniture before it can
enter the heating/cooling system, so no filter will eliminate dusting chores. Still,
a filter upgrade can make a noticeable improvement.
The most effective system is an electrostatic filter connected to your ductwork
($700 to $1,500,professionally installed).An electrostatic filter may be worth the
expense if you have allergies. But if you just want to reduce dust buildup, it's
smarter to spend $40 to $100 per year on high-quality disposable filters. A standard
fiberglass filter traps only the largest dust particles. It's effective enough to
protect your furnace but does almost nothing to reduce household dust. Better
filters are made from pleated fabric or paper. Most pleated filters also carry an electrostatic
charge that attracts and holds dust. A pleated filter can capture virtually
all the visible dust that reaches it. Manufacturers usually recommend that you
change these filters every three months, but you should check them monthly, especially
if you have cats or dogs, and replace them if they're dirty. Dirty pleated filters
can restrict airflow and damage your furnace.
Rotate bedding weekly
Your cozy bed is a major dust distributor. The bedding collects
skin flakes, sheds its own fibers and sends out a puff of dust
every time you roll over. To minimize the fallout, wash
sheets and pillowcases weekly. Items that aren't machine
washable don't need weekly trips to the dry cleaners—just
take blankets and bedspreads outside and shake them. You
can spank some of the dust out of pillows, but for a thorough
cleaning, wash or dry-clean them. When you change bedding,
don't whip up a dust storm. Gently roll up the old sheets and
spread out the new ones; even clean bedding sheds fibers.
Capture dust—don't just spread it around.
Feather dusters and dry rags pick up some of the
dust they disturb, but most of it just settles elsewhere.
Damp rags or disposable cloths that attract
and hold dust with an electrostatic charge (like Swiffer
or Grab-it) work much better. Cloths that attract
dust with oils or waxes also work well but can leave
residue on furniture. Use vacuum attachments only on
surfaces that are hard to dust with a cloth, such as
rough surfaces and intricate woodwork, because the
exhaust stream from a vacuum whips up a dust storm.
Beat and shake area rugs
In most homes, carpet is by far the biggest dust reservoir.
It's a huge source of fibers and absorbs dust like a giant sponge.
Even the padding underneath holds dust, which goes airborne
with each footstep. Some serious allergy sufferers find that the only
solution is to tear out wall-to-wall carpet and install hard flooring like
wood or tile. Those of us who don't want to take that drastic step
have to vacuum regularly. Vacuum pathways and busy areas at least
once a week. The dust that gathers under chairs or behind the sofa is
less important. It stays put unless it's disturbed by a toddler, a pet or
a breeze. Vacuum large area rugs too. But also take them outside three
or four times a year for a more thorough cleaning. Drape them over
a fence or clothesline and beat them with a broom or tennis racket. A
good beating removes much more dust than vacuuming. Take smaller
rugs outside for a vigorous shaking every week.
Take cushions out for a beating
Upholstery fabric not only sheds its own fibers but also
absorbs dust that settles on it. You raise puffs of dust every
time you sit down. The only way to eliminate upholstery
dust is to buy leather- or vinyl-covered furniture. But there
are three ways to reduce dust on fabric:
- Dust settles mostly on horizontal surfaces; vacuum
them weekly. Vacuum vertical surfaces monthly.
- Take cushions outside and beat the dust out of
them. An old tennis racket works well and
lets you practice your backhand. A thorough
beating removes deeply embedded dust better
- Slipcovers for chairs and sofas are easy to pull off and
take outdoors for a shaking. Better yet, some are
machine washable. Slipcovers are readily available at
discount and home furnishings stores and online.
Clean the air while you clean house
All vacuums whip up dust with their “agitator”(the cylindrical brush that sweeps
the carpet) or blowing exhaust stream. That dust eventually settles on the surfaces
you've just cleaned. But if your forced-air heating/cooling system is equipped
with a good filter, you can filter out some of that dust before it settles.
Just switch your thermostat to “fan on.” This turns on the blower inside your furnace
and filters the air even while the system isn't heating or cooling. Leave the
blower on for about 15 minutes after you're done cleaning. But don't forget to
switch back to “auto.” Most blowers aren't designed to run constantly.
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Match the vacuum to the flooring
Suction alone isn't enough to pull much dust out of
carpet. For good results, you need a vacuum with a powerful agitator. Upright vacuums are usually best for
carpet, although some canister vacuums with agitators
work well, too. When it comes to wood, tile or vinyl flooring, your best choice is a canister vacuum without
an agitator (or with an
agitator that can be turned off). An agitator does more harm than good on hard flooring because it blows dust
into the air.
Example of a single-room air cleaner.
Do Air Cleaners Reduce Dusting?
An effective air cleaner removes
large and small particles from
the air in a single room. Within
that space, it can relieve allergy
or asthma symptoms and even
reduce smoke and cooking
odors. But don't expect it to
relieve you of dusting duty. Air
cleaners are sized to filter a
small area, so only a small portion
of the airborne dust in your
home will ever reach the unit.
For air cleaners to have a real
effect on overall dust levels, you
would need one unit in every