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Is It Better to Dust or Vacuum First?

Updated on May 22, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes articles on a wide variety of subjects.

Dust Bunnies

Dust bunnies are balls of dust and cobwebs
Dust bunnies are balls of dust and cobwebs | Source

Dust Accumulates in Your Home

No matter how clean and careful you are, dust seems to appear out of nowhere in your home. It lands on every shelf and gets into each tiny nook and cranny. It settles on both carpets and wooden flooring. As you try to remove it, it becomes airborne and settles on the surfaces that you have just cleaned. So, is it better to dust the surfaces first, or does it make more sense to vacuum the dust up from the floors before you start on the surfaces? I opt for the former, but you should try both to see which works best for you.

Housework is a chore, but it is important that dust levels are not allowed to build up to become “dust bunnies.” Worse still, dust harbors dust mites and allergens such as pollen. These are things you should not make too comfortable in your home.

House Dust Mites (Dermatophagoides Pteronyssinus)


Household Fluff and Dust Mites

House dust is the collective term used for the tiny bits of fluff, dirt, skin cells, pollens, animal hairs etc. that are commonly found in our homes. The individual particles of dust are too small to be seen without a microscope. House dust is usually defined as particles of less than 500 µm. These are small enough to be inhaled and can cause allergic reactions or breathing difficulties in susceptible people.

House dust also provides a habitat for the house dust mite. These measure less than half a millimeter when fully grown and so live in our homes virtually unseen. It is thought that up to 40% of the population suffers from some kind of allergy. A common allergen is the excreta of the house dust mites and the skin flakes of the dust mite itself. Although there are various products on the market (e.g. anti-dust mite mattress covers) the only truly effective way to reduce the millions of dust mites that live in our homes is to remove dust regularly.

Why You Should Spring Clean Dust Bunnies

Catching dust bunnies

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Should You Dust or Vacuum First?

Even though dust seems to float upwards as often as it falls downwards, it is subject to the same laws of gravity as everything else. You can assume therefore that the overall trajectory of dust particles is from high to low.

If you dust first and then vacuum, you will be vacuuming up the particles that have fallen from a higher surface onto a lower one. If you do it the other way around (i.e. vacuum first and then dust) you will be knocking some of the dust from the higher levels onto the floor as you work. You would thus need to vacuum a second time.

Whichever order you choose some dust particles will become airborne no matter how hard you try to capture them. So you need to choose ways of dusting and vacuuming that minimize the possibility of this happening.

Anti-static for Maximum Dust Collection

Using a dry piece of old rag or cloth duster on its own quickly becomes ineffective. The amount of dust particles that will stick to a dry fabric surface is limited. You end up just moving the dust around from one area to another without actually removing any of it. Dampening the cloth with either plain water or a squirt of furniture wax polish will help collect more dust. However the best way to collect the maximum amount of dust is to use an anti-static cloth.

Bendable Dusters for Awkward Corners

For delicate dusting, use a soft make-up brush or small paint-brush. The fine hairs will enable you to dust fine carvings or other awkward areas of your furniture. If you use a toothbrush to help you with this kind of fine dusting make sure it is a soft one and not one with scratchy bristles. There are anti-static bendable dusters available. These are great for getting around bends and into corners like pipework under the sink or under and behind central heating radiators.

Types of Vacuum Cleaner

The size and power of the vacuum you use will depend on the size of your property and your physical strength to use one of these machines. Domestic vacuum cleaners can be upright models (which are heavier but have greater suction,) or be smaller and lighter (like a canister) model.

There are also stick-like vacuum cleaners which are bag-less and wireless. These are ideal for reaching into hard to access corners. Some modern homes use a fixed central vacuum system. A suction tube is plugged into a room wall socket and the dust sucked into hidden tubes to a central collection point.

Spring Cleaning Tips From Reader's Digest

1. Baby-wipes can be machine washed and then recycled (reused) for dusting. Use a recycled clean baby-wipe to collect dust from your computer keyboard.

2. Fabric conditioner is designed to stop your clothes clinging together with static. Dampen a dry dusting cloth or rag with a squirt of fabric conditioner to make them anti-static.

3. Keep your used tumble-dryer conditioner sheets. They make good anti-static dust sheets to clean venetian blinds and to dust your TV.

4. Another way to clean venetian blinds is to use an old sock as a mitten. Spray some polish onto the sock and with your hand inside, dust down the blind-slats.

5. Use a clean, dry, empty squirt bottle to squirt air into difficult-to-reach corners. The blast of air will blow the dust out of the crevices.

6. Use a toothpick dipped in alcohol to remove grime from around the numbers on your phone.

7. Tie an old pantyhose to a mop stick and poke it behind the fridge and cooker. As you move the pantyhose along the floor, the dust bunnies will stick to the nylon better than to a cotton fiber.

10 Handy Dusting Tips For a Clean Home

Most people learn how to keep their homes clean from their parents and other family members. Unfortunately, some of the old economical ways of keeping a house clean and dust free are being forgotten as manufacturers persuade us to buy more and more complex machines to do a simple job.

The video below summarizes ten helpful tips to save money and dust more easily. The presenter makes use of antistatic cloths and bendable dusters. She also suggests some novel uses for pantyhose and a mop pole (or broom handle).


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    • prestonandkate profile image

      Preston and Kate 3 years ago from the Midwest

      Very interesting hub. Believe it or not, I enjoy cleaning our home. Well written and informative hub. I didn't know about dust mites until I read your article. -Kate

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 3 years ago from Los Angeles

      I've always wondered if I should dust before vacuuming or the other way around! I guess it really doesn't matter as long as I am thorough! Great hub- thank you for the many helpful suggestions!

      Cat :)

    • Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

      Beth Eaglescliffe 3 years ago from UK

      Hi Preston and Kate,

      Seeing pictures of dust mites can be a bit unnerving, but we manage to live with millions of them in our homes. The thought of them helps to make my dusting efforts more enthusiastic!

      Hi Cat,

      I started gathering tips on dusting as a displacement activity so that I wouldn't actually have to do any. Then I found some really helpful ones and so wrote the hub to share them.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Toothpicks and alcohol is a good idea I hadn't heard before. I always dust before I vacuum for the very reason that you've given - seems logical to me.

      Difficult to make this subject interesting (to me anyway) but you have! I must admit I don't have a regular 'day' for dusting and vacuuming; it's when I've got the time and definitely before someone visits (apart from the kids!). Housework is left until it's absolutely necessary - especially the ironing! Ann

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