Nobody likes to see a layer of dust on their furniture or dust bunnies rolling around on their wood floors. But there’s a reason to get dust under control that goes beyond having a clean house: according to a study by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., dust isn’t just a combo of mites, skin cells, pollen, and pet dander—researchers found 45 toxic chemicals in dust associated with digestive, immune and respiratory health issues.
To help give dust the brush-off, we went to the directors of housekeeping at some of the country’s top hotels—who better to ask than the people responsible for teaching staff how to get rid of dust on a daily basis—for their top tips. Ahead is their list of “dos” to reduce dust and improve air quality in your home.
Meet the Expert
- LeeAnn Cox is the Director of Housekeeping at the Emeline in Charleston, South Carolina.
- Brad Harrell is the Director of Housekeeping at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C.
- Charles Patterson is the Director of Housekeeping at The Asbury Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
- Jessica Bautista is the Assistant Director of Housekeeping at the Motto in New York City.
Dress for Dusting
If you dust frequently with the proper tools that capture dust instead of kicking it into the air, you should be okay without a mask. But if you suffer from allergies, a mask can protect your respiratory system from dust irritation. An N95 mask is effective at blocking dust as well as germs. Gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and pants will also keep dust off your skin while cleaning.
Stop Dust From Entering
Entranceway carpets are the secret weapon to fighting the tracking in of dust and dirt, which is why you’ll find them at the front of hotel and office buildings. Place a mat that has an abrasive or textured surface at the entrance to your own home to help trap dust and be sure to shake it out at least once a week.
Make it enticing for people to leave their shoes at the door—set up a bench for seating and a basket of washable slippers so your house stays dust-free.
Have a Plan and Stick to It
Follow a specific route each time you dust a room—cleaning from the top down ensures you’ll get several opportunities to capture dust that has resettled on yet-to-be cleaned counters and floors.
For walls and ceilings, use an adjustable long-handled duster or mop with a microfiber cloth and wipe ceiling corners (scooping up any cobwebs) and tops of molding, cabinets, bookcases, and doors before dusting baseboards and trim.
Always dust the headboard and artwork over your bed before putting on fresh sheets and vacuum last to capture any fallen dust (opt for a vacuum with a sealed canister and a HEPA filter to trap and prevent dust blasting back into the air).
Unlike vacuuming, which will suck up dust, brooms simultaneously push dust into crevices and grout and flick it into the air. It’s important to use the right vacuum attachments—canister vacuums usually have long hoses and poles that come with horsehair brushes specifically designed to remove dust on hardwood floors, plus they can get close to walls and under low furniture.
Use Microfiber Cloths
Microfiber cloths are made of very fine polyester threads which can hold multiple times their weight in dust, dirt, and liquids. Lightly spray a dust mop treatment onto the cloth prior to cleaning as a slightly damp microfiber will do a better job of grabbing dust.
Wash and dry microfibers separately to prevent lint (from other wash items) from attaching and passing on fabric softener whose oils and conditioners can clog microfibers and prevent them from absorbing liquids.
To soften microfiber clothes, throw a plastic dryer ball into the dryer with them.
Dust can get into the spaces between your computer’s keys, preventing them from functioning. Blow away dust using a can of compressed air, suck it up with a vacuum attachment, or use the sticky edge of a Post-it note to pick up dust between the keys before cleaning them with a wipe designated for electronics.
A cleaning gel is another way to remove dust and crumbs from your keyboard just roll a blob of gel onto the keys and watch it lift the dust out of your keyboard as you pull it off. It’s also important to vacuum dust the vents or your computer (or risk it overheating) and any dusty cords.
Forced air heating and air conditioning systems have filters that trap debris, but often, it’s the vent grills protecting these systems that can harbor dust and blow it into the air.
Use the dust brush attachment on your vacuum or an extendable microfiber duster to clean between the slats and make sure you replace your filters (HEPA ones work best) when they become dirty. Avoid wet cleaning vents, at least until you’ve suctioned out the big clumps of dust, as the moisture will make the dust sticky and hard to remove from the slats. A dry microfiber or a toothbrush also works to clean vents in a pinch.
Dusting blinds is a painful chore, but letting it build up only makes the job more burdensome. To clean, you’ll need a microfiber towel, an all-purpose cleaner, and a canister vacuum with a dust cup attachment.
- With the blinds closed, use the vacuum’s dust attachment to suck off as much dry dust as possible, then flip the blinds to the opposite side and repeat.
- Next, dampen a microfiber towel with an all-purpose cleaner, close the slats, and wipe them from top to bottom, removing any remaining dust.
- Flip the blinds and do the other side.
- Finally, open the blinds and spot clean any remaining little lines in the center of the slats that may have been protected by the overlap.
This method works great for metal, plastic, and wood blinds, while fabric blinds should be vacuumed with a dust cup attachment.
Stop Dust Mites
Dust mites are microscopic pests that feed off dead skin flakes and dander and can worsen asthma or allergic reactions. They normally don’t remain airborne—instead, they like to settle on beds, furniture fabric, carpets, and even curtains. Dust mites don’t drink water, they absorb it from the air, so can’t survive in low humidity.
Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain humidity levels at or below 50% and always protect your mattress and pillow with a cover to keep out mites as well as bed bugs. You can also kill dust mites when cleaning fabrics—set your washing machine to hot and your dryer to medium to reach 130° degrees.
Dirty fan blades don’t move air as efficiently and can blow dust throughout a room. First, protect the area under the fan with an old sheet or trash bag, then take a flexible duster on a pole (preferably one with a microfiber chenille cover), and bend it into the shape of a “C” so it sandwiches the top and bottom of the blades. Slide the duster onto the blade and rub it back and forth until the blade is clean.
If the blades are super dirty, spray the chenille cover with a dust mop treatment and clean a second time to remove any remaining dust and dirt.
Clean the Entire Television
Televisions are electronically charged, making them an attractive place for dust to settle. Start by cleaning the back of the TV with a microfiber cloth sprayed with a dust mop treatment, then clean the TV screen with a dry microfiber cloth (never use a cleaning product that hasn’t been approved by the manufacturer on the screen as it can leave permanent marks or dryer sheets which will leave streaks thanks to their oils and conditioners).
Remember to hit up the back of the TV, the wall mount, and cabling, as dust there can get sucked into vents on your TV and other surrounding electronics like gaming systems.
Fabric lampshades are magnets for dust and pet hair. The easiest way to clean one is with a dry microfiber towel or the dust cup attachment of a canister vacuum, gently swiping the dust off the shade both inside and out. You can also use a lint roller, moving it from top to bottom and then wiping down the inside of the shade with a dry microfiber.
For glass shades, lightly mist a microfiber towel with an all-purpose cleaner designed for glass and wipe. If you have a metal lampshade, use a microfiber cloth that has been lightly sprayed with a dust mop treatment.
Consider Buying a HEPA Air Purifier
Air purifiers with HEPA filters capture 99.97% of airborne particles so they don’t build up on your home’s surfaces. If you have central AC or forced hot air heating, your system is already doing the work of an air purifier, especially if you’re using HEPA filters.
If you have baseboard heat and/or window air conditioners, an air purifier will help minimize dust—just be sure to purchase one big enough to handle the size of your room.
Wipe Down Light Bulbs
A clean bulb lessens the amount of dust in your room while creating more light. Make sure the bulb is cool to the touch before cleaning, then use a dry or slightly damp microfiber towel and gently buff the bulb, letting it dry fully before turning it back on.
Avoid Using a Feather Duster
Feather dusters will kick up more dust than they will hold onto, spreading it from one surface to another while leaving feathers behind. Feather dusters are also difficult to clean, becoming a breeding ground for dirt, especially in humid climates where moisture in the air helps dust mites survive and breed.
Zota, “Potentially Harmful Chemicals Widespread in Household Dust.”