Keep Dust Down

Does dust settle on surfaces minutes after you've cleaned them? Tips for getting rid of dust — not just moving it around.


Dust is a breezy word for some yucky stuff: sloughed-off skin cells, animal dander and hair, dust mites and their feces and decomposing bug parts — and that's not counting the fabric fibers and tiny particles of soil, wood, sheet rock, plaster and paint. Besides not wanting to live among such detritus, many people are allergic to dust mites and pet dander. You can't avoid having to dust — two of the biggest components are skin cells and fabric bits — but you can reduce the amount you have to do. Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Cleaner Plain & Simple: 500 Tips for Cleaning Smarter, Not Harder offers some suggestions:

  • Dust cloth or duster? Instead of using your husband's old T-shirt or a mod feather duster, use a microfiber or electrostatic cloth to capture dust, not just move it around. "Nothing beats it. It attracts dust like a magnet," says Smallin. "And the best thing is when you're done dusting, you can just throw it in the wash, let it air dry and use it again." Microfiber dusters, with loops or strips of microfiber to trap even more dust, also come in various shapes and lengths for reaching blinds and ceiling fans. If you don't use microfiber, dampen your cloth. Damp microfiber cloths are excellent cleaners — a mirror will come out streak- and dirt-free without any cleaning solution.
  • Wet or dry mop? A damp mop will clean better than a dry one, but water is hard on some surfaces, such as wood. Microfiber mops come in both dry and wet varieties. And, although it may sound like overkill, Smallin says that if you dry mop your wood floors every day, you'll pretty much nip dust in the bud stage.
  • Which comes first, vacuuming or dusting? This is akin to the boxers/briefs debate: There's evidence for both choices, and often it comes down to personal preference. Smallin prefers vacuuming first because vacuums can blow around small dust particles, which you can get rid of by dusting post-vacuuming. But the many dust-first aficionados point out that gravity is on their side; even lightweight dust will eventually end up on the floor — where you can vacuum it up after you dust.
  • Vacuuming matters. Use a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which traps more of the tiny stuff, and run it once a week on trafficked areas. And take care of your vacuum: Empty the canister and change bags and belts when needed, keep the brush wheel free of hair and other material, check for cracks or loose hinges and get it serviced every so often to keep it running smoothly.
  • Stop it before it starts. Change the air filters in your heat and air conditioning system once a month — or even more often. Pleated air filters catch more dust particles, and some are electrostatically charged to attract pollen and other allergens. Make sure the filter is ranked for the blower capacity of your system. Use the air conditioner to reduce humidity; dust mites love a moist environment.
  • Cut down on textiles. Whether on your floors, furniture, windows or in your closet, textiles not only trap dust but they create it as they shed and disintegrate. Leather, wood, acrylic and plastic leave dust no place to hide and are easily cleaned. Consider going with bare wood floors with washable scatter rugs. If you must have carpet, opt for shorter pile.
  • Declutter and streamline. Books, knickknacks, artwork — the more you have, the more nooks and crannies for dust to accumulate. Smallin suggests keeping books at the front of the shelf to rob dust of a place to settle and keeping items such as shoes and purses in plastic bins. Plastic bins are also a good idea for kids' stuffed animals, a prime dust-breeding ground. Consider putting collectibles under glass.
  • Closet clean-up. Put your off-season clothing in plastic bins or hanging bags to limit its shedding, and keep the floors of your closet clear so you can zip the vacuum cleaner or dust mop over them as you do your regular cleaning.
  • Sweep it away. Don't overlook your old friend, the broom. If you have tile floors that have uneven surfaces, Smallin recommends an angled, synthetic-bristle broom because it can get into corners and picks up smaller particles than a natural-fiber broom. Then damp mop to seal the deal.
  • Dust culprits. The amount of dust in your home is as variable as dust itself, depending on the number of people who live in the house. Human skin and textile fibers are major offenders, and there's only so much you can do about either of those. If your house is a dust magnet even with regular and efficient cleaning, check your ductwork and caulking to make sure you're not importing dust from the garage or from the outdoors.
  • Trust your dusting instincts. Figure out what works for your own house. Vacuuming the hallway daily may cut down on the amount of dusting you'll have to do.

20 Mistakes That Are Making Your Home Unhealthy

See All Photos
Defeat allergens: here's how to control the dust, mold, pollen and other contaminants that are making you sneeze.

1: Not Keeping a Barrier Between You and Your Bedding

Use zippered dust-proof casings for pillows and mattresses. The pore space of such casings is so small that dust mites and their waste products can't get through.

2: Vacuuming Without a HEPA Filter

Use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters to prevent tiny particles of dust from being blown back out into the air.

3: Forgetting to Change the Vacuum Filter

Changing the filter is an essential part of keeping dust out of the air and preserving the life of the machine. Change the filter once it's showing wear and tear or every six months if you're using a HEPA filter.

4: Forgetting to Change the AC Filters

Never run your heating or air conditioning system without filters, and be sure to change them at least every three months.

Photo By: ©

5: Not Ventilating Your Bathroom

Running the exhaust fan (and making sure it's vented to the outdoors) helps remove moisture from this naturally humid room.

6: Not Attending to Your Gutters

Leaky gutters can cause excessive moisture to enter your basement or crawl space. If you don't have covered gutters, frequent litter removal is a must year round.

7: Too Many Textiles in the Bedroom

Carpeting, rugs, pillows, upholstered headboards and chairs are all dust catchers. Consider minimizing furnishings for an easier-to-dust environment.

8: Too Many Textiles in Your Living Area

The living room is the same as a bedroom. Keep upholstery to a minimum to reduce the amount of dust mites.

9: Inviting Allergens Into Your Yard

Avoid plants that are wind-pollinated — grasses are among the worst pollen offenders.

10: Not Following Your Nose

If you detect a musty smell in your home, inspect closely until you find the source of the smell. The sooner you find the mold, the easier it will be to remove.

11: Not Organizing Your Home Office

Clutter can harbor a plethora of dust mites — this includes stacks of papers, old magazines and office equipment. File paper inside a cabinet to stay organized and keep dust away.

12: Wearing Shoes Inside the House

Not only is wearing shoes indoors a health risk, but it can also increase allergens. Wet leaves bring in mildew and pollutants from grass get trapped on the bottom of shoes. Take your shoes off outside, or put them in a washable tray as soon as you walk in the door.

13: Letting the Trash Pile Up

You could attract some unwanted guests (like mice and roaches) inside your home if you let your trash pile up. Their droppings can worsen your allergies, so make sure you stick to a routine of taking out the trash.

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

14. Displaying Houseplants

You may enjoy your beloved fern, but houseplants encourage mold growth. Mold spores live in warm, wet dirt, so limit the amount and time you display them.

©Rustic White Photography

15: Letting Your Pet Sleep in Your Bed

Your favorite part of the day may be snuggling up to your fur baby, but pet dander traps allergens — which means you're inviting those allergens to your bed. If you can't resist the cuddles, then you should completely shave your dog. Just kidding — just be sure to bathe them once a week.

16: Keeping the Temp Too High

Dust mites and mold love to live in warm climates. Keep your thermostat around 70 degrees to help keep them at bay.

Photo By: Emily Fazio ©2015

17: Installing Wallpaper in the Bathroom

Patterned wallpaper is a beautiful addition to any room, but installing it in wet rooms (bathrooms and kitchens) can increase the risk of mildew. Opt for tile or textured paint that's mold-resistant.

18: Not Using the Exhaust Fan When Cooking

If you love cooking, all that steam from the stovetop will produce excess moisture. Turn the exhaust fan on to reduce it, helping to decrease the chance of mold.

Photo By: Rachel Whyte

19: Ignoring Your Bathmat

Think about it. You step onto your bathmat completely wet on the daily. To keep it fresh (and to keep mildew away), hang it to dry after every use, and stick it in the washer once a week.

20: Avoiding Protective Wear While Gardening

Even if you aren't highly allergic to pollen, it can still irritate your eyes, nose and throat. To prevent this, always wear a mask and gloves while working in the yard.

Next Up

Special Kitchen Cleaning Challenges

Rout the dirt and bring sparkle to the kitchen with these cleaning tips for ovens, stove tops and sink and counter areas.

Boost Electrical Safety at Home

Keep the lights on and the power flowing by maintaining your home's electrical system.

9 Fire-Safety Tips

Think you're ready? Take every precaution by consulting our checklist.

Leave on the Air Conditioning to Avoid Mold

Leaving the air conditioning running in your home will not only cool your home, it will help remove moisture from the air and help circulate and filter the air.

How to Install a Dead-Bolt Lock

For burglar-proofing, it's a must-have.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Heating and Cooling System

Learn to keep your heating and cooling system in top shape with these tips.

Keep Pipes Warm During Cold Spells

Check out these 7 tips to keep your pipes from freezing in the winter.

How to Keep Pets Safe From Weather

Follow these veterinarian tips for protecting your pets during summer and winter.

High-Speed Cleaning

Got a life? Then you probably don't want to spend any more time on housework than you have to. Here's how to clean your house better and faster.

Car-Cleaning Tips

12 ways to give your wheels a fresh start.


Shop This Look

Found a living space you love in HGTV's Photo Library? Get the look in your own home with products from Wayfair.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.