Should You Dust Or Vacuum First?

Hint: It’s not vacuum.

We would like to congratulate you for even coming to us with this question. Not only are you cleaning—but you care! Well, you care at least enough to google this query, so good for you. Enough with the cheeky small talk—you came here for answers, and answers we’ve got.

Q: So should you dust or vacuum first? A: Dust first! Then vacuum.

Why? This may be intuitive, but we’ll break it down for you. When you dust, some of that dust might, and probably will, fall to the ground—putting it in the perfect position to get sucked up with your vacuum.

It’s crucial to dust and vacuum as a combo chore because otherwise, when you dust, you’re just moving the dirt around and not actually getting rid of it. If you dust without vacuuming, all that dust just migrates to the floor, where your bare feet and pets slog through it and bring it back up onto the couch and into your bed. And you can’t exactly dust your couch and bed. You’ve got to then vacuum the upholstery and wash the sheets, and the chores just continue to multiply exponentially.

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Now we’ve got a question for you: Do you have central heating? (We bet you do.) If so, here’s a pro tip: When you’re dusting and vacuuming, switch the fan to “on” on the thermostat. This circulates the air and will help to trap any dust particles that get kicked up during cleaning in your furnace’s air filter. (Hey, we’ll take all the help we can get!)

Okay, here are some more detailed tips for your dusting and vacuuming journey:

But first, dust.

What even is dust anyway? Dust is generally comprised of itty bitty particles that come into your home from outside (dirt, soot, pollen, etc.) combined with some good old inside dirt, including human skin cells, pet dander and hair, dust mites, decomposed bugs, lint, tiny pieces of food and flecks of matter produced by smoking or cooking. Sounds gross, right?

How often should you dust? It depends! (How disgusted were you by that list of dust components?) Factors such as the number of people in your household, where you live and if you have pets affect how much dust accumulates in your home.

A good rule of thumb is to dust once a week, but you may notice you need to dust more frequently. Run a finger across a bookshelf, television screen, window sill or even the leaves of your plants. How dusty is that finger? If the answer is anything more than “not dusty,” you should probably dust.

Dusting is actually super easy. You can do a totally lazy job, and it will still be better than not dusting at all. We encourage you to do slightly less of a lazy job, but hey, we get it. Not everyone has the time to wipe down blinds and picture frames all the time. And if the dust isn’t actively bothering you (some people have awful dust mite allergies), it’s easy enough to skip out on this chore.

But caring about dusting is important because when you dust, you’ll actually be breathing cleaner air in the long run. All of those itty bitty particulates we mentioned earlier? You’re inhaling them all day long.

How to dust

  • We recommend investing in a duster that traps the dust particles, not just shuffles them around and throughout the rest of the room, such as the Swiffer Dusters Heavy Duty Super Extender. Plus it’s perfect for those hard-to-reach places on the ceiling, the top shelves and the fan blades. A microfiber cloth also works in a pinch. Plus less dust to vacuum up later.
  • Use gravity to your advantage! Dust from the top down. Begin with the higher spots, then move down to the floor.
  • We made you a road map of top to bottom items to dust:
    • Corners of ceilings
    • Ceiling fans
    • Blinds
    • Shelves
    • Artwork and frames
    • Walls
    • Furniture
    • Electronics
    • Baseboards

And now … Vacuum!

Once you’re done dusting, it’s time to vacuum. Yes, vacuums are loud and annoying and scare the pets. Their cords get all jumbled up and caught on furniture legs and pull out of the electrical socket when you move too far away. But we’ve got some suggestions to make this chore way less annoying.

  • Choose the right vacuum for you. Options are plentiful these days when it comes to vacuum types and styles (and prices, yeesh!). They even come in rechargeable cordless models now. (What a time to be alive!) And since lots more modern homes opt for hard floors instead of carpet, you’ve got even more choices when it comes to selecting an appropriate vacuum. In fact, your vacuum might not even be a vacuum at all.

    • If you’ve got hard floors, we recommend trying something versatile like the Swiffer Sweep + Vac. Use it as a sweeper when you just need to get small bits of dust off the floor, or use the vacuum when there are bigger messes (dust bunnies, hair balls, etc.).
    • Canister vacuums work best for hard floors and are super easy to carry (or drag) around, and their long hose necks give you the flexibility (literally) to navigate around furniture and under coffee tables with ease.
    • Upright vacuums are classic for a reason. They’re great for carpets and rugs because they have a beater brush function that helps sweep up anything hidden deep within the carpet fibers. These are especially good for people with pets that shed.
  • Vacuum Tips

    • Once won’t cut it. Vacuum back and forth in the same section a couple times—first horizontally and then vertically—to be sure you really collect all of the dirt and dust from your floor. Especially if you’ve got carpet. And double especially if you’ve got pets.
    • Enforcing a “no shoes inside” rule cuts back on vacuum time in the long run. Traipsing all that outside dirt into your home definitely creates more work for you. Try to remember to kick off your shoes when you enter the house. Yes, every time.
    • If you can’t get beneath them, occasionally move large furniture items to make sure you’re really picking up all the crumbs, pet hair, dirt and dust.
    • Choose the right vacuum setting. Yup, the vacuum has settings. Based on the height of your carpet, or your lack of carpet, choose the proper vacuum mode to most effectively suck up debris.
    • Don’t skip the steps (or the closet!). Dust loves to hide out and accumulate in these areas, so be sure you’re hitting them with the vacuum or its attachment.
    • Some vacuums have two modes of vacuuming: with the brush roller on and with the brush roller off. For hard floors, turn the brush roller off, otherwise it just sprays the mess around. Use the brush roller on rugs or carpets to slurp the debris out of the carpet fibers.
    • If your vacuum has a filter, make sure you’re cleaning it out every three months and replacing it at least once a year. Peep your vacuum’s user manual for specific instructions.

Well, that was a lot more information than you bargained for. Are you sorry you asked? Now you know: dust first, then vacuum. Or, if you’re anything like us, dust first, and then Swiffer. Either way, your home will feel much cleaner than it did to begin with.

If you’ve got some spare time and want to take a deeper dive into cleaning, we’ve got some more ideas about how to get your living room feeling even fresher. Yes, there is more to a deep clean than just dusting and vacuuming. And we’ve found that if you make yourself a cleaning routine checklist (or better yet, use this one we’ve already created for you), your chores get easier the more often you do them—that is, when you remember to do them.

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