I love dusting. There’s something extremely satisfying about running a piece of cloth across a surface and watching it become instantly brighter, or pulling a few books out of a bookshelf, admiring the book-shaped gunk outline you didn’t even know was there, and then making it disappear.
I dust every Friday, and I take it seriously. I dust not only the top of my coffee table, but also the legs (and their little decorative crevices). I move potted plants so I can catch anything that’s collected underneath them. Every other week, I do the windowsills and the baseboards.
If you are hesitant to get into dusting because you don’t have any special tools — or if that’s why you keep telling yourself you’re going to put off dusting for yet another month — I will be the first to say that you don’t need, like, a feather wand or a special Swiffer or anything like that. Yes, a specialty tool can help you get dust out of those hard-to-reach crevices, but for general household dusting, pretty much any soft fabric will do the job. (When I was growing up, we used worn-out T-shirts, and I am pretty sure you have at least one of those lying around.)
Once you have your dusting implement — whether you’re waving a feather duster, brandishing a dust rag, or making do with a wadded-up paper towel (which will work in a pinch) — you simply, well, move the thing across the dusty surface until the dust goes away.
It’s not that hard.
Except for the parts where it is.
The first slightly cumbersome aspect of dusting is that the dust doesn’t technically “go away.” Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, after all — and in this case, it just gets relocated to another surface. Luckily for you, the majority of the dust should relocate onto your duster. In fact, I often wet a corner of my dust rag — either with water or with a mix of water, dish soap and white vinegar, depending on the surface I’m dusting — to encourage the dust to transfer directly to the rag. This gives me a little additional friction and surfactant for that stuck-on grime.
That said, you should be prepared for at least some dust to relocate into the air (which is why the “dust mask” was invented, though most people won’t need a dust mask for weekly household dusting). You should also be prepared for any dust that doesn’t get picked up by your duster to eventually discover that gravity is a thing and relocate onto your floor.
This is why you should always start by dusting the highest surfaces in your home, followed by the lower surfaces, like baseboards. It’s also why any good dusting project eventually turns into a vacuuming or sweeping project, depending on your preferred method of cleaning your floors.
That’s the other cumbersome aspect of dusting: It’s the kind of task that can easily spawn additional tasks, whether you’re sweeping dislodged dust bunnies off the floor or telling yourself that since you’ve already pulled all of your books off your bookshelf, you might as well reorganise them by colour.
(I don’t pull all of the books off my bookshelf every week, by the way. That’s more of a once-a-month thing. The rest of the time, running my dust cloth in front of my books is good enough.)
Once you finally think you’ve finished dusting your entire home, you turn off the overhead light in your living room — and suddenly see all of the little bits of dust and grime you missed the first time around. Bright overhead light makes dust less visible; side light, like the sunbeam peeking through your blinds, makes any remaining dust obvious.
At this point, you have two options. If you’re still holding your dusting implement, you might as well run it across any still-dirty surfaces one more time. But if you’re in a hurry, or if you’ve already tossed your dirty dust rag into the laundry hamper and you don’t want to fish it out again, tell yourself that you’ll catch it the next time you dust.
This article was originally published on May 12, 2020, and updated on March 29, 2021 to reflect Lifehacker’s current style guidelines.