Eco-Friendly Dusting, the Second-Most Natural Way I Know How

Posted on April 14, 2011 by Stefanie

My last year of college, I lived with two roommates in a surprisingly spotless off-campus apartment. Rather, it was surprisingly spotless when we moved in. (We looked for housing a bit late in the prior school year, and given that it was slim pickings at that point, we felt lucky just to find a place where we weren’t afraid to walk around with our shoes off indoors.) It was well into first semester before it apparently dawned on any of us that in order to keep the place looking as clean as when we moved in, we would have to, you know, clean it. We were all in our early 20s, grown adults who had presumably dusted a shelf or swept the floor in our dorm rooms at some point prior to our off-campus living arrangement and who had undoubtedly been tasked with cleaning portions of our parents’ homes for any number of years prior to that. And yet, somehow it hadn’t occurred to even one of us to develop any sort of proper cleaning regimen or to purchase any cleaning supplies.

My roommate Erin was the first to acknowledge it. “Are your rooms getting dusty?” she asked. “How do you guys dust?” I think I spoke up first. “Um, sometimes I just blow the dust off my dresser.” We turned to our other roommate, Linda. “I turn on my fan,” she said. It’s a good thing we weren’t required to prove we were fully functional, self-sufficient adults before we got our diplomas, because clearly we had a ways to go.

At some point, I must have bought one of those big yellow cans of dusting spray, because I still have the tail end of one of those cans hanging out under my sink. (Note: It is probably not the same can I bought in college, but given that I already admitted I went 11 years without properly cleaning my microwave, who can say, really.) Whenever I bought it, it was obviously before I thought to worry about nasty chemicals in my cleaning products, but now that it’s finally near empty, I intended to replace it with a better-for-me, better-for-the-earth alternative.

Before I added “Happy harmless dusting spray” to my shopping list, however, I decided to ask the Internet what it knew about natural dusting techniques. I suppose blowing the dust off my furniture is about as natural a method as possible, but surely I could do better than that.

As usual, it turned out I already had in my kitchen everything I needed to replace that yellow can-o-chemicals. Taking a tip from my friend the Internet, I poured a couple tablespoons of vinegar into a bowl and then poured about two cups of water in after that. I soaked a soft dusting cloth in the bowl for a while, wrung it out, and wiped that over all the dusty surfaces in my home.

Or rather, almost all the dusty surfaces. Because I wanted to know if vinegar and water really would repel dust longer than just a dry cloth, the way the can-o-chemicals promises to, I dusted my bedroom dresser with a few of the last squirts from that yellow can and wiped the armoire next to it with the vinegar and water-soaked rag. And you know what? Little traces of dust started to reappear on both surfaces, several days later, at the same dang time. This either means vinegar really does repel dust temporarily or the promises on the yellow can are a sham. Either way, the pennies-per-use natural method is at least as effective as the more expensive, chemicaly route, so I still say it’s worth a try. As an added bonus, vinegar apparently kills dust mites, so spraying this same vinegar-and-water solution on your dust mop before wiping your wood or tile floors can help rid your house of those little buggers if you’ve got them as well. (Frankly, I’m not even sure what a dust mite is, and I fear that Googling them is a bad idea if I want to sleep tonight, so I’ll just concede that dust mites are probably nasty and if vinegar can banish them, go for it.)

The one drawback to cleaning with vinegar is that, no matter how many times I use it, I’m still not nuts about the smell. It dissipates pretty quickly after dusting, however, and if it really bothered me, I could probably add some lemon juice to the vinegar and water solution as well. A living room that temporarily smells like the beginnings of a salad dressing is a small price to pay, after all, for a living room that’s also cleaner than a round of dust-blowing could ever achieve.

I’m sure you guys have some excellent suggestions too, though. What’s your favorite natural way to keep dust in your home at bay?



  1. I just use a microfiber mop-duster for most things. Though I admit it’s looking pretty grey and ucky lately, and if it doesn’t wash out I might have to abandon it eventually. I’ll probably buy more cloth-style washable ones next time I need them.

    I use wood conditioner type cleaners on my wood items, especially the older ones. Currently Method’s wood for good, but after that runs out I’ll probably make my own.

    For the vinegar smell, I add several drops of essential oil to any vinegar cleaning preparation. lemon or orange or thyme are good. In addition to an even imagined added oomph to cleaning properties, it leaves a nice fresh scent afterwards.

    April 14th, 2011 at 9:11 am
    Comment by Marie @ Awakeatheart
  2. I usually just use an all-purpose cleaner, which may or may not be great for my wood surfaces. I sure do hate dusting, though. Anything that (naturally) repels dust from collecting is OK by me.

    April 14th, 2011 at 9:30 am
    Comment by courtney
  3. We use 1/2 cup vinegar with 1 tbsp olive oil. The olive oil helps to condition the wood since vinegar can be drying. Just make sure you shake it up prior to using since the oil and vinegar separates.

    April 14th, 2011 at 9:52 am
    Comment by Jacki
  4. This is a great suggestion! When I use vinegar cleaning solutions, I usually add lavender oil, and it seems to help the smell. I also hate dusting (who really loves it?) and our current house seems to get dusty faster than any where else I’ve lived. I’m going to give this a try. Thanks!

    April 14th, 2011 at 10:06 am
    Comment by GinnyV
  5. So glad someone else has the weird hang-up with the smell of vinegar. I started using it in the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener and I really like it. Except for that minute and a half that I spend taking the wet clothes out of the washer. I really hate the smell and that is what keeps me from using it more for general cleaning. I write marketing pieces for my company explaining that clean truly has no smell, yet at home I use a lot of Method’s products because I like the scents. I am hopeless.

    April 14th, 2011 at 10:13 am
    Comment by badger reader
  6. I just swiffer. Is that bad? Are they full of toxic chemicals?

    April 14th, 2011 at 10:53 am
    Comment by lizgwiz
  7. Liz, I should probably research that further to find a definitive answer. I have looked it up, but P&G (who makes Swiffer) doesn’t disclose the full ingredient list, so it seems that the environmentally minded part of the Internet assumes they’re toxic and terrible without really knowing for absolute certain, while a whole other contingency is convinced they’re harmless because P&G says they’re non-toxic.

    Regardless of what’s in them, though, they’re still disposable, of course (and according to the Materials Safety Data Sheet that P&G *does* publish, they’re not biodegradable). So obviously they’re still not a great choice. Apparently Method used to make a corn-based, biodegradable sweeper cloth that was similar to Swiffer, but I can’t find any evidence of them on Method’s site at the moment, so maybe they’re not making them anymore.

    I’ll admit I still have a box of Swiffers under my sink too, though I try not to use them and I’ve promised myself that I won’t buy another box when that one is gone. Honestly, a microfiber or flannel cloth works almost as well for dusting, and for floors, you can stick a reusable, washable cloth on your Swiffer mop just like you can their disposable sheets. So I recommend that instead. :-)

    April 14th, 2011 at 11:56 am
    Comment by Stefanie
  8. Like most people, I’m not a fan of the vinegar smell, but I do associate it with clean and it does dissipate quickly. I’ll take it.

    April 14th, 2011 at 5:56 pm
    Comment by mickey
  9. Put a stick of cinnamon in a bottle of vinegar and use it. Smells better! I’m sure there’s something good about the cinnamon, but I don’t know other than its benefits for your hair!

    April 14th, 2011 at 6:25 pm
    Comment by Lynn
  10. Ooh, I haven’t heard the cinnamon stick suggestion before. I should try that!

    April 15th, 2011 at 10:32 am
    Comment by Stefanie
  11. Glad to find a few more tree huggers out there. I work as a part time cleaner and am tired of the chemical over load. At home I refuse to use chemicals but find this somewhat pointless when i use them at work. Therefore I have concluded that I would like to officailly make my business an eco friendly cleaning service. Prior to starting however I want to ensure I have a full understanding of what’ involved and wha can be used.So any further suggestions will be much appreciated.

    August 31st, 2011 at 2:45 pm
    Comment by ecocleaner
  12. There’s potential benefit in using substances like vinegar in lieu of less human- and environmentally-friendly cleaning product options.

    high pressure water cleaners

    October 19th, 2011 at 11:11 am
    Comment by Cleaner
  13. I don’t know where one buys essential oils, but I do have vanilla bought cheaply from a restaurant supply grocery store. I mix a little of that with the vinegar and water and the vinegar smell problem is gone.

    March 18th, 2012 at 4:49 pm
    Comment by Barbara

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If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


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