Posted on April 14, 2011 by
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?