Should You Dust or Vacuum First? [Step-by-Step Process]

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What came first, the chicken or the egg? This thought provoking question could be used when you are considering whether it is better to dust or vacuum first. You could choose either method to begin. But, what is the best order to clean your home so you can pick up the most dust particles?

​Is it Better to Dust or Vacuum First?

​Both dusting and vacuuming are important to thoroughly cleaning your home, but the order of operations is actually vitally important.

​The Verdict: Dust First

​You should always dust first. Dusting agitates everything that has settled on your furniture, walls, ceilings, fans, etc. If you vacuum first, and then dust, you won’t have gotten all the dust that collects. ​

  • ​No matter what, dusting kicks tiny dirt particles into the air. These float around until eventually settling back down on your floors and furniture.
  • ​By dusting first, you are wiping up some of those dust particles, but you are also agitating the remaining particles, hopefully allowing them to settle in an easier location.
  • ​Following up with a vacuum allows you to pick up the vast majority of the remaining dust particles.
feather duster for cleaning

However, the best process is not as simple as just dusting and then vacuuming. You should dust high up first, then vacuum, and then follow up by dusting the lower areas like tables. ​This is a comprehensive process that will maximize both the dusting and vacuuming process.

The Best Methods for Dusting First and then Vacuuming

When you are trying figure out is it better to dust or vacuum first, then you can look at some of the methods that we think are the best process to not only clean your home, but also allow you to tackle dusting right the first time.

​The Dust-First Process

Here’s the process for dusting first:

  1. Start by dusting up high. Any particles that are not trapped into the cloth or duster will fall to the ground.
  2. ​If your vacuum has an extender hose attachment, get it out and vacuum all of your surfaces that aren’t your floor, such as furniture and drapes.
  3. ​Next, vacuum the floor. This process will send more dirt and dust flying up into the room, which we’ll tackle in the final step.
  4. Finally, dust your surfaces one more time. Make sure you use a dust trapping cloth or duster to reduce any dirt flying back out into the room.

There are a few things to know about this method. Firstly, note that you will be working from top to bottom while you are cleaning your home. This is the best way to tackle dust, since any escaped dust will settle on lower surfaces.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, dust can take more than two hours to settle after vacuuming. This is why we suggest that you come back to follow-up on mid level surfaces with a quick dusting.  

In between your vacuuming and the follow up dusting, you can take this time to relax a little or utilize it in cleaning other areas of your home before swooping back in to do the final dust.

​Use Your Air Conditioner

There is a ​secret weapon you can use when you vacuum and dust your home​. If you have a central air unit, turn it on when you begin to clean. This will force air up and through the vents.  When the dust particles in the air are swept into the vents they get trapped in the filter.

Using your HVAC system allows you to vacuum the air and cuts down on the dust particles that will settle back down after you are done. Since dust can take a few hours to settle back down after you run the vacuum and dust, then you will be able to catch some of that floating dust and pull it into your ventilation filter.

Granted, you’ll need to keep an eye on your central air filter, and you might need to change it more frequently. However, this would have been dirt that settled onto your furniture and flooring, so we find it to be a good trade. You can also talk to your local home store expert to see if you can boost your HVAC system with a higher filter that can work to eliminate more dust, allergens and even odors from your home.

How Often Should I Dust?

You may also be wondering how frequently you should be incorporating dusting into your cleaning routine. You shouldn’t be pulling out the duster every time that you vacuum, but you should have a set routine for dusting so that you don’t allow dust to build-up around your home.

There are a few different time tables for dusting, this is because some areas collect dust a lot quicker than others.

  • ​Ceiling Fans, high shelves, corners and door frames – You only need to clean these harder to reach areas about once every 3-6 months. This is because these areas are more difficult to clean and also won’t collect dust as quickly as the lower surfaces will.
  • ​Tables, shelves and electronics – You should try to dust these surfaces at least once a month. If you have allergies or breathing problems then you may want to increase the dusting to once every other week.
  • Floors – Dust, allergens and other tiny particles will settle very easily on your floors. These particles can become grimy on floors when mixed with dirt. You should strive to dust mop your floors every few days if not daily for high traffic homes. Running a dust mop like the Swiffer Sweeper is a great and easy way to clean up dry particles like dust and dirt from your floors between mopping.

While these are an average dusting time advice, the need to dust your home will fluctuate between various factors such as:

  • ​If you live in a dusty region.
  • ​If you have pets that shed hair and allergens around the home.
  • ​If you have a high traffic home.

When you have more dust collecting factors, then you may need to incorporate dusting once a week in order to keep your surfaces clean. Other individuals that live in a quieter home may be able to only have to dust once a week due to the limited traffic they have in their home.

Should I Sweep before Vacuuming?

This is a great addition to your dusting and vacuuming cleaning routine. If you want to add in a good sweep to your floors then you can do it a few different ways.

You can use a dust mop as referenced above. This is a super quick and easy way to sweep your floors if they aren’t too dirty and you want to give them a once over to pick up dust and dirt from the surface.

If you have high traffic floors that you know are housing larger pieces of dirt and debris, then you will want to sweep. You should also use a broom for kitchen floors, since large pieces of food or trash from the kitchen will end up in the floor.

When it comes to knowing should you dust or vacuum first, fitting in a quick and thorough sweep can be a little tricky. What you will want to do is:

  1. ​Dust your higher surfaces first.
  2. Sweep your hardwood, tile and linoleum floors.
  3. Use the vacuum hose attachment to pick up the dirt you collected from sweeping.
  4. Then you will want to run the vacuum on your carpets.
  5. ​Dust the rest of your medium to low height surfaces.

Fitting in sweeping before vacuuming allows you to skip bending over with a dustpan, and instead use your vacuum’s suction power to pick up smaller dirt and dust particles.

How to Dust and Vacuum Faster

​Now that you know the best way when it comes to choosing dust first or vacuum first, let’s look at a few ways you can do this a little faster in case you are short on time or have an unexpected guest coming.

Firstly, when it comes to dusting, the fewer tools you have to use the quicker this can go. If you normally dust by spraying your surfaces and then wiping, then you can cut down on time by using a simple dusting wipe like the Guardsman Pre-Treated Furniture Dusting Cloths. Using an all in one wipe allows you to simply grab and go, without needing to spray anything.

Next you will want to grab your upright vacuum and give the floors a once over. You can cut twice the time if you have a vacuum that works well for both carpet and hardwood floors, so that you can skip the sweeping. Of course, having a vacuum that does it all for you frees up more time for you to focus on cleaning up quickly.

dust or vacuum first

When you are in a time crunch then you can skip dusting in certain areas that aren’t easily seen like the top of high shelves and door frames. You should take a minute to wipe down ceiling fans, since those can spread dust if you turn them on.

​Best Cleaning Products for Dusting

Some people ​​dread dusting​ while others love the act because of the satisfying pickup and leftover citrus scent. Whether you love or despise it, here are some great products, tips, and DIY recipes to make your dusting more effective​.

​Compressed Air

Using a spray bottle of compressed air is a great way to dust those almost microscopic spaces around your home and office. These cans come with a tiny straw that directs the blast of air to a small area for better cleaning.

Compressed air is perfect for cleaning small crevices around your home and a must have for cleaning office equipment. Computer keyboards and ​laptop bodies are constantly catching dirt and dander. Spray the compressed air around the keys to push out the trapped particles.

Most people aren’t aware, but the fans inside of a laptop that help with self-cooling suck in air. Dirt and dust are also pulled in and can slow down or damage the fan. Find the fan vents on the bottom of your laptop or desktop computer. Spray some compressed air in it every few months to keep your computer fan running smoothly.

​Microfiber Cloths

When dusting, you want to trap dust instead of letting it loose into the air. A microfiber cloth will grab dust and hold onto it as you go. Microfiber cloths also work well without having to use polishes or oils.

You can also rest assured the soft cloth will not scratch or damage your furniture while you are wiping away the dust. These dusting cloths are also super easy to clean. Just toss them in the washer when you are finished and put them away for the next time you need to dust.

​Ceiling Fan Duster

You could climb up onto a chair and wipe down your ceiling fans or top shelves. But, why waste the energy climbing and risk falling. Extended pole dusters allow you to dust up high while you stay safely planted on the floor.

A duster such as the ​Homiom Microfiber Extendable 62 comes with a duster and pole that can be extended up to 62 inches. The end of the duster also pivots to different angles. This allows you to have the perfect way to reach and dust high up or down low.

Keep in mind, just because it is designed to reach high up, a pole-based duster can also be used to save you from bending down to dust. Adjust the height and angle so you can easily dust baseboards, lower tiers on side tables, and under bookcases.

​DIY All Natural Dusting Spray

There are tried and true dusting sprays from big names that people have trusted for years. However, if you are looking to break the cycle and try something new, make your own dusting spray. You probably have everything you need in your pantry to make an effective dusting spray.

  • ​1 cup water
  • ​1/4 cup white vinegar
  • ​2 tsp Olive oil
  • 5 drops of Lemon essential oil
  • ​Spray bottle

​The vinegar will cut through grime, dirt, and even grease. The added water dilutes it enough to make it less acidic and safe on your surfaces. Adding olive oil will give your wood surfaces shine and will help protect them.

Lemon is a popular dusting scent. If you prefer another citrus scent or a different essential oil, use that instead. The essential oil adds a nice scent to your dusting spray to help balance out the bitter smell of the white vinegar.

Dusting Wipes

​As references above, dusting wipes are a great addition to your cleaning supply closet. You can purchase disposable dusting wipes at your local all in one store. If you don’t like the idea of using disposable cleaning supplies, then you can simply make your own.

Creating DIY reusable dusting wipes for your floor and furniture is super easy and kind of fun. It can make choosing do you dust or vacuum first an easy answer, because you will want to dust first in order to use these great dust wipes.

You will need:

  • ​​A large jar to hold the dusting wipes in, a large mason jar works wonders
  • For the wipes you can choose from an old t-shirt, use microfiber cloths or use cheap washcloths.
  • ​White vinegar and water
  • ​​A lemon or two

Choose your dusting cloth material first. Picking a material depends on if you want soft wipes made from a cut up old t-shirt or if you want more of a harder scrubbing like cloth which can be made from old washcloths. Once you decide, you will want to cut (if needed) the material in to squares that are about as large as a standard dust wipe, or a little larger than your hand.

Next you will make a 50/50 water and white vinegar solution and pour it into the mason jar. Gently roll a lemon to loosen up the juices before you begin to extract the lemon juice and add a few tablespoons to the mixture.

Separate the rinds of the leftover lemon and set them aside, you will use these later.

dirty duster from dusting

Place the cloths into the mason jar and let them soak up the liquid solution. Make sure that the cloths are mostly submerged in the liquid. After about 5 minutes you can pour out any excess liquid and gentle wring out any drenched cloths. You want your dusting cloths to be damp, not soaking wet.

Next you will take a piece of rind and tuck them into each dusting cloth before placing them back into the mason jar. Seal the jar and use the wipes within 1-2 weeks time.

After you use each dusting cloth, toss it in the washer and then fold it away until you are ready to make another batch of DIY dusting cloths.

​Tips to Boost your Vacuuming

When it comes time to turn your vacuum on and start to go over the carpet, you want to make sure you are getting the most out of your cleaning routine. This way you won’t have to work twice as hard.

Check your Vacuum

Before you plug your vacuum in and boot it up, take a minute to make sure it is ready for cleaning. Check the bag or dust compartment to make sure it is empty. Also turn your vacuum over to look at the brush to make sure ​it is clean and that there is ​no hair or carpet twine caught around it​.

Look at the hose to see if you can identify any clogs in it. If your hose is not clear or if you are not sure, it is always a good idea to run a drain snake down your hose every few months, just to make sure there are no clogs.

Use a Vacuum with a HEPA Filter

​If you have sensitivities or allergies then you should looking into investing in a vacuum that has a certified HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. These filters have been created and tested to trap 99.9% of particles that are .03 microns or larger in the filter.

This filter technology ensures that you aren’t picking up tiny allergens and dust just to push them back into the air after you have finished vacuuming. Instead they are trapped in your vacuum and your home is left dust free.

Having a vacuum with a HEPA filter is also a high priority if you have pets. The vacuum will pick up the allergens and dander that pets leave behind on your floors and furniture, so that you can breath better inside of your home.

Webmd states that using a HEPA filter in your home’s vacuum can help bring some relief to your allergies. This can be especially beneficial to your home during high pollen months where pollen allergens can blow into your home through open windows as well as be tracked in on the bottom of shoes.

Some vacuums will state that they have a High Efficiency Filter in them, to trick you into thinking it is a HEPA filter, however these cheaper filters will not trap in the same amount and smaller sized allergens in the air. To know if you have a true HEPA filter, you will see that there is a serial number on the filter itself. This serial number states that it is not only a HEPA filter, but it has also been tested to trap tiny particles without allowing them back into the air.

cleaning supplies dust first vacuum last

​Pre-clean your Carpet

​​​​Your vacuum is great at picking up small particles, but not so great at picking up large objects. Big pieces of plastic, dirt, and trash can get lodged into your vacuum and create a clog or damage the brush.

Walk around the area ​before you vacuum and pick up any large pieces you see​ on the carpet. Anything larger than the size of a dime should be removed by hand. Also pick up any strings you may see, as these will wrap around the brush roll and reduce the spinning efficiency of the brush.

Finally, make sure there are no wet spots on your carpet. Wet areas need to fully dry before you vacuum over them. This is because wet carpet will produce wet grime the vacuum will suck up. This can lead to a possible buildup in your vacuum that can reduce its suction or clog it. If there is​ water left on the carpet, it can also backfire and cause mold.

​Use the Correct Attachments

You wouldn’t use tongs to stir ingredients in the kitchen, so don’t make the mistake of ​using the wrong attachments or no attachments at all when you are vacuuming​. Most stick and upright vacuums will come with a few attachments.

When you are vacuuming, take time to recognize how they will improve your cleaning. Use the long straight attachment to pick up dirt and debris around the base boards, in tight corners, and under furniture.

Also opt to use a brush attachment on the stairs instead of using your vacuum. An attachment on the carpeted staircase can help you reach most areas. It can be awkward to use a large vacuum on small steps.

Move Furniture

Sure, you can always vacuum around it, but if you want to get a thorough clean, move your furniture out of the way.

There are several reasons to do this:

  1. It is a lot harder to thoroughly clean under and around your furniture. By moving it, you are able to get every area clean. While your vacuum might be able to get the outer parts, you’ll want to do a thorough cleaning of the floors with a mop as well. ​
  2. You might be missing a lot more than you think by not moving the furniture. Because of the way a vacuum works, it can’t clean very well when you just move it around the legs of your furniture.
  3. Banging up against your furniture constantly is actually bad for it, and will reduce its longevity.

​Don’t Rush

You probably want to get your vacuuming over and done with as soon as possible. However, it is important to slow down to make sure you are getting up all the dirt and dust that has settled into your carpet.

When you vacuum, go in steady, even lines that overlap. You can move quickly in low traffic areas. Make sure you slow down and take your time in the higher traffic areas like by the door, in hallways, and in the living room.

Vacuum cleaner on carpet under the table

You should monitor how full the bag or plastic cup is getting. Dump it when it reaches over halfway full. You can also take the extra time to go back over any high traffic areas a second time after you empty the vacuum. This helps make sure you got up as much dirt as you could.


When it comes to solving the riddle of dusting or vacuuming first, it is important to remember that while there is a better way, it isn’t the only way. Only you will find out the best way to clean your home.

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.