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

dust or vacuum first

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.

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 Dust-First Process

Here's the process for dusting first:

  • Start by dusting up high. Any particles that are not trapped into the cloth or duster will fall to the ground.
  • 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.
  • ​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.
  • 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.
dust or vacuum first

​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.

Doing this allows you to vacuum the air and cuts down on the dust particles that will settle back down after you are done.

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.

​The Sandwich Approach

​While it might sound like an odd name, we recommend the sandwich approach to dusting and vacuuming. This means that you sandwich vacuuming in between dusting sessions. In other words, you dust, then vacuum, then dust.

This is the approach we outlined above, and gives you best cleaning coverage of all the different methods you can try.

​BONUS: ​If you can, wait several hours after your first dusting before vacuuming. This allows ample time for the agitated dust to settle, which means your vacuuming will yield the greatest results. ​​​

​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.

feather duster for cleaning

​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" Duster 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
  • plus
    ​5 drops of Lemon essential oil
  • plus
    ​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.

Related: ​​Top Home Cleaning Products To Use​​​

​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​.

Related: ​The ​Top Vacuum Cleaners for Laminate Flooring​​​​

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.

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.

​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.

Related: ​​Stick Vacuum Reviews for Stairs​​​

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.
  2. You might be missing a lot more than you think by not moving the funiture. 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.
dirty duster from dusting

​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.

Related: ​​Learn Which Stick Vac is Right For You​

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.

​If you're enjoying this article, make sure to check out our comprehensive cleaning guides, segmented by room:

About the Author Lauren Moldvay

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.

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