Should You Dust or Vacuum First?

Long dusting brush leaning against vacuum in living room closeup

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

When in the midst of a cleaning spree, you don't want to clean things twice. Doubling the work just doesn't seem very productive. Get the chores and cleaning done and move on to other activities.

That's why following the correct cleaning sequence and routine will produce the most satisfying results. They also solve the question of which should be done first—dust or vacuum? The quick answer: dust first, then vacuum. Here's why.

Dust or Vacuum First?

Even when you are using the best duster, a few particles of dust are going to escape as you work. The dust that flies into the air will eventually settle at a lower point. Usually, that's the floor. That offers you a second chance to remove it from the room when you vacuum. Dusting first is particularly important if it has been some time since you dusted. The duster will become filled with particles and large clumps of dust will drop to the floor.

Once upon a time, cleaning experts recommended vacuuming first. Old-style vacuums would kick up so much dust that dusting was done last. But today's airtight vacuums with multiple filters (often a HEPA filter that traps at least 99.97 percent of particles of 0.3 microns) capture small dust particles efficiently, so it's more productive to vacuum a room as the last step.

The Best Cleaning Order for Any Room

  1. Remove the Clutter

    It is nearly impossible to dust or vacuum effectively or efficiently if you are having to dodge around stacks of paper, toys, piles of laundry, or too many knick-knacks. Start at one side of the room and work your way around gathering items that are out of place. Keep a trash bag handy for items that need to be tossed and a basket or box for things that belong in another room.

    Living room clutter being removed next to vacuum and duster

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Start at the Top

    By working from the top of the room, you can slowly bring down the dust and cobwebs. Start with dusting hard-to-reach ceiling fans, light fixtures, corners, and the tops of tall furniture. Move down to mantles, tabletops, windowsills, baseboards, and furniture legs. You may need to do more than just dust; some surfaces will need to be cleaned more thoroughly with an appropriate cleaner. Continue to work down the room wiping and dusting every surface until you reach the floor.

    To capture the most dust:

    • Use the vacuum's soft upholstery brush attachment and hose to vacuum the ceiling and then the walls—then use it on your upholstered furniture.
    • Use an electrostatic duster or slightly dampened microfiber cloth to clean surfaces.
    • If you can, wait at least 15 minutes after dusting before vacuuming the room. This gives the dust particles in the air time to settle on the floor.

    Tip

    Use this as an opportunity to remove dust from curtains, too. If the curtains are lightweight, shake them after cleaning the ceilings and walls to dislodge most of the dust, or wait 15 minutes after dusting to vacuum the curtains.

    Gray duster passing over floor lamp between chair and houseplants

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Vacuum the Floor

    Now that all the dust has settled on the floor, it's time to vacuum. To get the best results when you vacuum, be sure all of the clutter is off the floor. Move as much of the furniture as you can away from the walls, so you can reach the corners and the floor underneath.

    Depending on the type of flooring, adjust the vacuum settings. When vacuuming a carpet, make sure the beater bar or roller brush is making contact with the surface of the fibers.

    Start along one side of the room. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, use the crevice tool to clean between the carpet and the baseboards. Work in a grid pattern using long, smooth strokes down the path of the wall. Overlap the passes slightly and continue to the opposite wall. Now, do a 90-degree turn and repeat the process. Vacuuming the area twice will capture the most soil.

    Tip

    If you don't own a vacuum, flooring manufacturers recommends dust mopping only on hard floors. Follow the same cleaning order and do the dust mopping last. You may find that in small spaces with hard surface flooring, like bathrooms, closets, or under furniture, a dust mop is easier to use than a vacuum.

    Vacuum passing colorful rug on wood floor

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Tips to Reduce Dust in Your Home

  • Keep windows and doors closed.
  • Change HVAC air filters frequently.
  • Change bedding and wash it at least weekly.
  • Remove clutter and dust trappers like faux plants, fuzzy throws, and shag carpets.
  • Add an air purifier.
  • Bathe pets frequently.