The Common Dusting Mistake That Could Be Ruining Your Furniture

updated Jun 18, 2020
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Close-up of dust on woman's finger taken from wooden table

We’ve all done it: You just grab the nearest rag or towel to clear dust from a surface, which appears to work in a pinch. You might not notice immediate damage when you wipe down your coffee table or counters with a dry rag, but according to Abe Navas, general manager of Emily’s Maids, a Dallas-based cleaning service, you’re actually doing two potentially harmful things to your furniture.

First, taking a dry rag to a surface just spreads dust — which is basically just dirt and gross dead skin particles — around. So your work is actually counterproductive, because the dirt either ends up on the floor or in the air, then back on the surface you’re trying to clean. “Dust is just an accumulation of tiny particles on a surface, so any little disturbance will send them flying into the air,” Navas says. “Your rag doesn’t trap the dust; it just moves it around.” 

Secondly, a dry rag could actually do some major damage on your furniture long-term. Lisa Torelli-Sauer, editor at the home investment website Sensible Digs, likens dusting with a dry cloth to washing your face with sandpaper. “Dry dusting will scratch the surface of your furniture, ruining the finish,” she says. As a general rule, only use a dry rag on a finished surface if the surface is already wet, like if you’re cleaning up a spill or buffing it after you use a water-based cleaning product.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Best Way to Dust Your Furniture

Drop the dry rag. There are effective dust removal techniques that will protect your furniture and other surfaces from damage, and definitely end up doing a better job of actually removing the dust. 

For quick dust cleanup, you can use tools you probably already have in your home. Navas recommends you wipe a damp microfiber cloth over the affected surface to collect the stray particles. For a more thorough job, to cover more surface area, or to get to harder-to-reach areas, you can use the dusting tool or hose attachment on your vacuum.

Another option: Instead of a dry rag, you can spritz that same rag with dusting polish, which will result in better dusting and zero damage to the furniture you’re trying to maintain. You can opt for a commercial option (Old English is a classic) or go DIY—try a mix of water, oil (olive oil, jojoba oil, or whatever you have) and castile soap (to act as an emulsifier). Or, you can just grab an electrostatic duster, which uses static to attract dust and dirt particles. 

Now, your hard surfaces will be dust-free and scratch-free. Enjoy!

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: This Common Dusting Mistake Could be Ruining Your Furniture