Baking is a messy endeavor, and the messiest bit of it all is the flour. It gets everywhere! And heaven forbid you try to clean it up with a sponge, like you would any other kitchen mess, because when you add water to flour, it turns into glue. Like, literally, glue — water plus flour is exactly the recipe I used to make papier-mâché with my kids one time, and that stuff has still not come out of the clothes we were wearing. That's because water activates the starches in flour, making them sticky. And if they dry and harden, it's almost impossible to clean. Hence, the ruined clothes.
So no sponge — but you've still got a mess! The vacuum may seem like a natural alternative, since you use it to pick up other dry messes. But the vacuum has pitfalls, too. First of all, many people don't want to use the same machine on their countertops as they use to, say, vacuum under the couch or around the cat's litter box. Others find it just too cumbersome to walk to wherever the vacuum is stored, often in another part of home (trailing bits of flour with you as you go) for a job that's fairly small. And another possible problem: Depending on what kind of vacuum you have, the flour may be small enough to pass through the vacuum's filter and canister and blow right back into your home. Meaning you have more flour in more places!
Okay, so what is the best way to clean up flour? It's actually fairly simple: Scrape it up. When you have a pile of flour on your countertop or floor, use a bench scraper, pastry scraper, spatula, an old credit card, or even a stiff piece of paper to scoop up the flour. Do it a few times to gather as much of the flour as you can. Then still skip the sponge, if you don't want it to get all gummy, and use a damp dish rag (or wet paper towel) to gather up the rest. Rinse it out, repeat, and launder it as soon as you're done so you can use it again the next time a baking mess strikes.
How do you clean up flour-y baking messes?