Should You Dust or Vacuum First?

Are you on Team Dust First, or Team Vacuum First? Experts say the order matters. Let us know what you think!

Whether you’ve considered them or not, there are practical reasons for doing household cleaning chores in a certain order. Take vacuuming vs. dusting. The goal of both is to get rid of dust and dirt, but each can stir up more of both.

So, should you vacuum first or dust first? We spoke to cleaning experts to illuminate the debate.

Should You Vacuum First?

Maybe a parent taught you to vacuum first, because the machine kicks up dust from the floor that you can later capture by dusting. “Early vacuums had poor filtration and tended to discharge lots of dust into the air,” says Bruce Vance, president of Town & Country Cleaning Service in Pittsboro, N.C.

Vance recalls vacuuming out a construction trailer decades ago and stirring up so much dust he could barely see the end of the room. “Thirty years ago a vacuum was lucky to filter down to eight microns,” he says. “Today most will do a reasonably good job down to one micron.” So if you’re working with an old vacuum, you may want to vacuum first.

And while you may want to shake out, vacuum and set aside area rugs as your first order of business, consider a first pass with the vacuum when cleaning excessively dirty areas, such as during home remodeling cleanup. Consider these one-off tasks preceding a top-to-bottom clean.

“You’ll still want to clean the higher-up areas and then vacuum the floor towards the end,” says Danesh Deonarain, owner of the New York cleaning service provider Galaxy Maids.

Should You Dust First?

“As long as one has a reasonably modern vacuum in good condition, dust first,” Vance says.

Deonarain agrees. “In cleaning, you want to address the high-up areas and work your way down, then clean the lower areas and floors,” Deonarain says. The vacuum will take care of any dust and dirt knocked to the floor during the top-to-bottom cleaning.

“Just this morning I was dusting and I heard crumbs falling onto my hardwood floor,” says author, speaker and TV personality Leslie Reichert, AKA The Cleaning Coach. “I really wouldn’t have wanted to pull the vacuum back out if I had already vacuumed the floor.

“When I owned a professional housekeeping service, we always dusted first because we vacuumed ourselves out of the room and left the floor perfect and without footprints. If you vacuum first, there would be footprints everywhere,”

If You Have To Choose: Dust OR Vacuum?

If you only have time for one task — not both — pick vacuuming, Reichert says. With outside dirt, pet hair and dander, plus debris from shoes, floors always get dirtier faster than dust can accumulate on furniture.

“If I don’t have a lot of time I always focus on the floors,” Reichert says. “You can run the vacuum and the house looks cleaner.”

Should You Dust or Vacuum First? You Weigh In!

We want to hear what you have to say. Start with a good, thorough vacuuming, then dust to finish? Or vacuum your way out of the totally cleaned room, pro cleaner style? Share your opinion by taking the poll below.


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Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, has been a journalist for 30 years. She is the co-author of two pop-culture encyclopedias, "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She lives in a 90+-year-old house in Seattle in which she does home improvement projects with her husband and daughter. Gael loves the quirkiness of old homes.