It's no secret that college kids aren't always paragons of tidiness and good housekeeping. All the more reason to adopt a once-weekly dusting routine. ©Aubrey Edwards/Corbis
Forty pounds of dust; that's how much dust collects every year in the average American six-room house [source: Berger]. Now, your dorm room isn't nearly as big as a house in the suburbs but it still collects big amounts of dust -- in fact, your average used mattress (welcome to dorm life) may itself have between 100,000 and 10 million dust mites living inside [source: Lyon]. Dust allowed to collect in corners and on bookshelves isn't just lazy housekeeping; it can lead to respiratory problems and allergies.
First things first: Dust isn't dirt -- this isn't a matter of your roommate's muddy boots. Well, not totally. Rather, dust is made up of all kinds of unpleasant things such as dead skin cells, pollen, mold, bacteria, lead, arsenic, pesticides and decomposing fibers from the things around us (including what's been tracked in on those boots). In fact, about 80 percent of the particles you see floating in a sunbeam are dead skin cells [source: Lyon]. And in a perfect world, you'd dust on a weekly basis.
Faced with arsenic settling on your environment, weekly dusting doesn't sound too bad -- especially since dusting properly will remove as much as 80 percent of it [source: Kluger]. If you're going to make the effort, whether it's on a weekly schedule or when you happen to notice the dust bunnies under the bed and the fine layer of dust covering your photos, make sure you're using the right tools for the job; you want to remove dust, not just spread it around.
You'll need a few cloths or rags, either microfiber cloths (dust particles are more likely to cling to this type of cloth) or soft cotton cloths to do most of the work, as well as a vacuum cleaner, broom or mop.
Dust with a microfiber cloth or lightly dampened soft cloth rag. Damp-dusting will help keep dust particles sticking to the cleaning cloth instead of going airborne from being brushed around by a dry rag -- and you don't need anything more than water to get the job done.
Knickknacks and clutter are dust magnets, so if you must live with your tchotchke-filled shelves, remove your collection while you're dusting and give every item a good once-over, as well, before replacing.
And don't forget: Always dust from the top down to avoid sabotaging your own dusting work, and don't overlook giving your electronic equipment a light dust. Finish by vacuuming the furniture and floor (or mopping it with a damp mop if the floor isn't carpeted) to clean up any dust or debris that's collected in the corners or on the back of the sofa from your top-down dusting style -- and don't forget to clean under the bed.
Bedding, too, is also a major contributor to the dust in your dorm room, and all sheets, blankets, and pillowcases should be washed in hot water -- or changed, at least -- every week. Not just four times a year, like the average single guy in his early 20s [source: Smallman].
Finally, a fan-style air purifier will help reduce dust levels in your room -- and will help with odor control in general [source: U.S. EPA].
Author's Note: How often should you dust your dorm room?
I don't remember doing much dusting during college; when it came to cleaning, there were bigger issues at hand than whether or not dust was accumulating on the books. It wasn't the stats about dust mites that stuck with me when researching this article -- it was the one about how single guys in their early 20s really only change their sheets about 4 times every year.
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