Are you losing the battle with dust? Here are a few pointers on how to keep your house dust-free
Dust is depressing enough. But when someone leaves you a message in a half-inch thick layer, it becomes doubly more so. “Maybe you should dust here” it read one day. I sighed, sprayed cleaner and wiped it out. The next day, it was back. The dust was grainy, so was the writing; but the message was clear — I was losing the battle.
Feeling very victimised, I rang a few friends. One bluntly told me she couldn’t speak just then. “I’m supervising my maid,” she whispered. And what was the maid doing? “She’s dusting”. I called the second; Uma said she was fighting an epic battle. “We’re vacuuming, spraying, wiping down everything with a cloth, and then shutting all doors and windows; we’re expecting guests.” I thought I smelt a kindred soul there. “Does it stay good for long, when you’ve taken all that trouble?” I asked. “Two days. If we don’t go back to cleaning on the third day, then the dust comes back with a vengeance. And, our entire family reverts to sneezing in the mornings and sniffling through the day.”
“I am the exalted maid too, plus I have a shaggy, hair-shedding dog at home,” said Padma. “I used to be obsessed about keeping the house spotlessly clean. Now, I only dust every other day before going to work; you can see me wielding my huge all-purpose cleaning brush, desperately trying to wipe tabletops, crevices, books. For glass-topped surfaces, it’s cleaning liquid and a newspaper. I’ve learnt the hard way never to clean dirty surfaces directly with a damp sponge /cloth; it becomes a gloopy mess. So I dust first, then wipe clean with damp cloth.” It sounded promising, practically easy-peasy. But Padma squashes my happiness, with a “despite all my efforts, dust wins the day”. “It’s especially awful” she sighed, “when friends decide to drop in without prior warning and — talk about Murphy’s Law — that would have been the day I hadn’t dusted. They make a valiant effort to avoid looking at the dusty chairs, while I quietly cringe.”
“I’m dreadfully allergic to dust,” says Smitha, adding that she even keeps her bed-sheet covered with an additional spread. “I remove it every night and put it back in the morning. That way, I keep dust off my bed. I also have this habit of cramming things inside the wardrobe,” she confesses. “Books, too, are terrific dust-gatherers. So, I turn the pages from cover to cover once in a while to get the dust out; if not, they settle and discolour the page. My window meshes are very fine; and while they trap the outside dust, they still need to be washed down. But finally, when nothing works and I have a feeling that I’m going to die sneezing, I use my nasal spray to keep things in check.”
By then, two things were getting very clear — one, dust always seems to win; two, this was all sounding very sexist — what about the guys? Look at the Internet too — search dusting, and the tips bristle with words like “women, it’s your labour of love; dance your way through your dusting routine; skate in your socks and clean the corners”; “mums – protect your little ones’ lungs”. Why, aren’t dads concerned about their babies’ lungs? So we asked a few men.
Skating in his socks was out of question, said one gentleman, adding he preferred to whack the dust off his mattress and sofas. Another recoiled in real horror. “I’m allergic to dust.” Oh, do the sinuses act-up? “No, no, I’m visually allergic to it, so my wife cleans the house”. Ah, well…
The best answer though came by email. It contained a poem, by Erica Jong, called Woman Enough. A part of it read:
So I write while the dust piles up.
I sit at my typewriter
remembering my grandmother
& all my mothers,
& the minutes they lost
loving houses better than themselves
& the man I love cleans up the kitchen.
She, clearly, found the man of her dreams. If you have a regular one, invest in a good vacuum cleaner. And give him the manual.