Don’t Skip the “Dry/Damp” Cleaning Rule When You’re Tackling These 5 Spaces at Home

published Sep 29, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

When I set out to clean something, I want to get it done. Having the hurdles of gathering supplies or finding just the tool I need takes the wind out of my sails really fast. That’s why I prefer to have a set of cleaning tools under each bathroom cabinet, under the kitchen sink, and just in general, where possible, near the item that needs to be cleaned.

But this technique sometimes gets me into trouble, and takes up more time than I anticipated. If it’s been a while since I’ve cleaned or I’m tackling a deep cleaning chore that doesn’t get done as often as the more routine tasks, I run the risk of letting apparent convenience override cleaning best practices.

One of these cleaning principles is the dry/damp cleaning rule, which simply means making sure to clean dust or dirt away with dry methods like a duster or broom before using wet methods like a mop or a rag dampened with cleaner.

It sounds straightforward enough, but it’s tempting to skip the dry cleaning and go right to wet. But that’s when I end up with the dreaded trail of wet dust and hair following my cleaning rag or mop around. By taking a shortcut, or maybe just innocently forgetting something that could make cleaning easier, I end up making the chore harder than it needs to be, and in some cases, causing harm.

Credit: Jessica Rapp

5 Places You Should Always Stick to the Dry/Damp Cleaning Rule

Here are a few cleaning activities that can benefit from the additional step of “dry cleaning” before wetter cleaning methods are applied:

1. Floors

This one is important: Don’t attempt to mop without sweeping or vacuuming first. If the floors you’re cleaning are tile or another surface that cannot be scratched, the worst that will happen if you skip this rule is that your mop water will get dirty fast and you’ll be sloshing big debris around your floor and it might get stuck in your mop. (If you have grout, you want your water to stay as clean as possible to keep the grout as clean as possible, by the way.)

However, if you have wood, laminate, or LVP floors, it’s imperative to pick up dirt with dry cleaning methods before you mop. Mopping exerts pressure on your floor, and if dirt and sand from the floor get stuck to your mop, they’ll scratch the protective coating on your floors. Over time they will dull and there won’t be anything you can do about it.

2. The Toilet

When you think of cleaning the toilet, images of toilet brushes and disinfecting wipes may come to mind. But if you don’t dust or wipe down the exterior of your toilet first, you’ll be chasing that dreaded dust trail with your wipe or wet rag and it makes cleaning the toilet even more of a drag.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Baseboards

Routine baseboard cleaning usually requires only dry cleaning with a pass of the duster or soft brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner. But when spring cleaning rolls around and you go to wipe down your baseboards more thoroughly, don’t forget to preface the wet version of the chore with the same dusting you usually do. This will allow you to concentrate your effort on dealing with smudges and other marks rather than contending with an accumulation of dust and pet fur.

Credit: Rikki Snyder

4. Light fixtures and ceiling fans

Definitely swipe a duster over your light fixtures before you tackle them with a damp rag—otherwise you’ll just be pushing dust and dirt around, and letting the wet clumps fall on top of your other things. The only exception to this is when you unscrew the removable components of your fixtures to soak them completely. But be sure to dry dust stationary pieces even in this case.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Glass and mirrors

If you clean your bathroom mirror glass once a week or so, you probably don’t need to bother with dusting it first. But when you go to (infrequently) clean the glass on your picture frames or other particularly dusty mirrored or glass surfaces, a duster paves the way for a more squeaky clean final look without any lingering dust trails or lint spots.