How to Dust Your Bookshelf Like a Pro, According to Marie Kondo

published Dec 23, 2022
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

Everyone has that one cleaning job they avoid because it just feels too tedious. It might be a deep disdain for folding clothes or a strong loathing for cleaning windows. And for many folks, that hated job is dusting bookshelves. Between the irregular surface of the book spines and the various frames and decor items that adorn the shelves, it feels a bit like a challenging game of Tetris. Is it best to lightly use a feather duster, just knocking detritus off the surface of the objects, or remove every item and clean them individually? 

It turns out, there is actually a perfect method for keeping bookshelves in top shape. I talked to the organizing and cleaning pro Marie Kondo to find out how she makes her bookcases spark joy.

Before you can actually clean your bookcase, she says you have to organize it. “Cleaning and decluttering are two separate tasks,” she says. “Only after you finish addressing your belongings can you start to clean your home.” 

The best way to have easy-to-clean bookshelves is to make sure they only contain items that you need or love. “When arranging a bookcase, I urge people to consolidate as best as they can,” Kondo continues. “Having an overwhelming amount can appear cluttered, so pick the few books that you cherish to display on your bookcase.” She prefers to group her books and accessories by color for a cohesive feel.

Keeping dust bunnies at bay is essential for a healthy home. Once you’ve donated or tossed what you don’t love, it’s time to begin cleaning. Here’s how to get it done. 

What supplies do I need?

Kondo recommends assembling all of your cleaning supplies before beginning the process of cleaning your bookshelf. When cleaning her own bookcases, she uses:

  • Cotton, all-purpose cloths
  • Bamboo gloves
  • Gentle cleaning solution

Kondo loves using all-purpose cloths to wipe away dust, dirt, and stains on any type of surface, which can be dry for dusting or dampened with a cleaning solution. And she prefers to wear gloves, even if the solution she’s using is gentle and sustainable. “Bamboo gloves help keep your hands protected when getting into hard-to-reach corners,” Kondo says.

For a deep clean, Kondo says that it’s best to remove items from each shelf, clean the shelf itself, and then clean each piece. It’s also best to dry-dust books, she adds, but many decorative items might need a damp rag. Glass or shiny objects may benefit from a polish with a dry cloth after the damp cleaning solution is used.

Another thing to note: A microfiber duster is perfect for when you’re between deep cleans, but is not usually part of a deep clean. Once each item on the shelf has been cleaned and placed back on a clean surface, it’s time to make a plan to keep things looking great. 

Credit: Carina Romano

How do I keep my bookcase clean and clutter-free?

It’s tough to keep a bookshelf looking great. They are often clutter-collecting centers, and it can be easy to overload a bookcase with too many unnecessary things. Plus, many bookcases are more than displays. People read books, taking them on and off of the shelves. Items get rearranged. It only takes a few days for a once-orderly spot to become chaotic. 

Kondo says the key to keeping things clean is to make a plan. That’s the basis of her organizing method, after all. 

“Every item should have a home, even seemingly frivolous items like office supplies or your children’s toys,” she says. “Since bookcases can easily become an epicenter of clutter, always remember this before you simply set things down on the bookcase out of ease.” If you take the time to put away items rather than carelessly stuffing them on a bookshelf, you will save yourself more time and frustration in the long run. “Your bookcase deserves to be cared for, so go the extra mile to keep it clear of junk!”

Sorry, this list is no longer accepting subscriptions.

Feel free to subscribe to our other emails.