My Mom Taught Me This Ingenious Hack That I Use Every Time I Vacuum

published Jun 9, 2023
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The habits and practices in your childhood home can become, in your mental lexicon, “how things should be done.” It’s only as you grow up and become exposed to other households and people’s ways of doing things (or lack thereof) that you come to appreciate what you learned when you were young. 

I have a whole list of things that I appreciate learning from my own mother, among them, scouring the sink with powdered cleanser as part of dinner cleanup, shutting down the kitchen every night, and that you can make a beautiful home out of whatever you have. 

Recently, I realized that another hack I use every time I vacuum is something unique my mother taught us as kids. Our larger vacuum cleaner when we were growing up had a bag that had to be replaced. But the smaller vacuum we used for smaller messes, a “dust buster” similar to this inexpensive handheld vacuum from Walmart, was emptied directly into the garbage can. 

The hack she taught us was this: Every time you empty the canister, place a damp paper towel over the emptied-out contents so that they don’t fly into the air every time you use the garbage can afterwards. The damp paper towel keeps all that dust and dirt from re-entering the air and contaminating surfaces in the kitchen. 

These days, I use a much fancier vacuum cleaner for our daily messes. My Dyson v15 Detect unit not only illuminates dust on the floor so that I don’t miss vacuuming it, but it also measures and reports the type of dust and dirt it picks up. But the dirt is the same as it ever was, and, just like in my childhood days, gets emptied into my kitchen trash can. 

To this day, I have a damp paper towel ready to set over the dirt and dust that gets put in the trash can. The paper towel is able to keep the fine particles from getting agitated when I toss more garbage on top of the mess, as well as keep this kind of dirt out of sight in the kitchen, maintaining a sanitary feel. 

The wet paper towel trick is a regular part of my vacuuming routine, so automatic that it took me years to even recognize it was an unusual (but super-effective) strategy. I’m so grateful for this simple-yet-ingenious hack, born out of necessity when a neat and tidy mother (my own) didn’t like dust and dirt that had already been cleaned up being unnecessarily encountered again.