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Martha Stewart Living Television

What's the best way to dust house plants?
--Amanda Brown

House plants get dusty just like furniture, and when dust accumulates on plants, they don't manufacture food or absorb carbon dioxide as efficiently as they should. Spray plants that have delicate leaves with a handheld mister. Don't forget to spray the underside of the leaves as well. Use a sable brush for plants with hairy leaves, such as African violets. Clean large or wide shiny leaves with a damp cotton cloth. Make sure you dry the leaves after wiping them down, since wet leaves will only attract more dust.

If your plants need a thorough cleaning, you can put them in the bathtub and give them a shower. Make sure to use a gentle stream of water. Then wipe the moistened plants down with a damp cloth to remove built-up grime and unclog pores. In the summer, a rainy day will do the trick.

Use the opportunity, when tackling dust on plants, to inspect the plants for pests and to pull off any dead or dying leaves. Safer's insecticidal soap is a good remedy for insect infestation. Martha sometimes resorts to using a handheld vacuum cleaner when ridding larger plants, such as scented geraniums, of dust. A word of caution, however: Always handle your plants with the utmost care.

Could you give me some ideas for combating dust in the home?
--Akil Ture

Each year, an average of 40 pounds of dust materializes in your home. Where does it come from? Some of it gets tracked in from the outside; placing doormats both inside and outside your front door will help. Dust also seeps through the tiniest cracks in windows and doorways. If you can feel a draft by a window, you can be sure that plenty of dust is making its way through the opening. And then, of course, there's the dust that's already inside the house. The less clutter you allow to accumulate, the less dust your home will generate.

When it comes to cleaning the surfaces of your home, always dust from the top down. If you dust the floor before doing shelves and furniture, you'll stir up dust that will settle below. For hard-to-reach spots, use a chicken-feather duster, or an ostrich duster. Ostrich feathers are soft and flexible; dust tends to cling to them as opposed to getting bandied about. A lambswool duster is handy for cleaning venetian blinds, ceilings, and chandeliers -- the oils in the wool work in tandem with static cling to draw up the dust -- and a soft natural-bristle paintbrush works wonders on lampshades. Be sure never to use this brush for any other purpose. Vacuum before you sweep: If you use a broom to sweep the dust away, you'll only succeed in kicking it up so that the dust lands somewhere else. To address dust in curtains and on softer surfaces, use the vacuum cleaner's brush attachment.

The static electricity generated by electronic appliances such as televisions tends to attract a lot of dust. To tackle this problem, use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, and then wipe the surface down with a damp cloth. A dust cloth made of natural materials such as cotton or flannel is good for everyday dusting of surfaces, such as your dining-room table. A little denatured alcohol works well on shiny surfaces, like the keys of a piano. You might try dampening your dusting cloth with a mixture of 1 tablespoon mild laundry soap, 1 tablespoon ammonia, 2 tablespoons linseed oil, and a quart of warm water.

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