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3 Steps for an Organized, Top-Down Clean

Note: This guest post was not written by a employee, therefore the views and expressions of the author do not necessarily reflect those of

Nearly everyone who has ever moved has experienced “dirt shock.” Despite our best efforts to keep a clean house, we pack and move furniture and discover dust bunnies big enough to harbor their own ecosystems. Then, we promise to do a better job cleaning our new house or apartment.

As a professional organizer, I tell my clients that a clean home doesn’t happen accidentally. It begins with organization—it starts at the top, and works its way down to our carpet and area rugs. The dust from your ceiling fan will drift downward and end up on your furniture--and then on the floor. If you vacuum your rugs first and dust later, you’ve just defeated yourself. Once you get in a routine of top-down cleaning, it will become second nature as you tackle each room.

1. Look up

Begin with the very top of the room. Use a long-handled microfiber duster to wipe ceiling fixtures and ceiling fans. Microfiber is especially helpful, as it traps dust. After you dust your light fixtures, move to one wall at a time, and dust anything tall or attached to the wall: drapery rods, mini-blinds, framed art, wall sconces, fireplace mantle and so on. Don’t forget the tops of door and window frames and the tip-tops of tall furniture, like a bookcase or china hutch.

2. Move to the middle
Consider the middle height of the room anything you haven’t already dusted that isn’t on the floor. In the middle area, you’ll use more than just a microfiber duster to clean. Put glass cleaner, furniture polish, rags and a lint roller in a small tote. Add cleaners for your furniture type, such as leather wipes for leather furniture and/or spot remover for upholstery. With this tote and a vacuum, you’ve got everything you need.
  • Declutter - Use a laundry basket to hold anything you need to remove from the room and put away. While decluttering, return pillows, throws and other items to their proper home.
  • Lamp shades - Vacuum or use the lint roller to get accumulated dust -- depending on which works best for your shade.
  • Seating - Lift cushions to vacuum up crumbs and debris. Wipe leather cushions with leather wipes to keep them conditioned and to remove soil. Upholstered furniture can be vacuumed. The lint roller is handy to remove fuzz or hair from furniture. Check and treat any stains or spots as you find them so they don’t become permanent.
  • Furniture - Use the microfiber duster on furniture legs, sides and decorative trim. The surfaces of wood furniture can be cleaned with furniture polish and glass tops with glass cleaner.

3. Finish with the floor
Complete your top-down cleaning by tackling your flooring, including carpets and area rugs.

  • The down low - Move around the room, using your long-handled microfiber duster to dust baseboards. If you have any low pieces of furniture that are difficult to vacuum under, you can use the long-handled duster to reach under those. Be sure to wash your dusting tool before cleaning with it again.
  • Flooring - Vacuum your floor, taking special care to vacuum your area rugs thoroughly. Area rugs can trap dirt underneath and within their fibers, so it’s important to clean them frequently. Good vacuuming helps extend the life of your rug by removing sand and dirt that act as sandpaper on fibers. As you vacuum, examine the rug for any spills or stains and remove them as you find them using recommendations from your rug’s manufacturer or a rug cleaning expert. A couple of times a year, take a few minutes to rotate your rug. This way you won’t end up with a worn area from foot traffic, and the rug will last longer.
  • Outside the door - If your room has an exterior door, be sure to end your cleaning there. A good quality doormat is essential to keeping a clean house, as you stop the dirt from entering the room. Shake your doormat and sweep outside your door to prevent tracking soil into your freshly cleaned room.

Lea Schneider is a professional home organization expert who provides maintenance advice on cleaning and other organizational topics for The Home Depot. Lea's tips on achieving a complete top-to-bottom cleaning, from ceilings to rugs and carpeting, are designed to help keep your house in top shape all year round. If you are researching rugs for your home, you can review Home Depot's selection here.

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