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Stew Cues: Dusting not just for surfaces; it also scrubs the air you breathe


Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan

As comedian George Carlin once said, “Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting is established.” How true.

Dusting is just one of those things that stews do. Every. Single. Day. Somewhere on the boat dust is accumulating, and it’s our job to find it and remove it. Dust emerges at different times, depending on how the light strikes surfaces, so don’t be annoyed if dusting is required throughout the day. 

Dusting keeps surfaces clean, but just as importantly, it improves air quality. Every particle removed is one that didn’t make it into our lungs. Dust is made up of bits of soil, fibers, skin we shed, exhaust soot, bacteria, pollen and mold. Since it gets circulated through the air conditioning system, keeping air handlers, filters and vents clean is the first step in dust control. Regular maintenance is a priority that is usually scheduled monthly. 

For the nitty-gritty of dusting, follow a routine and use the right tools. Dust-vacuuming is a popular technique that prevents dust from falling from top to bottom. Almost everything can be vacuumed with proper care. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and the right attachments collects and holds dust. Upholstery, drapes and carpets stay fresh when particles can’t escape back into the air. Vacuum hard floors before mopping to remove dust particles that could scratch the surface.

Always work from the top down, and in a spiral direction to cover all corners and moldings, tops of doors, frames, flat surfaces and counters, shelves, light fixtures, books, and finally baseboards. 

All dusting products should pick up dust, not spread it around. Electrostatic or microfiber cloths use static electricity to attract and hold particles. They can be attached to an extendable telescoping duster to remove particles from high spots. Terry cloth is highly absorbent and ideal for damp cleaning and wiping up spills. Flour sack cloths dry and buff without leaving lint behind. A lambswool duster attracts and holds dust and is perfect for walls and baseboards. Soft paint or makeup brushes are safe for dusting delicate items and collectibles. Cotton buds can reach detailed areas of intricate objects and surfaces. 

Television and computer screens need frequent upkeep and should be treated with care. Electronic items come with specific wipes or soft microfiber cloths. To be safe, use the cloth that came with the machine, and no sprays or chemicals. For heavy grime or oily smudges, dust with a clean dry cloth, then wipe with warm water and a drop or two of dish soap.  Follow with a fresh damp cloth, then dry gently and buff. 

Care for tools properly to make them last. Wash microfibers separately in warm water with mild detergent, otherwise lint from cotton clings to them. Launder terry cloth and flour sack items separately to avoid lint. Wash galley rags separately from cleaning cloths to avoid contaminating them with cooking grease. Don’t use fabric softener because the film it deposits leaves cleaning cloths useless. Never put engine room or deck cleaning rags in with cleaning cloths. Vacuum lambswool dusters regularly and wash in a mild soap solution from time to time. Air dry on a towel, then fluff when completely dry to restore fullness. Clean vacuum cleaners and change bags regularly.

Constant dusting, cleaning and tidying up is part of the daily routine. Deep detail cleaning is a project, and certain things need to be done weekly or monthly. Cleaning and dusting gives a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. For some, it’s a way to calm the mind. Cleaning can create camaraderie and boost team morale. It can also come with the reward of extra time off. A clean boat is a happy boat.

Alene Keenan is former lead instructor of interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale. She shares more than 20 years experience as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht,” available at Comments are welcome below.

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