One of my absolute least favorite jobs that has to be done around the house is cleaning the shutters – so much so that I put it on until the self-loathing kicks in when I see the dust-and-dirt-thickened slats. I used to climb through the job with a bottle of wet paper towels in one hand and a roll of dry paper towels in the other, but I have since been told that I have cleaned window curtains all wrong for all of these years.
I read some smart tips from six different sources online and went out to make each one work, adding some of my own customizations along the way and discovering the whole process of cleaning a set of Venetian (horizontal) window blinds on a window of moderate size took no more than 15 minutes. I was so happy with the results, I have ignored my blinds for months.
Can they use a do-over? Probably, but they are also not so covered in dirt to the extent that I am the subject of action. Your mileage can vary, depending on your level of dust tolerance and how much naturally settles on your windows to begin with. Remember that if you also plan to vacuum the room, do blinds and other vacuuming first and save hoovering for last. Here’s what I did.
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Pick up all your trash first
Of course, this can do not skip this step. Dust and dirt will rain down on clothes, paper or other objects on the floor under the window, even a fine layer. Put your things on the desk or bed, or better yet, put everything away.
If the blinds are really dirty, consider covering your face
The layer of raw on my blinds was light enough this time that I was not too worried about inhaling too many particles. You can help protect your lungs by giving oneor wrap your nose and mouth in a scarf – you can always throw it in the laundry when you’re done.
Clean dry, not wet
My biggest mistake has been trying to clean my blinds wet and then following up with dry paper towels. This creates a muddy mess that smears around dirt. Damp paper towels pick up a lot of the scum and seem to help dissolve some of the dust in hard-to-reach corners. But when they are first cleaned dry, the work went faster and more efficiently.
Here’s an exception: if your window curtains are very dirty, you may need an opposite action plan than the one I outline below, such as combinations of dish soap, vinegar and water solutions, or even take your blinds off the window and wash them in the tub. Wooden curtains may also need a more specialized treatment.
Secret weapon: Bring out the vacuum cleaner
Yes, you can use a duster or microfiber cloth (more below), but the breakthrough method for me has used the small dust mounts (the one with the brushes) on my vacuum cleaner. It does quick work with a task that normally takes me at least three times longer when I do it by hand.
Vacuum in all sizes can have such brackets, which clamp or spread on a rod or hose. Here are some of CNET’s favorites. does not have the bracket, but is good for sucking up dust particles that fall when you clean without effort on your part.
Clean in a zigzag pattern, one section at a time
The general recommendation is to angle blinds so that you start with the concave part first (the side that usually collects more dust) and move from top to bottom so that the dust falls down and you can sweep it up as you go.
This makes sense, but to reduce pacing back and forth as I took things line by line, I worked my way down vertical section by section, divided by the support strings that are the length of most blinds.
Select a page at the top right or top left. Starting with one vertical section at a time, vacuum the upper lamella in one direction, say from left to right. When you reach the end of the lamella, pull the vacuum down to the lamella below so that you start on the right side of the lamella and work your way to the left. When you are done with the second slat, drop the vacuum dust head down to the third and pick up on the left side. When you have finished one section, start again from the beginning of the next.
In the end, you follow a zigzag pattern that makes the work move quickly, from section to section.
Now do the other side
When you are done with one side, turn the bar to tilt the blinds in the other direction and do it again. The dust was lighter on this side, so I ended up breaking the “rules” and vacuumed each section from top to bottom, working my way in long sweeps. (But you get cosmic brownie points for doing it the “right” way.)
Microfiber, socks and vacuum cleaners also work
If you do not have a vacuum cleaner or a dust mount, or just prefer to use something else, microfiber cloth seems to be the most widely accepted method. You can also use a fluffy duster on a magic wand or a specialized tool, e.g., which has finger-like attachments to really get in there.
I saw some DIY suggestions for making your own blinds with rubber banding of sponges or microfiber cloths to the inside of a pair of kitchen rods (one on each side), clamping it over a blind and sliding it along to collect dust. Good! You can even stick your hand in a sock, but it seems to be more manual work than I like.
Remove the rest of the dirt
When I inspected the blinds in the light, I was satisfied with my efforts, but the dirt in and on the windowsill gnawed at me. I used the vacuum dust mount to suck in as many particles as possible. Then I went for the dry paper towel because old habits die hard and I do not feel like sacrificing a microfiber towel, then I used the damp paper towel to get into the corners and dissolve more dirt. Not a perfect technique, but I got enough to go on with my day.
Vacuum the floor and then clean the brushes
The last few steps are about using your standing, shop or hand-held vacuum to pick up the dust particles that hang on the floor, especially if you have the carpet. You can either shake or wipe off the brush in the dust mount over the garbage to clean them or throw the entire mount in the sink with some liquid hand wash soap like I did, to soak a little before rinsing and air drying.
Remove a load. You deserve it. I celebrated by writing this article while lying on the couch.
For more tips on housekeeping, learn the easy way to do it, keep and from defective fecal particles (gross).