The prosecution: Maureen
He thinks it’s fine to just give things a quick once over with a dry cloth – but this is pointless
My husband of 23 years can’t dust to save his life. We have lived together since we were 27 but I’d never noticed how bad some of his cleaning techniques are until recently. I broke my ankle on a hike a month ago, and now Diarmuid has stepped up to do more of the housework.
Dusting just isn’t Diarmuid’s forte. He thinks it is fine to just give things a quick once-over with a dry cloth. I see this as totally pointless and a shortcut to creating more mess – you need to use a damp cloth to dust down items. A damp microfibre cloth is the best option as it attracts all the dust particles, removing them as you go, instead of simply shifting them around the room.
But he thinks a dry cloth is perfectly adequate. He was dusting the living room recently with a dry cloth. I could actually see the dust particles flying everywhere. I said: “Do you realize you’re making more work for yourself, Diarmuid?” but he told me he would be vacuuming afterwards so it didn’t make much difference.
But when he moved to dust our oakwood dining table, I pointed out that as well as making more mess, dry dusting scratches wooden surfaces; it can chip the finish. He said it wouldn’t make any difference and that I was overreacting. Our table cost £400 and I don’t want it scratched.
I normally enjoy dusting and other household chores. As a wife and mother running a house, I have perfected my techniques over the years. My methods are tried and tested. Diarmuid is very stuck in his ways for a novice. He also gets into a bit of a huff when I give instructions, as he’s not used to doing housework.
But now I can’t move around that well or put much weight on my ankle, I will have to carry on giving instructions from the armchair for another few months. And Diarmuid should listen to me because I know what I’m talking about. He wants to get a cleaner while I heal but I won’t have that. He just needs to up his dusting game – and make sure he doesn’t scratch anything.
The defence: Diarmuid
I dust first, and then vacuum everything up – why waste time wetting a cloth?
I’m a busy man. I don’t think too deeply about the dusting when I know that I’ll be vacuuming and mopping afterwards. It’s efficiency that concerns me. Why waste time wetting a cloth to collect the dust if I’m going to vacuum it up afterwards? It doesn’t make sense.
I’ve taken on more of the housework since Maureen injured her ankle. I don’t mind doing it, but I hate being watched and told off as I go. There’s nothing worse than a little voice behind you saying “Not like that” or “You’ve missed a bit”. It’s enough to make anyone snap, which admittedly I have done more than once.
Recently I was dusting with a dry cloth, with Maureen instructing me from the sofa. She got very irritated when watching my technique. She nearly started doing the cleaning herself, even though the doctor has told her to rest and not put pressure on her foot. She was upset that I was dry-dusting the expensive wooden table and our bookshelves because she says I could scratch something. I don’t believe this to be true – how can a soft cloth chip or scratch varnished wood? It’s impossible. But I’ve decided I want an easy life, so in the future I will refrain from doing that in front of her. Maureen also gets a bit annoyed when I ignore her, but if I’m doing a task, she has to let me get on with it.
Maureen is the authority on most housework because she’s always been in charge of it. I’ve worked in banking while she’s been a homemaker. I’m now retired and the kids are living elsewhere. We’ve found ourselves bickering more over small household chores now we are both at home. With Maureen’s injury I’m realizing how much time and skill housework actually takes, but dusting just isn’t for me. It’s tedious.
I think this could all be sorted if we simply got a cleaner, but Maureen is too proud to pay someone else to do something she’s always done well. When she’s not around I will probably dry-dust some of our items. I will leave the windows open and then vacuum afterwards. I don’t think it’s a big deal.
The jury of Guardian readers
Should Diarmuid do the dusting the way Maureen wants him to?
Maureen is guilty. She didn’t notice Diarmuid’s dusting technique until she was forced to sit and watch him, so the result couldn’t have been that bad. Diarmuid, buy one of those anti-static duster things.
Diarmuid’s done next to zero housework all these years and now he’s too obstinate to dampen a cloth and unwilling to learn anything from the person who’s diligently cleaned their home all these years. Grow up Diarmuid – and pray you haven’t scratched that table.
It must be tough for Maureen with a broken ankle, and with them both adjusting to retirement. But Diarmuid is not her employee of her and he may do things differently. Maureen should cut him some slack and stop studying his technique. Or call that cleaner!
It sounds like Maureen feels that Diarmuid’s cleaning style is undermining the care she’s put into their household over the years. Diarmuid shouldn’t have to do everything her way from her, but they should sit down and make a plan to divide up the household tasks more fairly once Maureen is back on her feet from her.
Maureen has done the cleaning a million times and perfected her technique. Diarmuid should respect that and listen to the expert. Hiring and managing a temporary cleaner would require more time and effort.
You be the judge
So now you can be the judge. In our online poll below, tell us: should Diarmuid adopt Penny’s dusting technique?
We’ll share the results on next week’s You be the judge.
The poll will close on 26 May at 9am BST
Last week’s result
We asked if Abi should take out the bin more often, as the smell annoys her partner Chioma.
20% of you said no – Abi is innocent
80% of you said yes – Abi is guilty
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism