Feathers Dusters are NOT Obsolete!

One of the most common questions I am asked when I sit down with a distributor is  – “given all the technology, why would anyone still use a feather duster?”

Questions are a great starting point for a conversation, and this is truly one of my favorites.  So why indeed?

As I wrote in my last post, there is no single duster that is ideal for every dusting job.  Similarly, with all the different types of dusters – and the materials used to manufacture them – there are advantages to them all.  The Feather Duster is a great example.

First, let’s keep in mind that feathers are a natural product, and are an important component of the ecosystem.  They come in many different grades and sizes, which make them suitable and favored for different applications.

Second,  with many natural products, and with particular reference to ostrich feathers, they have proven themselves for decades, if not centuries, for being effective for cleaning. We sometimes look for the next, best thing for cleaning, when the best is staring us right in the face.

Why do feather dusters really work?

But what specifically does the feather duster offer, and what sets it apart from other dusting products?  There are two elements to the feather to discuss here: the properties of the feather plume itself, and the quill.

If you look closely at the plume you will see tiny hairs, or barbs, that effectively grab dust and hold it till shaken free.  The feathers are also exceptionally soft so they will not damage surfaces.  The feathers generally are available in three different qualities; Black – male feathers, that are exceptionally soft; Grey (or Drab) – female, that are also very soft; and Chick  – immature feathers – brownish in color, and not quite as soft or as consistent in quality.  All are effective, though as a general rule, the softer and more consistent the better.

A close look at an ostrich feather duster.

A really close look at an ostrich feather. Notice the tiny barbs on the ends of the feather.

The quill is the real secret behind the value of an ostrich feather for dusting. It is long, and flexible, which permits the cleaner to reach into tight spots, and to dust and dust around delicate objects without handling them.  This makes them perfect for home cleaners (why risk breaking glass and other valuable objects), as well as for gift shops, supermarkets, liquor stores, convenience stores…well you get the idea.There is simply no other product that offers this advantage.

Now, a final word on how to dust.

An ostrich feather duster doing what it does best!

I am  amused (and a little annoyed) by the commercials for Swiffer (the product that encourages you to throw your money away).  For the record, that is not how to use a feather duster (and I dare say that if you used a Swiffer like that, it would scatter dust around as well).

The technique is quite simple;use controlled movements without waving the feathers about with exaggerated motions. Use a smooth, swiping movement, as if you were painting (or putting barbeque sauce on your spare ribs). And always dust from top to bottom.  When a surface has been dusted, gently release the dust by tapping on the side of a garbage bin.

One last thought; ostrich feather dusters can be a little fragile, particularly if moths get in them and lay eggs.  We do recommend storing your feather duster with moth balls.  They can be washed with sudsy water to keep them clean between uses.  Treat it kindly, and it will last for years.

Visit Lambskin Specialties at the ISSA Show in Chicago, October 17-19th,  Booth 1248, to see our complete selection of dusters and cleaning accessories.

See you next time.