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The All-purpose Guide To Clean

So, I come home from work at 5:20 p.m., and my wife will be pulling up in another 10 to 20 minutes. We have guests arriving within an hour to an hour and a half, and we have to make a nice sit-down meal and clean the house. Cleaning the house always falls to me; if you want me to cook, you are going to get a dinner that consists of frozen French fries, a bag of potato chips and a bowl of cereal as an appetizer.

How do I clean a next-to-destroyed house in under an hour? How do I get that deep polish shine? Well, strap on your latex gloves and push the print button on your keyboard, because this little article is going on your fridge. The three biblical laws:

Be prepared to hide a lot—Remember what you learned as a kid when you cleaned your room. “If it can’t be seen, it must be clean.” You have two gold mines of hiding space—the first is the dishwasher. Don’t even bother cleaning dishes and pots and pans—just throw it all in the dishwasher. You don’t even need to limit it to kitchen items. I once threw a messy stack of bills and paperwork from my kitchen table onto the top rack.

Your other hiding place is the bedroom; for some of you, it could be the upstairs floor. Just start carrying everything into your bedroom: books, boxes, clothes, pizza you were saving, weird furniture you don’t want to explain—anything!

Have products on hand—They say that you are only as powerful as your tools; this is especially true in house cleaning. Even as a bachelor, I had all the essentials: things for bathrooms, floors, counters and dishes. (Of course, you can take a tip from My Big Fat Greek Wedding and just buy a lot of window cleaner!)

Don’t skimp on the bathroom—This is where you spend most of your time cleaning, next to your kitchen countertops. Your guests will always use your bathroom, so it should look and smell immaculate. I use a really strong cleaner or bleach. Your guests should feel as if they could perform open-heart surgery in there.

All right, you got the basics. Now let’s tackle the order of service:

Kitchen first. Whoever is cooking (it may even be you) needs you out of their way, so you need to get the kitchen ready as fast as possible. Don’t worry about the big things. Just put food away, clean countertops and stovetops well and place things in the dishwasher (see above). If you are also preparing dinner, once you finish the kitchen, start cooking—but make sure you are preparing something you can walk away from a lot.

Now, throw away all the trash in the house—systematically go from room to room and pick up all the old paper, magazines, caution tape and junk you have been saving for a rainy day. Don’t stop at the trash can—empty the indoor trash cans and replace the liners.

Move to the bathroom—start from the top and work your way down. Clean the mirrors, the countertops, the sink, the toilet and then the floor. Use a strong-smelling product and get every corner and random hair. If you have towels in there—pull them out and replace them with clean ones.

You should be 30 minutes into your cleaning by now.

Start running through and picking up the odds and ends and rushing them into your bedroom. Guests don’t ever ask to see that room.

A good thing to be thinking is: “multitask.” As you move from room to room, what can you carry with you, throw away or hide? You only have a few things left to do, and they need to be done in this order: dust, vacuum and spray.

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Dust all of your big wood items: tables, counters, chairs and TV stands. No, you don’t need to move Hummel figurines and snow globes—you don’t have that kind of time. Once the dust has settled (ha-ha), bust out the vacuum or broom and tackle the floor space. (Don’t worry about the kitchen floor at this time.) Once you are finished, run through the house and spray “breezy” air freshener on absorbent items like couches, chairs, curtains and ceiling fans.

If you have an extra two minutes, jump in the shower and change your clothes. Always clean the house and then your body—never in reverse. Your guests will be here any minute, so do some final touches, put on some music or light a candle and help set the table. If the dinner is done, grab the pots and pans and throw them in the dishwasher (or if it is full, carry them out to the garage or storage closet). Quickly wipe down the countertops again, replace the dishrags and hide the cleaning supplies.

The last thing you should do is clean the kitchen floor. The fastest way to do this is with a wet rag with some cleaner on it—just drop it on the floor and start moving it around with your foot.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand time’s up!

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