How to speed clean your home

It happens to the best of us. Guests, or worse still, a silently judgemental relative is “popping in” and doing it soon.

They’ve specifically told you not to go to any trouble, but you look round your friendly but definitely lived-in house and think: “*******! (insert your favourite rude word here). I’m going to have to clean. And tidy.” But what can you do before the guests arrive? 

Lots, as it turns out...

Speed clean your home image

1. Have your kit ready

When a Formula One racing car screams into the pits for a quick once-over, the pit crew doesn’t say “I’m sure we had a tyre here somewhere; where did you put it Nigel?”; no, they have all the kit to hand.

Similarly, your attempt at speed cleaning / tidying will fail if it takes you ages to get your tools and supplies together. Have them all ready in a portable cleaning box, the domestic god/goddess’s equivalent of a tool box.

If you can instantly put your hands on your cleaning stuff, you won’t lose time and motivation searching for a duster.

2. Turn on the entertainment

It’s not just about creating the illusion of fun; music makes you work more quickly too. Professional house cleaners will often have an iPod or phone equivalent amongst their essential supplies.

But if there really IS someone coming round soon, make sure you’ll still be able to hear the doorbell.

3. Make each room a grid

Break it up into, say, four squares as you face the room from the door, with square one being the far corner, and square four being the square next to the door.

Tidy and clean logically from square one to four; that way you’re less likely to miss anything. You might even want a “high” and “low” for each square, so you don’t miss smear-y mirrors or ceiling cobwebs.

4. Go from top to bottom

If you’re really going for a room where you could happily eat off the top of the door (although you might need taller chairs) then do the floors last.  

You clean downwards, brushing everything onto the carpet, and then cleaning that. That way you’re not shaking down those ceiling cobwebs (see 3) onto a carpet that you’ve already vacuumed.

5. Go for details

The smallest task can be important, like straightening a pile of magazines on a coffee table, emptying a waste paper bin or folding a spare blanket in a bedroom.

When you’re speed cleaning, it’s unlikely you’ll need to do the whole house, unless you’re expecting a police search.  Focus on the rooms the guests will actually see, starting with whatever your least favourite room is.

Get your hotel head on, and ask yourself what would irk you if this was a hotel room.

Bare surfaces are always impressive, whatever the room.

Throw the curtains wide if it’s daytime.

Open the windows to get some air in; stuffy feels dirtier.

Next, we’re looking at individual rooms, with timing guidelines. Set a timer and allocate a few minutes to each task...

6. Living/Dining room tips – 8-10 minutes

The living areas are often clutter buckets, so be logical about the clutter (going from square one to four, remember?)

Get a basket or box and quickly dump all your bits and bobs into it – gadgets, toys, papers, bills and remotes. Stick everything in and worry about it later.

Storage containers are your friend, with a lid or a folded blanket on top so you can’t see the junk inside. If you’re really short on time, hide stuff behind the settee (don’t judge us) or rush clutter, ironing etc. into your bedroom.

Bin past-their-best flowers, pot plants etc. Do the floor last.

Lastly, spray a bit of furniture polish on your radiators. The heat will rise, spreading the fresh smell of polish around the house and making it seem like you’ve been hard at work with the duster!

7. Kitchen tips – 8-15 minutes

Do the dishes, for pity’s sake. There’s nothing worse than crusty cornflakes and last night’s lasagne remnants sat in the sink. Give the sink and the draining board a good clean – if those areas look good it can create the illusion of cleanliness in the whole kitchen. Load the dishwasher if you’ve got one. If you’re really short on time and space, stick dishes in the oven, to clean later.

Spend a minute removing clutter from countertops. If you’ve got time, put items back where they actually should have been in the first place. If you haven’t, put everything in a box and deal with it later.

Have you suddenly noticed unidentifiable gunk on a surface? Scrape it off with a credit card.

Clean all the counters and wipe the fridge, dishwasher etc. with a damp cloth that smells of something nice. Wondering what that smell is? It’s probably the bin – so take 30 seconds to empty it and quickly squirt some deodorising spray inside.

Again, do the floor last – sweeping is quicker than mopping – working your way out of the door. We’re talking a quick 30 second sweep here, not a deep clean.

8. Bathroom tips – 10-12 minutes

If you’ve got a downstairs cloakroom, the chances are that your guests won’t be visiting your bathroom so don’t make work for yourself by cleaning the bath and shower.

Just stick some nice smelling toilet cleaner in the downstairs loo, give it a quick scrub with the toilet brush, then flush. Next, spray a microfibre cloth with all-purpose spray and wipe down the bits of the sanitary ware that look a bit grubby. Make sure there is some hand wash or soap available and a clean towel for your guests.

If your guests are going to be using your main bathroom, spend a bit of extra time quickly wiping over the bath and sink, using some fresh smelling spray. If you have lots of half-empty shampoo bottles, chuck them in the bin or store them in a cupboard to keep them out of the way.

Mirrors always give away tell-tale signs of smears and water marks, so quickly spray some glass cleaner on them and wipe in circular motions with a microfiber cloth.

Make sure the towels are sitting straight and check you’ve stashed all those personal items well out of eyesight!

9. Bedroom tips

Shut the door! Your guests don’t need to go in there. Dump all the junk you don’t have time to find space for in your bedroom and then keep it off limits for guests.

10. You’ve just been reading

And finally, aim to finish five minutes BEFORE your short-notice guest is due to arrive. Unless it’s your best mate and you can laugh about it, it’s not cool to answer the door in rubber gloves, with the sound of the vac still fading in the background.  

So you haven’t just been cleaning. Oh no; not you. You’ve been reading that book, look, left hurriedly on the sofa...Oh, hold on...Oh that an old copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?  Awkward.