9 Expert Tips for Cleaning Your House FAST Before Company Arrives

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You let your house go a little, planning to clean the clutter tomorrow, when suddenly, you discover that you have unexpected guests coming over in the next hour! We've all been there, and while cleaning that much mess that quickly may seem hopeless, it is possible to make your home look presentable before your visitors arrive — as long as you use your time and energy efficiently.


We spoke with experts in the psychology and cleaning fields to find out what your visitors will first notice when they visit your home and how to make those areas look their best when you don't have time to deep clean. Follow these tips to clean your house in under an hour.

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Meet the Experts

  • Sarah Chotkowski, a psychotherapist at The Pomegranate Institute, specializing in working with high achievers with secret self-destructive behaviors.
  • Dr. Masica Jordan Alston, a mental health expert, licensed counseling psychologist, addiction professor at University of Maryland’s Bowie State University, and CEO of Jordan Peer Recovery.
  • Sara San Angelo, a professional house cleaner and the blogger behind Confessions of a Cleaning Lady.
  • Angela Lee, a cleaning expert and content writer at Hellamaid.

1. Don’t Stress Out

Freaking out and feeling overwhelmed won't help clean your house, so take a deep breath and tell yourself you can do this. "No one is scrutinizing the cleanliness of your home more than you," Chotkowski tells Hunker, noting that the "spotlight effect" leads people to believe that they are being judged by others far more than they actually are. "When it comes to our homes, we know where all the bodies are buried," she says, adding, "We know what is the dirtiest, and we are hyperaware of this and expect visitors to not only find this spot but make a critical comment about it."

2. Make a Plan

Accept that you can't make your entire home spotless in such a limited amount of time and then focus on what really needs cleaning. When her patients find themselves in such a situation, Chotkowski asks them two questions to help them prioritize their cleaning tasks: "What can you clean fastest?" and "What would be the most embarrassing thing a guest could discover?" She says that for most of her patients, the fastest task is decluttering, while the things with the highest potential to embarrass them are a dirty toilet bowl and a nasty kitchen counter.


Consider where your houseguests will spend the most time and which areas you can close off to visitors. For example, most people entertain in the living room or kitchen, so these are typically the areas where you should focus your efforts. On the other hand, it's common for hosts to shut off their bedrooms, kids' rooms, primary bathrooms, and closets when company comes over, so you can wait until later to clean these areas. Always include the guest bathroom in your list of things to clean.


When planning where to focus your cleaning efforts, also consider your guests' interests. As Dr. Jordan Alston tells Hunker, "From a psychology perspective, visitors may be more likely to notice areas of a home that are relevant to their own values and interests." So, for example, while it may not normally make sense to dust your bookshelf for visitors, if you have a bookworm coming and you know they are likely to check out your hardback collection, you may want to clean your bookshelf before they arrive.



3. Tackle the Clutter

Clearing clutter is an essential first step in cleaning, as it helps you locate surfaces that need to be wiped down, vacuumed, or mopped. Aside from making way for your other cleaning tasks, just putting away clutter immediately makes your home look cleaner. "From a neuroscience perspective, clutter and disorganization can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety, as they can overstimulate the brain and make it more difficult to focus," says Dr. Jordan Alston. "In contrast," she adds, "a clean and organized space can help promote a sense of calm and reduce stress levels."


Stack your piles of mail and other paperwork and stash them in another room or in a letter organizer so you can go through it all later. Next, take an empty laundry basket and use it to collect all the clutter around the areas your guests will visit, including personal products on the bathroom counter. "Don't worry about putting it all away; you can do that later," San Angelo tells Hunker. "Just fill the basket with things that don't belong and stick it in a closet."


4. Ditch the Dirty Dishes

Treat dirty dishes in your sink like clutter by quickly placing them in the dishwasher, even if you don't have the time to scrape or sort them first. "If you don't have a dishwasher," says San Angelo, "get another laundry basket and throw those babies in there! Stick [the basket filled with dishes] in a room or closet no one will go in." To avoid a stinky, disgusting mess later, don't forget to wash the dishes after your guests leave.


Of course, if you will likely need some of your dirty dishes to serve your guests, then you'll have to wash at least a few of them. Just avoid washing more dishes than necessary so you can focus your time on cleaning other messes.

5. Wipe Down Flat Surfaces

When taking in the appearance of a room, people tend to notice things at eye level the most. Once you've cleared away clutter, clean the counters and tables in your kitchen, living room, and bathroom since these surfaces will be at your guests' eye level when walking around and sitting down. Use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe down these surfaces, Lee tells Hunker, as these cloths "are great for quickly cleaning surfaces without leaving streaks or lint behind." As for cleaning products, Lee recommends using an all-purpose cleaner, which "can help you quickly clean surfaces like countertops, tables, and appliances." Of course, always choose a product safe for your countertop or tabletop's material.



After wiping down the bathroom counter, take a few seconds to clean your bathroom mirrors and the lid of your toilet tank since guests will likely also notice these surfaces when they use your restroom.

6. Scrub Your Toilet

Nothing screams gross like a dirty toilet bowl. While Chotkowski is right that your guests are unlikely to care if you have dust on your ceiling fan or some water splashes on your bathroom mirror, they will very well take notice if your toilet has brown rings and stains. After scrubbing the bowl, wipe the floor around the toilet as well.


7. Clean the Floor

While guests are less likely to notice your flooring than they are to notice eye-level details, they will still look down periodically to see where they are walking. Quickly vacuum your carpets and sweep and mop your tiles and hardwood, focusing more on removing visible debris than deep cleaning.

8. Check the Smell

Open your windows and doors to let in fresh air before your guests arrive and then take out the trash (including the bathroom trash) before your company arrives. Taking out the garbage will help eliminate unpleasant odors and ensure the cans don't get too full while your guests are still there. While disposing of your trash bags outside, take a few deep breaths of fresh air before entering your home and then sniff around inside to make sure your home smells how you want it to smell.

Although some people may be put off by air fresheners, incense, or essential oils, these can be beneficial if your house has a noxious odor. If you know any guests have allergies or sensitivities to air fresheners, skip using these products altogether or consider a natural alternative, like a lemon air freshener.

9. Remember to Focus

Don't forget that you have only a limited amount of time for cleaning, so don't get distracted by cleaning something no one will notice. Lee says you should "skip deep cleaning tasks, like scrubbing floors or dusting every corner of the room. Instead, focus on visible surfaces, like countertops and coffee tables."

Similarly, don't get bogged down trying to organize your untidy papers and putting every bit of clutter away where it belongs. If you finish cleaning before your guests arrive, it's fine to take the time to put things away in the right place so you'll have less to do later, but make your house and yourself ready for guests before tackling these more in-depth cleaning tasks.



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