Your Guide to How to Clean House Fast

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This is when I need to clean the house fast.

My daughter comes downstairs on Saturday afternoon and says, “Nate is coming over at 2:30”.

That’s an hour away and the house is a disaster. It’s a three hours to clean it kind of disaster. That’s not going to work.

I need FAST and efficient.

It can be done; I know how to clean the house fast.

I’m going to go step by step through how I do it and I’m also going to give you a strong warning on the one element of this process that is a TERRIBLE idea.

How to Clean House Fast When You Have An Hour to Do It Or Deal With the Embarrassment

First thing you need to do is take a breath. My immediate reaction to this scenario where a guest is coming over and the house is a mess is to go into full aggravated mode and starting snipping at everyone about how NO ONE HELPS!

That’s not going to get you anywhere. That’s a battle for another time when you actually have time.

Gather Your Supplies

Next you’re going to grab your emergency supplies. They include:

  • A trash bag
  • A basket for junk that is left out and isn’t where it belongs
  • A laundry bag for clothes that are strewn about
  • A spray bottle with an all purpose cleaner in it
  • A microfiber cloth
  • A bottle of Febreze or an awesome candle if there are smells to contend with
  • Cordless vac

Start in the Living Space You and Your Guest Will Be Spending Time

Normally I always start in the kitchen, but for emergency cleaning purposes, I start in the room where the guest is most likely to be spending the most time and then I immediately do the bathroom RIGHT after that.

light gray couch with a coffee table and

The rationale is, if the kitchen is like a little messy, but you aren’t going to be spending time in there, then you can give it a quick swipe at the end and just hope your guest chills in the family room for the most part.

(This is highly dependent on the guest. “Nate” spends time in the kitchen with Sophia making grilled cheeses and ALSO a lot of time in the Family Room, so he is a difficult case and requires me to really focus on both of those rooms).

Second room is ALWAYS the bathroom for emergency cleaning. That’s not a place it’s acceptable to allow a guest to enter if it isn’t clean. And it’s not like you can say, sorry, you can’t use the bathroom while you are here.

So, high priority goes to bathroom. I’d venture to say that if you don’t have time to clean the bathroom, you should not have a guest over. Hopefully you’ve got some type of a daily & weekly schedule down so that you don’t have to worry about the bathroom being crazy dirty.

So what are the priorities in each of these rooms?

They need to be trash free, somewhat tidy, not sticky and not smelly. This is where you start with your tools.

Use the trash bag to toss any trash that is in the room. If you don’t have any trash in the room, well good for you, but the rest of us live complicated lives and sometimes we don’t get to EVERY SINGLE THING every day.

Next up, you’re looking for stray clothing. Toss them in the laundry basket.

Now on to your basket. If there are things out and about in this room that do not belong (basketballs, sneakers, games, dog toys, whatever) toss them in the basket. (This basket can be a major problem. We’ll talk about it later.)

Now you’ve got do some spot cleaning with the all purpose cleaner and the microfiber towel. When I say all purpose, I mean that you will spray this from windows, to sofas to coffee tables to tv screen without giving a thought to whether or not any of these things will be harmed, so choose carefully here.

Something mild that can go on any surface.

First, brush any crumbs or dirt onto the ground (we’ll get those in a second). Then hit any sticky or dirty spots with the spray and wipe.

We’re not going for glorious streak free windows here, we’re going for acceptable for a casual guest.

Don’t forget to spot check the floors. You don’t have time to wash the whole floor but if there are any glaring problems, tackle those.

Now grab your cordless vac (if you don’t have one, broom and dust pan, but it’s going to slow you down) and give the floor a quick vacuum.

Fluff your pillows and throw the blanket over the end of the couch for that casual “This is how we live every day, there was not a mess here 20 minutes ago” look.

Finish with a spritz of Febreze or a lighted candle.

On to The Bathroom

How to Clean House Fast - Bathroom

The bathroom is one of those spaces that you feel like is going to take forever to clean, but it really doesn’t, especially if this is your guest bath.

First, clear the counters as well as you can. You probably aren’t going to need to move anything out of this room, so your “junk” basket hopefully isn’t needed. Just move the junk on the sink into drawers or cabinets or wherever they are out of site.

(If your guest is rude enough to open your bathroom cabinets and is presented with a mess, that’s their own problem).

Spray down the sink, the toilet and mirror with your all purpose cleaner and wipe til dry.

Swish the inside of the toilet. Give it a spray of cleaner, too, if needed.

Empty the trash.

Spritz the floor around the toilet and anywhere else that needs a spot cleaning and wipe with another microfiber cloth (toss that immediately to the laundry pile, because, gross).


Now you can tackle the other rooms. The ones that they might “see” but probably won’t spend a lot of time in.

Start with your trash bag and do a quick run through the kitchen/dining room/living room/whatever room and get rid of trash.

Next your laundry basket. Do a quick scan for discarded socks, sweatshirts, whatever. This is a fun one in my house because the dog steals clothes from bedrooms and leaves them everywhere.

Ok, your junk basket (that evil junk basket) is next. Anything that is GLARINGLY out of place, throw it in the junk basket.

Back to the kitchen. Grab a dry paper towel or microfiber cloth and sweep all of the crumbs or whatever on to the floor (repeat in the other rooms if you have crumbs in other rooms of your house). Spritz your counters and wipe them down.

Vacuum up the crumbs you just tossed on the floor.

Quickly spot clean the floors as needed. You DON’T have time to clean the whole floor, so just do your best.

Sit down and have a glass of water. Or coffee. Or wine. Because you should be in good enough shape at this point for a guest to not feel uncomfortable. If you have a few spare minutes and the dishes need to go in the dishwasher, tackle those.

Ok, But What About the Evil Junk Basket?

You’ve tidied and cleaned as quickly and efficiently as possible in the time that you were allowed.

woman holding a basket of laundry
Picture of displeased irritated woman 20s carrying laundry basket with dirty clothing isolated over blue background

A BIG reason you were able to get so much done so quickly is because you used the junk basket.

What is in your junk basket? Mine usually have cups/plates/half empty potato chip bags/Games/Backpacks/Notebooks… it’s a myriad of crap.

And now it’s all in a basket.

And you are exhausted because you just did a cleaning spree AND then immediately entertained a guest and now you just want to sit and watch Netflix with your wine.

But, that basket.

That basket needs emptying. Don’t wait on it. Do it asap. Because if you don’t, that basket will take on a life of it’s own.

Next time you need the basket, it will still be full. So what do you do?

Well you grab a different basket, right? Fill that one right up!

Until eventually EVERYTHING is in a random basket.

So, when the guest has left, do future you a favor and set a timer for 15 minutes and put all that crap away where it belongs before you sit down and REALLY enjoy your Netflix and wine.

You’ll thank me. Probably out loud after your second glass of wine.

You’re welcome.

Hurry Up and Go Clean! They’ll Be Here Any Minute!

If you need more speed cleaning ideas, though, we got you covered. If you want to procrastinate for like, 10 more minutes.

Might as well challenge yourself to see just how much you can do in as little time as possible, right?

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