How to clean for company in less than 30 minutes

Although you may not be able to deep-clean every time you have company, you can get your house looking guest-ready in about half an hour with the following tips from cleaning and organizing experts.

Start with high-traffic areas

If time is limited, be strategic about where you focus your efforts. Start with the high-traffic areas most likely to be seen by company: the guest bathroom, kitchen and living room.

“In the bathroom, wipe down the counters, shine the mirrors and clean the toilet. If you have products on the counter, find a place to store them. When you only have a few minutes, a clutter-free room looks cleaner, even if it’s not,” she says. “In the kitchen, wipe down counters, load the dishwasher and sweep the floors. For living room spaces, sweep or vacuum floors and dust surfaces.”

To save time, Holderman suggests using a paper towel to apply a thin layer of baby oil to stainless-steel surfaces to remove streaks quickly. For other surfaces, she says, dishwashing soap with a degreasing agent is an ideal quick-cleaning solution. Add a few drops of dish soap to a warm, wet washcloth to remove soap residue in bathrooms and stubborn greasy spots in kitchens.

Even if your house looks clean, foul odors from sources such as a dirty litter box or food waste in the trash can ruin a first impression. Resist the urge to reach for the spray deodorizer, though, Holderman says.

“Most deodorizers mask the odors without eliminating them,” she says. “Additionally, these can be unsafe, because spray droplets are large and can be inhaled.” This could cause breathing issues for someone with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Instead, Holderman recommends removing potential sources of odor. Take out the trash in the kitchen and bathrooms, empty litter boxes and remove dirty shoes or other smelly items from the entryway.

Once the odor-causing culprits are removed, Jamie Novak, a professional organizer and author of “Keep This Toss That,” says you can light a candle or, for a more natural scent, fill a pot with water, add cinnamon sticks or a few slices of lemon, and let it simmer on low. Be sure to set a timer, so you don’t forget to turn the burner off.

Tame kids’ messes and other clutter

In those last few minutes before your guests arrive, turn your attention to children’s toys and games, as well as general clutter. If you have children who are old enough to help clean up, Novak suggests delegating this task to them.

“You can disguise the mess by scooping everything into a basket and covering it with a folded throw blanket,” she says. “Or you can involve the children by turning the chore of cleaning into a quick game. Set a timer and challenge the children to see how many items they can put away before the buzzer rings.”

Focus on areas guests will see or use, Novak says. Stash mail or loose papers in a drawer, relocate personal items to bedrooms, and straighten up remotes or other items on your coffee table.

Skip the bedrooms and office

Sidney Young, a professional organizer and owner of Need Organizing, a home-organization service in Iowa, says there are some rooms you can safely skip, especially if guests are only coming for a brief visit.

“There can be a lot of stress and anxiety that comes with unexpected visits and having to clean up your space last-minute, so the less you have to do, the better,” Young says. “Laundry rooms, bedrooms and offices, and any room you won’t be going in can be safely skipped, but make sure those doors are all closed. A closed door can automatically help create a clean living space, and it means less work for you.”

And if you can’t get everything done, being transparent with your guests about your limited time to prepare will probably garner a supportive response.

“Stay focused and work on the small space guests will use and don’t get sidetracked into cleaning things that do not matter,” Novak says. “Set realistic goals and remember your company is coming to spend time with you, not to inspect your home.”

Mariette Williams is a freelance writer living in Florida.

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