Have Guests Coming? Here’s How to “Clean” Your Home in 30 Minutes or Less

Hosting a get-together comes with a lengthy to-do list, which makes it easy to drop the ball on cleaning your house. Never fear, we're sharing eight simple ways to fake a clean home.

woman doing chores in bathroom at homePhoto: Shutterstock / Diego Cervo
Photo: Shutterstock / Diego Cervo

There’s no place like home, which is probably why you volunteered to host everyone for the big game, your 4-year-old’s birthday party or Christmas dinner. But somewhere between finalizing the menu, peppering your space with decorations and keeping said 4-year-old occupied, your house ran amok. What’s worse: Your guests are due in any minute, yet your home is still covered in stains and clutter.

Never fear, dear reader. Here are eight shockingly simple ways to fake a clean home.

Have 5 minutes?

You need a clean house, and you need one fast. Fortunately, you can have a tidy space in minutes.

Straighten up…literally

Readjusting crooked towels and bathmats is probably not the first chore that comes to mind, but it does make a difference. Your counters could be covered in lotions and potions, but simply straightening your linens and accessories will portray you as an organized, detail-oriented host.

Pile away

You’ve got mail—a lot of it. Bills, mailers, maybe a note from Aunt Bea—you name it, it’s probably sitting on your counter. Your guests are on their way, so you have no time to sift through dozens of envelopes, but what you can do is put all your unopened mail into a neat stack. The mess is still there, but looks more orderly piled up. Have a bunch of magazines, books or journals around the house? Try stacking ’em up, too.

Have 10 minutes?

For when you have some extra time, but not a ton.

Flip the cushions

Forgot to clean that red wine stain from last month’s party? Unfortunately, you don’t have enough time to get your upholstery professionally cleaned—let alone try your luck with seltzer or baking soda (psstdid you know baking soda is the ultimate stain remover?). The good news is your furniture can still look like new. Most cushions are completely covered in fabric, so you can quickly flip them and no one will be any the wiser.

Keep in mind that this is just a temporary fix. Once your guests leave, you should flip your cushions back to normal and get them cleaned.

Wipe down the counters

Countertops smothered in the day’s menu items won’t make anyone feel welcome. Your cooking may still be underway, but wiping down your counters before your guests arrive will trick everyone into thinking you didn’t wait until the last minute to cook and clean.

Make it smell like home

The mere whiff of a lemon multipurpose cleaner is a dead giveaway that you waited until the last minute to tidy your house. Want your place to smell more like home and less like a sterile doctor’s office? Add some welcoming scents—and no, we don’t mean spritzing some room spray. Instead, light a few candles or boil cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and orange peels. It’ll remove any stench of cleaning supplies, plus the latter will smell just like delicious cider.

Have 15 minutes?

Sure, 15 minutes isn’t enough time to clean your house top to bottom, but you’ll make a considerable dent.

Consolidate the clutter

Cooking for a crowd requires a lot of time, energy and, yes, dishes. What’s a host to do when you have a stack of dirty dishes that won’t fit in your already-full washer and T-minus 10 minutes until party time? Stow your used utensils, cups and small bowls in a large stockpot, which will create the illusion of a clean—well, cleaner—kitchen. If you want to get a head start on your dishes, fill the stockpot with warm, soapy water.

FYI, this tip works for anything—and we mean anything. Whether you’re dealing with clothes, knickknacks or books, throwing all your clutter into a shopping bag or storage container and stashing it out of sight will make a huge difference.

Wipe away pet hair

Dog might be man’s best friend, but Fido’s excessive shedding is doing your home no favors. If you want to make sure your home is in pristine condition, grab some rubber gloves. When you wet the gloves’ fingers and brush them over the furniture, all that pesky hair will stick to the rubber. Yes, it’s that simple. And if all else fails–grab that lint roller and go to town.

If you find yourself with an extra minute or two, it never hurts to run the vacuum to reduce pet dander for friends and family who may be sensitive.

Have 30 minutes?

You have some extra time on your hands, so spend it cleaning the most important room in the house.

Clean your bathroom

Isn’t it ironic that you go to the bathroom to wash your hands, body and hair, yet it’s one of the dirtiest rooms in your home? Loose hair strands attach themselves to the tiled floor, the faucet is flecked with toothpaste, and your once pearly white toilet is now a questionable, dingy yellow.

A dirty bathroom can be uninviting to your guests, and since they’re almost guaranteed to see it during a visit, we suggest you make it a priority when you have 30 minutes to spare. Working top to bottom, dust your shelves, wipe down the faucet and sink, scrub the toilet bowl, and mop the floors. Finish it all off with fresh hand towels and a clean bath rug. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous chore, but someone’s gotta do it.

Now that you know how to clean your house fast, it’s time to pour a cocktail (or two) and enjoy the day. Your guests will be there any minute.

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Kelsey Mulvey
Kelsey Mulvey is a freelance writer and editor based in New York. Her hobbies include wine, nachos and the occasional hibachi dinner.