Professional Organizers Share Their Ultimate Speed-Cleaning Routines
Originally appeared on Real Simple
Breaking your routine down to small chunks of time, setting a timer, and staying focused until you hear the “ding!” can help. To find the best strategies for maximizing every minute, we asked expert cleaners for their tried-and-true plans. This isn’t a deep-cleaning guide for those times when you’re ready to start scrubbing grout, but these are your go-to plans when time is tight. When an out-of-town friend stops by at the last minute, or you only have 30 minutes before your show starts, these are the routines that will get your space tidy in no time. Depending on how much time you have, choose from the 10-minute pre-guest tidy up, a 30-minute whole-house sprucing, or the 2-hour cleaning plan. Then, follow the printable checklists provided by our cleaning pros to make sure you stay on track—and finish on time.
If You Have 10 Minutes: It’s All About Tidying, Rather Than Cleaning
Sure, 10 minutes isn’t enough time to really clean your house, but for those moments when friends drop by unexpectedly or when you get home from a long day and simply can’t stand how messy your house looks, this 10-minute plan works wonders. Developed by Melissa Maker, the bestselling author of Clean My Space, the routine is effective for a couple key reasons. For one: it understands the difference between cleaning and tidying. You don’t have time for a deep scrub right now, so don’t even try—focus your energy on the main living areas and straightening highly visible spots. And second: it doesn’t give you enough time to get sidetracked. “Don’t let yourself get distracted while speed-cleaning—it is the quickest way to fall off track,” advises Maker.
If You Have 10 Minutes: Divide the Room
One of the biggest time-wasters when straightening up is that we tend to go back to the same spot multiple times. We find a misplaced item on one side of the room, and cross the room to put it back where it belongs, only to end up getting distracted by another out-of-place belonging, or a spill that needs cleaning, or dust that needs wiping. To make a speed-clean more efficient, Maker imagines dividing the room into a clock, with the door or sink at 12 o’clock. As she works, she moves around the room clockwise, guaranteeing that each area will only be visited a single time. When you arrive at each segment of the room, return any collected items that belong there, and save items that belong in another room for later.
If You Have 10 Minutes: Try This Action Plan
Let the six steps below guide you through your power clean. Before you get started, watch Maker demonstrate the technique on her YouTube channel.
- Set your timer for 10 minutes. Grab your supplies: a laundry basket, dampened cloth, lint roller, recycling bag, and garbage bag.
- Starting at 12 o’clock, pick up all items you can see that are not in their place. If they belong in the room, place them in the basket and pull them out when you reach that particular chunk of the room. If the item is garbage (or recycling), you know what to do. Anything that is out of place and belongs in another room can go in the laundry basket to be dealt with at a later point.
- Use the cloth to do any quick cleans. Wipe away a fingerprint, touch up a dust ring, remove a scuff mark on the wall.
- Line up all items parallel or perpendicular and straighten everything. So if you have stacks of paper, straighten them. If you have a lampshade tilted to one side, center it. These are the visual cues that everything is tidy.
- Take a moment to fold blankets, fluff pillows, and remove lint from the seats with a lint roller.
- Finish by throwing away all of the garbage and replacing all of the items in the basket (or place them in a room that won’t be visited and promise yourself you’ll deal with it later).
Reprinted from Clean My Space by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017, Melissa Maker.
If You Have 10 Minutes: Use These Pro-Approved Cleaning Tools
Glad ForceFlex Garbage Bags
When you’re running around the house, tossing out everything you no longer need, you’ll want a sturdy garbage bag that won’t break mid-cleaning session. Maker finds that these Glad bags are up to the challenge.
To buy: $18; jet.com.
Maker’s Clean Microfiber Cloths
Microfiber cloth not only creates fewer streaks than a regular cleaning cloth, but also its electrostatic energy attracts dirt and dust. According to Maker, a streak-free shine is also about knowing the right moves: “Never wipe in a circular motion, this just spreads the dirt around. Always use an S pattern to get the job done properly and efficiently.”
To buy: from $35 for the Small Space Kit; makersclean.com.
Homemade Cleaning Spray
Maker mixes up her own DIY cleaning spray by combining one teaspoon dish soap, two cups water, and about 20 drops of essential oil. Her favorite scents: thyme and refreshing citrus.
If You Have 30 Minutes: Target Specific Rooms
When your friend says she’s stopping by later that afternoon, this is the plan you pull out of your back pocket. A little more than just putting things away and wiping down surfaces, the routine involves vacuuming, cleaning mirrors, and replacing bathroom towels, too. Becky Rapinchuk, the blogger behind Clean Mama and the author of Simply Clean, literally wrote the book on how to keep your home clean by devoting just 10 minutes a day, so we knew her 30-minute routine wouldn’t waste a single second. The key to this uber-efficient method? It targets the areas you (and any last-minute guests) are most likely to notice, such as the main living area and bathroom. Then, relax and forget the rest (well, at least for right now).
If You Have 30 Minutes: Try This Action Plan
Follow the eight steps below to achieve the impossible: Tidy up your entire home in under half an hour. Visit Clean Mama to download the printable checklist—trust us, you’ll want to hang this on your fridge.
- Set a timer for 30 minutes.
- Start with a laundry basket and a garbage bag, collecting items that can be tossed in the bag and storing items that need to be relocated in the basket. When you’re done straightening, if you’re tight on time, you can hide the basket under the bed or in a closet and sort it out later.
- Using a feather duster, quickly dust all visible surfaces in the main living areas.
- Wipe down hard surfaces (sink, countertops, toilets) with an all-purpose spray and a microfiber cloth. Tip: Cleaning wipes can save you time by combining a cleanser and cloth in one.
- Wipe down mirrors. Don’t skip this step!
- Quickly vacuum, focusing on high-traffic areas and any visible dirt. Resist the urge to vacuum every nook and cranny.
- Fluff pillows and straighten throw blankets.
- As you make your final sweep, replace the kitchen and bathroom towels with clean ones. Phew—you made it!
If You Have 30 Minutes: Use These Pro-Approved Cleaning Tools
The first step of Rapinchuk’s time-saving plan is to always have your tools at the ready, so you won’t waste valuable time gathering them before a cleaning session. The essentials that can always be found in her cleaning arsenal? A feather duster, microfiber cloth, lint roller, all-purpose cleaner, cleaning wipes, and window cleaner. See below for her pro-approved picks.
Better Life All-Purpose Cleaner
This versatile cleaning spray may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tough. Use this spray to tackle everything from spills to scuff marks.
To buy: $7; cleanhappens.com.
Miele Upright Vacuum Cleaning
With a turbo brush for picking up fur and an odor-neutralizing air filter, this vacuum is ideal for pet owners.
To buy: $549; mieleusa.com.
Rapinchuk uses this bucket to corral sprays, brushes, and sponges. Plus, it’s almost too cute to hide inside your cleaning supplies cabinet.
To buy: $12; clean-mama-home.shopify.com.
If You Have 2 Hours: Create Time Limits for Tasks
When you’re trying to squeeze in a complete cleaning session as your child enjoys an extra-long nap, this is the routine to follow. You have enough time to do a little more than just fluff pillows, so use this step-by-step guide to get as much done as possible. The best part about this plan from Kaitlin Stearns at The Simply Organized Home is that each task has a recommended amount of time it should take to complete, so you won’t end up spending 30 minutes making one bed, only to leave 30 seconds for dusting. Download and print the free checklist so you can cross off each task as you work and feel good about the progress you’re making.
If You Have 2 Hours: Try This Action Plan
Set a timer, put on some fun music or an audiobook, and you’re ready to jam. You don’t have to set a timer for each specific task on the checklist, but use the timeline as a general guide.
5 minutes: Strip the beds and put the dirty sheets into the washing machine.
5 minutes: Grab a laundry basket. Go through your entire house and grab anything that doesn’t belong in each room. Don’t spend time organizing—just put them away as quickly as possible.
15 minutes: Clean up the kitchen. Collect all of the dirty dishes, load the dishwasher, hand wash any pots and pans, put away clean dishes, and wipe down the sink and countertops.
10 minutes: Quickly vacuum all of the floors in your home.
10 minutes: Quickly mop your hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring.
10 minutes: Grab an all-purpose cleaner and wipe down the bathrooms. Start with mirrors, countertops, and faucets, then scrub the toilets. Close the shower curtain and add a fresh hand towel. Make sure the toilet paper is stocked and the hand soap is refilled.
5 minutes: Gather all dirty laundry and sort it into two piles: towels and clothes. Switch the sheets to the dryer, and start a load of clothes.
10 minutes: Put away the items you collected in the laundry basket at the beginning.
15 minutes: Grab some wood cleaning spray, and starting at one end of your home, quickly dust all of the wooden surfaces in your home. Don’t be too picky. Remember, this is a quick clean.
10 minutes: Pick up some window cleaner and starting at one end of your home, quickly clean all of the glass surfaces.
10 minutes: Unload the sheets from the dryer and add the clothes. Start a load of towels in the washer. Go make all of the beds with the clean sheets.
5 minutes: Light a candle, grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up, and enjoy your clean home! (Just don’t forget to switch out the laundry when it finishes!)
If You Have 2 Hours: Use These Pro-Approved Cleaning Tools
A speed-clean requires the right tools—and the right mindset. Combine an energizing playlist with hard-working supplies and you’ll be surprised how much you can get done in two hours.
A Good Audiobook
The most important part is to stay focused. Listening to something that makes you feel engaged and energized can help. “I just finished listening to Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup and highly recommend it,” says Stearns. “I really enjoy listening to books about organization and simple living while I’m doing work around my home as it inspires me to get the job done!”
To buy: Try one month free ($15 per month); audible.com.
Stearns loves that the Shark Navigator works on all types of flooring—hardwood, linoleum, and tile. Plus, it’s compact, easily portable, and affordable.
To buy: $180; amazon.com.
Method Wood for Good Polish
The wooden surfaces in your home deserve more than a generic spray cleaner. “A lot of the wooden furniture in our home are pieces built by my husband, so I want to take very good care of them,” she explains. This natural cleaner removes dirt and dust, while the wax-free formula polishes wood without leaving a residue.
To buy: $10; amazon.com.
“I’ve tried several other mops that fall apart in a matter of months. My Turbo Mop still works just as well as it did when I started using it nine months ago,” she says.
To buy: $30; amazon.com.