And by “how to fake a clean house,” we mean, “how to actually clean the most high impact areas in a blind panic when you have fifteen minutes or fewer.”
First impressions count, so tidy boots and three weeks accumulation of mail by the front door, and clean any dog nose art/let-me-in paw prints from the glass.
Universal truth: given a choice, everyone hangs out in the kitchen, and if they’re having a great time, they’ll stay long enough to need the facilities. Clean shiny (aka, eye catching) surfaces first: relevant (and only relevant) windows, stainless steel kitchen appliances, sink and fixtures, and mirrors. Sparkle makes a whole room look better.
The key to efficiency here (time is money, people!) is to be prepared. Have two outstanding “all purpose” cleaning products plus a microfiber cloth and a roll of high quality paper towels stashed in both the kitchen and bathroom. With a supply in each room, you can divide and conquer the clean-a-thon with a buddy.
Ideally, you’ll have at the ready a top-notch all-purpose spray that can handle grease, grime, soapy gook, toothpaste splatter, crayon, etc., AND works on glass, mirrors, counter tops, and wooden surfaces. Think I’m dreaming? It really does exist.
On Cook’s Illustrated recommendation for best all purpose cleaning spray about a year ago, we bought Method All Purpose Natural Surface Cleaning Spray. Besides the exquisite french lavender scent, it works on everything, plus it’s the best eyeglass cleaner I’ve found, beating even vinegar. If you’re looking for the best after-every-meal product for cleaning glass top stoves and kitchen counter tops, this is the stuff. We’ve gone through six bottles already and have one in every room with running water.
The second essential is a product with a tiny bit of grit to quickly attack everything else, which in our well water supplied home frequently equals hardened calcium and mineral deposits on faucets and sinks, cloudy glassware, and carbonized schmebage on the glass stove top that goes beyond Method’s pay grade. Best choice here? Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish, also endorsed by Cook’s Illustrated.
Give the bath mat a shake in the tub and close the shower curtain. Stow any personal items under the sink. (Note: this doesn’t mean “make room for personal items under the sink.” We’re after speed here. Just dump ‘em in and promise yourself the indulgence of feeling slovenly later.)
Clear the sink of dishes: warp-load the dishwasher, and in a pinch, the oven too if you won’t be using it.
Between a zip round with Method spray, Bar Keepers, and a quick surface polish with a stainless steel appliances cleaning product like Whirlpool Affresh Stainless Steel Cleaning Wipes (recommended by… Whirlpool!), you’re 9/10s of the way there.
(Stash the school drawings and fridge magnets for the time being: darling, yes, but they bring a messy geshtalt to your kitchen.)
Sprint scoop up papers and magazine, remotes, dog brushes, note pads, (let’s see… did I miss anything?) and stash ‘em en mass in a room with a door that will stay shut for the evening. You, or your designated victim, can sort it all out later.
4. Still have a few minutes before the doorbell rings?
Check that your bed is neatly made. This will be the one thing guests will notice if they happen to look in your bedroom.
Open the windows to air out the place and whisk away any odors you may be unaware of. (Another universal but rarely acknowledged truth: our noses get accustomed to our own household skunk.)
Change your shirt into something less sweaty, given the mad dash of the past fifteen minutes, and slap on some lipstick, if that’s how you roll.
Put on some music, dim the lights, take a deep cleansing breath, and promise yourself you won’t apologize for the condition of your home. If they wanted to visit with your dust bunnies, they should have said so in the first place.