Ask the Editor: My Speed Clean Routine

Aug 7, 2023

My house is always clean.  Yes, I’m that one.  But it’s not because I’m killing myself cleaning, it’s because I find cleaning relaxing and having my house tidy keeps me sane.  Sadly, I live with a man who thinks piling shoes in the entry way and leaving half-drunk water glassed in every makes it look homey, but these indignities aside, I just like cleaning. But not everyone does or has the time to do it.

Hi Abra –

I saw your AMA where you talked about your best cleaning tips and it changed the way I clean almost everything. My sister in law is obsessed with your vacuuming rule so I just told her it was mine. 😉  I’d love to have more time to keep house but my life just isn’t in that spot.  Do you have some tips for people without cleaning time?

Sincerely, thanks for everything, Jules

While I enjoy cleaning (especially vacuuming) more than a person probably should, there are just days when there is not time to clean.  So these are my best cleaning tips for getting a much cleaner house in less than 35-minutes.  Think of this as the “oh s**t, your Mom is coming and you forgot” speed clean routine.

Step No. One // Time Yourself //Cleaning is also my cardio.  If I want to be done in an hour, there is no time to waste.  So turn on your smartphone alarm, put on a podcast you like or a Spotify station that really gets you moving, and break a little sweat while tidying up.

Step No. Two // Grab a Trash Bag // Preferably a big black one.  Before you do anything else, go through every room and start tossing things.  Old mail, magazines, that Gatorade bottle you left on the nightstand, the packaging your disposable contacts came in, etc. And while you’re moving through the house, empty the bathroom trash cans and grab the kitchen trash on your way to the garbage chute.  It takes 10-minutes tops, but it’s a great place to start.

Step No. Three // Collect and Start the Laundry // If you’re working hard, your appliances should be too.  This is the time to start the laundry.  So get a load together and let the machine wash your clothes while you clean up everything else.  Anything that doesn’t go in that load should be put into the hamper, which should be placed in the laundry room to get it out of sight.  No laundry room?  This is what closets are for.

My first laundry tip is to keep multiple hampers.  Everyone in my house has a clean hamper and dirty hamper.  One carries dirty clothes to the wash, one carries them back and stores them if I don’t feel like folding.  (And I never feel like folding.)  This felt one from Target is made favorite.  This one with rigid sides is also nice, it’s just important that it has handles so you can move it easily.

This is my number one stain remover.  This is the detergent I use.  And I always keep splash-less, color-safe bleach on hand.  Oh, and if you’re workout clothes have picked up a funky, stale odor, wash them in something designed for performance fabrics.

Step No. Four // The Dishes // The most cleaning “bang for your buck” is to unload the dishwasher and empty the dirty dishes out of the sink.  This is a surprising quick task if you’re on top of it, and it gives you a boost because you accomplished something.

Don’t have a dishwasher or just prefer to hand wash some things?  Get yourself a drying rack that rolls over the top of the sink.  It’ll give you an easy place to dry things and help clean up the mess.

Also the key to really clean dishes is a clean dishwasher.  Your machine has a food catch at the bottom that needs to be emptied occasionally.  It’s a really gross job, but someone has to do it.  And this is usually why dishwashers back up or stop draining.  Once it’s cleaned out, run an empty cycle with this dishwasher cleaner and you’re set.

Step No. Five// Deep Tidying // This is not cleaning.  This is straightening up, but to the uninitiated, it looks like cleaning.  Also, this is where you’re really going to break a sweat.

To start deep tidying, you need to understand that there are two kinds of items: Those with a place and those without it.  Some things just need to go back to where they live and some things don’t have an assigned home yet.

For things with a place, put them there.  Get those shoes out of the hallway and those coats put away.  Put the dog toys in their toy basket. Put bathroom detritus back in its drawers and caddies.  It’s a puzzle, put it together.

If something doesn’t have a place, grab a box and toss it in there.  The box can be emptied later.  But for now, the box keeps everything in one place.  I keep my box in the laundry room so it’s out of the way, but not in a closet where I might forget about it.

Once the items are put away, do two more things. Fluff the pillows (no karate chop necessary) and make the beds, always make the beds.  If the bed is made any remaining mess looks like it just appeared since this morning.  This is called the “It’s been such a hectic day” defense.

At this point, you should have about 8-10 minutes left (remember you’re supposed to be getting that heart rate up), so let’s use the minutes wisely.  It’s decision time: Which is more important, the bathroom or the vacuuming?  Choose your own adventure.

Step No. Six // Vacuuming // The reader mentioned my “vacuuming trick,” but it’s really more of a core belief that is essential to who I am as a person.  Say it with me: Everything can be vacuumed.  No, seriously, everything can be vacuumed.

First, you need the right vacuums.  I have a small upright for the carpets (but this is only broken out when I have real cleaning time.).  I have a Dyson small canister vacuum for every day, which converts from a stick to a handheld in a snap.  And I have two of these small handheld vacuums, which I keep in each bathroom.  I also have this crumb vacuum near the coffee maker to clean up my husband’s grounds.

Hair on the bathroom counter top?  Vacuum it.  Hair on the shower floor or in the tub?  Vacuum it.  Coffee grounds and crumbs all over the kitchen? Vacuum it.  As long as you are going to wipe down the surface later, there’s no reason you can’t vacuum it.  So stop sweeping crumbs into your hands or using Clorox wipes to clean up hair from the counter, you can just vacuum it.

Hit the floors last, starting with the high traffic spots.  If I’m in a real rush, I’ll just hit the area inside every door, which is where most of the big stuff lives and the smaller messes hide themselves.

Alternate Step No. Six // Bathrooms // I mentioned above about using a small vacuum to clean up hair, and by now, you should have already gotten the trash and put the rest of your stuff away.  So all that is left is the wipe down.

First, spray the toilet bowl, sink hardware and bath hardware with foam cleanser.  The bubbles will do their magic while you do other things. I like this one.  If you prefer more natural cleaning products, Method makes a foamy one.

Keeping a container of Clorox wipes, glass cleaner, and a roll of paper towels in the bathroom cupboard also saves time here.  This is the glass cleaner you need; we are in a committed, long term relationship.  While the foam works hit the glass, wipe the floor around the toilet and give the shower floor a quick wipe up.  Then, take a disposable toilet brush to the bowl, and wipe the cleaner off the hardware.  Lastly, don’t forget to wipe the light switchplate and the door handles because bathroom surfaces can be a little gross.

Also, if you are planning a remodel, I replaced all of our toilets with the Kohler Continuous Clean Toilets.  The flushing action keeps the bowl cleaner longer.  They were worth every penny of the $300. I also use the drop in toilet tablets to keep the bowl as clean as possible.

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  1. Cindi says:

    Love love love this post! A tidy and clean house really sets the tone for peace, productivity and relaxation.

  2. Cat says:

    OMG i have found my people. This weekend I vacuumed the coffee table (nozzle). Loved your other tips!

  3. k-t says:

    Love this and admire your dedication to clean. And there is a difference between neat and clean.

    Do be careful with the drop in toilet tablets. They can ruin the seals within the toilet, causing it to run. Not sure what it does to the wax seal at the floor…. Plumbers have told us not to use them.

  4. Jill says:

    Great tips, thank you! Any tips for removing/preventing soap scum on glass shower doors? My current nemesis.

  5. Crystal says:

    Great tips. But I would always put bathroom (at least a basic cleaning) WAY, WAY higher on the list. Guests have no choice but to interact with your bathroom, and I unfortunately have had several experiences having to use a friend’s visibly filthy toilet or seemingly having no way to clean my hands afterward. So at minimum, I would remove any personal items (like dirty clothes) I may have strewn in the bathroom and clean the toilet bowl inside and out, both sides of the toilet seat and lid, and the toilet handle; wipe the sink down; fill up the soap if it’s empty; and make sure a clean hand towel is out. Then if possible, I would clean the mirrors, sweep/mop the floor, and take out the trash. If I’m moving quickly, as Abra recommends, this doesn’t typically take too long, and I can get the toilet bowl cleaner in the bowl and pre-scrubbed to start working while I do other cleaning tasks.

    • Cp says:

      AGREED!!! I HATE when I’m visiting someone and their bathroom is worse than a gas station. If push comes to shove, I would rather that someone see a mountain of clutter in my house and get dog hair all over their clothes, then step into an unclean bathroom (I am less concerned about tidiness in a pinch.) This is what I hit first and hard when I have unexpected company. Also, totally looking into that self-cleaning toilet!!!

  6. Kate says:

    It has never occurred to me that you can vacuum counters. Life changing!

  7. N. says:

    Love this! My biggest cleaning tip is to invest in a good robot vacuum. Don’t go cheap or else it’s not worth it. We paid $600 each for two vacuums (for each level of our house) and are so happy with them. As a bonus, it forces you to keep tidy so the vacuums can run efficiently. We run them everyday.

    Also, I always keep a washcloth on my bathroom counter. Makes it easy to wipe up splashed water or any minor spils!

  8. KL says:

    Omg, this post is a godsend. I’m naturally a deep tidier by instinct, so my house looks clean only from a distance — I hate actually cleaning things and especially bathrooms because no one ever taught me how to do it. Saving this for future reference.

  9. Erin says:

    Thanks for these great tips! As a dog owner, what do you use for dog hair on the furniture? I’ve got a shedder who sneaks up on the couch when we aren’t around.

  10. Kelly says:

    Thank you for the bathroom cleaning recs! I have overnight guests coming in two weeks, and I’ve been staring at my shower with dread for the past week.

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