Cleaning Tips Indoors & Out

Clean Your House in 45 Minutes or Less

Last-minute dinner party? No problem! Get your entire house guest-ready in less than an hour.

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Don't let your messy house stand in the way of a good time with friends. We've consulted a couple of cleaning and de-cluttering gurus to help you whip your house into shape in an hour or less. The key, they say, is setting priorities: Everything can't get sparkling clean in this short period of time, but you can get the things clean that people notice most.

"Focus your efforts where they're really going to show," advises interior designer Paula Jhung.

Where Should I Start?

For a dinner party, the most important areas to clean will be your living room and foyer, the kitchen and your bathroom.

"The prime real estate is the entryway and the kitchen counter," says home organizing expert Barbara Tako. "These are the areas people tend to congregate."

You won't have time to sweep, mop and vacuum the house. That's not really necessary, Jhung says, as most people will be looking higher, and focusing more attention on tables, shelves and places to set their drink.

"You want to make sure that you get things clean that are closer to eye-level," she adds.

Before you start, put on a sweater and open a few windows while you clean. This will get out any odors and make your place smell fresher than any candle could. To keep yourself on schedule, you can set a timer for 15 minutes for each of the cleaning areas you're covering.

Cleaning the Foyer and Living Room — 15 Minutes

1. Do a sweep around the room and clear clutter, Tako says. Put shoes, jackets, hats, newspapers, toys, mail and anything else that shouldn't be in these areas in bags that you can stash out of sight.

2. Stack magazines neatly in a basket or the end table.

3. Use a microfiber cloth to dust any horizontal surfaces, as well as the TV and coffee table.

4. Straighten couch cushions and pillows, drape a throw over any stains or worn spots, and if you have pets, run a cloth or pet roller over any visible fur.

5. Check the floor and clean up any food stains, giant dust bunnies or clumps of pet hair. Grab your stash baskets or bags and move on to the bathroom.

Cleaning the Bathroom — 15 Minutes

Ironically, this area — not the kitchen or the living room — is where you want to be the most fastidious, says Jhung.

"People are in there with blaring light, with no one else around and they can see everything," she says.

That doesn't mean you have to get down on your hands and knees and scrub the tub. Focus instead on the things most people will actually use — the toilet, mirror, sink and counter.

1. Clear the counters, shelves and back of the toilet of any excess cosmetics, curling irons, hairbrushes etc. Stash it all under the sink or in a drawer.

2. Pick up any dirty clothes and throw them in the hamper. Take any other misplaced item and put it in one of your stash bags.

3. Squirt toilet bowl cleaner in the bowl and let it soak while you clean.

4. Spray down sink and counter with disinfecting spray. Use paper towels to wipe down counters. Scrub sink with a sponge and rinse. Then spray faucet and stopper and wipe down with a paper towel.

5. Spray a vinegar solution on mirrors and wipe clean.

6. Scrub the toilet with a brush and flush. Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down the seat and to go over the outside of the toilet.

7. Shake out the bathroom rug so it looks fresh. Hang some fresh towels. Close the shower curtain or door and empty the bathroom trash into a garbage sack.

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