Every year I plan, prep, and cook that special Thanksgiving meal, but sometimes fall short on time to do all my cleaning before guests arrive. Correction — I always run out of time! It never fails. No matter how much time I think I’ll have, somehow I’m left with less than an hour to clean and I’m always rushing to make things look “presentable.”
Instead of stressing I’ve learned some shortcuts through the years using simple kitchen pantry ingredients that I’d thought I’d share with you. They work way better than toxic chemicals and they’re so much better to use for you and your guests, especially when you can’t crack open a window open to air out any harmful chemicals.
By the way, you should be able to lightly clean your whole house in about an hour or less depending on of course, how much you have to tackle and how much help you have.
Clean kitchen surfaces (20 minutes). Does everyone always end up in your kitchen? Mine, too. So, before guests arrive, I attempt to get the kitchen looking presentable by at least getting food particles off the floors and countertops and by tidying up my cooking messes. And I try to use just a few products to clean with, namely vinegar and baking soda, to make things really quick and easy.
First, I make a baking soda and water paste in a bowl and scoop it out with a sponge to scrub sinks, cook tops and anything else that I have time to clean (e.g., pots, pans). A baking soda paste is gentle and won’t scratch anything. It’s also great at brightening porcelain sinks and removing grease, grime, and stains. It even helps remove those impossible to clean fingerprints from stainless steel surfaces (especially when followed with a vinegar-water spray). Also, if I have some burnt-on food messes in the oven and I’m done using it, I slather the paste on those areas and leave it there for several hours. Later the burnt-on food and grease lifts away with the wipe of a damp sponge. No harsh oven cleaners needed!
By the way, if you want an element of aromatherapy involved, and you’ve already made a do-it-yourself green cleanser or scrub, such as this DIY Aromatherapy Cleanser or DIY Germ Busting Aromatherapeutic Cream Cleanser for the Kitchen and Bathroom, then by all means use that instead of plain baking soda. It will re-energize you and uplift your mood. Plus, it will leave a nice fresh scent behind.
Next, I choose a product to disinfect everything and to neutralize the baking soda, which 9 times out of 10 is my homemade vinegar-water spray. If for some reason you don’t have that, then opt for a store-bought green all-purpose spray that doesn’t require rinsing. Spritz everything — stainless steel surfaces, appliances, cooktops, counters, etc. — in sight. Let it sit for at least a minute to properly disinfect, then wipe clean with a soft cotton cloth. Voilà! You’ll love how clean everything looks and admire yourself for how quickly you did it.
Tip: Don’t have time to wash all the pots and pans before guests arrive? Stack them in a dish pan and stash them out of sight. Under the sink or in the garage works. Shhhh. Your guests will never know.
Clean guest bathroom (5 – 10 minutes). After doing the kitchen, I then use the baking soda paste to clean the bathroom sink. Then I lay out a clean hand towel. If I have time, I follow this by spraying the sink, toilet, and floors with a vinegar-water spray. I pour any left-over baking soda in the toilet and scrub. After a minute passes, I wipe away the vinegar-water spray from all surfaces with a clean soft rag, starting with the sink and ending with the floor (usually I swap out the rag after cleaning the toilet).
Clean floors (10 minutes). After quickly sweeping your floors, look at what areas truly need mopping and concentrate on those spots. Save the heavy duty mopping later for when guests leave. No one is going to be staring at your floors, especially if you’ve got appetizers laid out and drinks ready! Plus, you really will need to mop later, so why do it twice?
For your spot cleaning, of course you can use a commercial green floor cleaner, but I find quickly spritzing my floors with the same vinegar-water spray I used for cleaning the bathroom and kitchen (or even one of my homemade castile soap sprays), just as effective. It works for all hard surface floors whether they’re wood, vinyl, laminate, or tile. (Exception: Don’t use vinegar spray on marble or porous surfaces like mother of pearl. It will etch the surface or in the case of shell, slowly dissolve it over time.)
Afterwards, I then use a microfiber mop head or old rag attached to my swifter broom to dry the floors. It only takes a few minutes and it works great at lifting up dirt, grime, and grease without killing my back.
Note: If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can also add a few squirts of vinegar or castile soap to a bucket of hot water and use a rag to clean. (Usually not my preferred method, but it is effective!)
Clean mirrors and windows (5 – 10 minutes). OK. I’m not suggesting you clean all your windows or mirrors, but choose the ones your guests will notice and just clean those. Maybe the ones in the dining room? You are after all in a hurry, right? A DIY vinegar or vodka spray cleaner will make any dirty mirrors or windows sparkle. Or, you can try one of these top green window cleaners. Of course, if they’re coming when it’s dark, simply close the drapes and you’re good to go! No cleaning required. Guaranteed.
Polish the table. (3 – 5 minutes). If you’ve got a tablecloth you can skip this step. If not, don’t worry. Give it a quick wipe down with dish soap and water, wipe it dry, and then polish it with a combo of olive oil and lemon juice or olive oil and vinegar. Create your mad polish mixture and get to work. Ah! A nice clean non-toxic table. Now that’s appetizing.
Freshen up carpets and rugs (10 minutes). If your carpets and rugs need a little freshening, sprinkle some baking soda, which will help absorb odors, or this DIY Eco-Friendly Lavender Rug & Carpet Freshener well before guests arrive and then do a last minute vacuuming! Your guests will enjoy the natural scent it imparts and think you spent hours cleaning. But, if no one is going to notice your carpets, save this step for afterwards. No reason to do it unless it really needs it.
Disinfect the air naturally. (30 seconds – 3 minutes). Does your house smell like onions, garlic, and whatever else you’ve been chopping up or cooking? Spritz a vinegar-water solution into the air. It will help remove odors naturally. Follow by simmering some orange slices, cinnamon, and clove buds in water on the cook top for some quick home-grown aromatherapy. Everyone will feel welcome!
After guests leave, is when I do my heavy duty cleaning, such as mopping all my floors, cleaning the stove, etc. Of course, it’s usually much later that same day, and sometimes not even until the next morning. Turkey makes you sleepy after all, right?
How about you? Do you plan on doing any cleaning before your guests arrive? What approach do you take? Do you take any short-cuts?
Editor Note: This post was originally published on Nov 22, 2012 @ 15:40, but updated with new content on Nov. 26, 2014.
Copyright © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2012-2014. All rights reserved.
Photo © Karen Peltier.