Clean House Faster: Great Cleaning Shortcuts


Most people don’t enjoy housecleaning — but they want a clean house. Eliminating germs keeps the family healthier — and getting rid of clutter can make your house safer and more welcoming. The trick is to find shortcuts to minimize your cleaning time and maximize your cleaning efficiency. Here are some quick and easy ways to make your house sparkle — so you can get out and enjoy the rest of your life.


We all have our own brand of clutter — for some people it’s newspapers and magazines, for others it’s china or historical maps or coin collections. Whatever your clutter of choice, clearing it out — or at least cutting it back — will make housecleaning a more manageable task.

Organizing expert Donna Smallin suggests you walk through your home and try to look at it objectively as possible. “If there are things you seldom use and don’t need, get rid of them,” she says. “They are only taking up space and gathering dust.”

If your piles consist of unfinished projects — paperwork that needs your attention or purchases you want to return — schedule a few hours each week to whittle them down. If you take the tasks seriously by scheduling them on your calendar and following through, you’ll gradually and systematically reduce your clutter.

When you’ve thrown out or given away everything you can, put clutter you’re attached to — old photographs, for example, or your grandmother’s shell collection — into storage boxes, and put them away.

Do a Little Cleaning, Often

The experts we consulted agree that it’s more efficient to take care of cleaning jobs as they come up, rather than putting them off until cleaning day.

“Maintenance is the key,” says Kimberly Beyer, a professional organizer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. “If you clean as you go along, you won’t end up with an overwhelming cleaning job at the end of the week.”

Smallin agrees. “Clean up messes as you make them,” she says. “HEPA filters trap smaller particles better than regular filters, thus helping to reduce dust and allergens in your home.

Store Cleaning Tools in a Convenient Spot

If you have to hunt down your supplies before getting started, cleaning will be even more of a chore. Instead, keep all your products and tools together, and put them back in the same place when you’re done.

Beyer recommends storing products and tools in a container with a center handle. She keeps a set of cleaning products in different spots around the house, so they’re easily accessible for quick jobs.

And keep it simple, Smallin advises. “If you pare your products down to the basics, you’ll have less to tote around,” she says. “There’s a lot you can do with a multipurpose cleaner — you can wipe counters, scrub the shower, and use it to clean the toilet.”

Change Air Filters Regularly

Replace the air filter in your furnace every three months or so. A clean filter will catch more of the dust and particles in the air, and minimize wear and tear on your furnace. A clean filter also reduces the energy your furnace consumes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Use Your Dishwasher More

Your dishwasher offers a variety of cleaning shortcuts. Many pots and pans can go in the dishwasher (check the label first), as can refrigerator shelves, drawers, and ice trays. Beyer recommends putting sponges in the dishwasher to sterilize them for reuse.

Put Clothes Hampers All Over

If you place clothes hampers in every bedroom and bathroom in your house, you’re likely to find fewer cast-off clothes and towels on the floor — even if you share your home with teenagers.

Let Cleaning Products Work

Difficult cleaning jobs will be a lot easier to accomplish if you give your cleaning products time to kick in. For example, if you apply oven cleaner and then go make a few phone calls, burned-on grease and gravy stains will be far easier to wipe away when you get back.

When it comes to oven cleaning, Beyer recommends prevention: she uses an oven liner to catch spills. These inexpensive liners, which can be trimmed to fit any size oven, are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

Smallin recommends pouring toilet bowl cleaner into your toilet before you go to bed at night, so it will be simple to wipe and flush the next morning. “As I like to tell people, you can clean your toilet while you sleep,” she says.

Keep Dirt Outside

Eighty-five percent of the dirt on your carpet is tracked in from outside, says Smallin. She recommends placing a doormat outside the door and another one inside, to keep as much dirt as possible off floors. You may even want to establish a “no shoe” policy in your home to keep dirt out. (Keep a selection of cozy slippers on hand for your guests.)

Get Help

Even if you can’t afford a regular housekeeper, you may want to periodically hire a cleaner to give your house a deep cleaning. “If you feel like you can’t get on top of the mess, it’s worth it to invest in a good cleaning,” says Smallin. “A cleaner will probably charge more for a one-time job, but if you start out with a really clean house, it’s much easier to do daily and weekly maintenance.”