Crisis Cleaning For Last-Minute Guests

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Don’t let the news of last-minute guests turn into a crisis. Here’s what to clean, so you’ll feel confident your home is ready when they arrive.

Luggage strapped to top of clean car as last-minute guests arrivePin

Not everyone’s home is constantly company-ready. Sometimes, life gets too busy to bother with it, or we may get ill or injured and need to focus on feeling better instead of dealing with dust. Other times, stress or anxiety can make even the smallest tasks feel overwhelming. When that happens, news that you’ve got company coming can make you feel panicked. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

Crisis Cleaning for Last-Minute Guests

The following checklist guides you through getting your home ready for last-minute guests, whether they’re just coming for a long chat or staying the night. As you work through it, keep in mind that the longer your company stays, the more of your home they’re likely to see.

For very brief visits, just do the steps to tidy up the living room and guest bathroom — plus any room they’ll have to walk through to get to it. For longer visits, you’ll want to clean more, and for overnight company, you’ll need to clean the guest bedroom, too.

Grab Your Supplies

When you’re in crisis cleaning mode, you do not have time to run back and forth between rooms looking for your supplies, so grab them before you start. You will need:

The Kitchen

1. Empty the dishes in the sink. If you can, put them in the dishwasher and run it. If there’s no room, shove them in the oven. Yes, really. Just remind yourself to get them out of the oven and wash them when your company leaves.

2. Gather any countertop clutter and throw it into a laundry basket. Throw trash into the garbage can. Don’t get distracted by sorting more thoroughly at this point. If you’ve gone time later, you can come back to that basket and actually get rid of clutter.

3. Spray the counters with the all-purpose cleaner and wipe them. Don’t bother moving small appliances or canisters for this step, just clean around them. Repeat with the fronts of appliances, the inside of the sink, and the faucets.

4. Quickly sweep or vacuum high-traffic areas of the floor and under the kitchen table. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean any spots you see. Then spray the air freshener and head to the next room you need to clean.

The Bathroom

1. Turn the bathroom fan on to freshen the air and remove lingering odors. Sweep your toiletries and other countertop clutter into a drawer or the laundry basket to sort through later.

2. Clean the surfaces. Spray the all-purpose cleaner in the toilet and let it sit. While that soaks, use the disinfecting wipes to clean the faucet, countertop, and sink basin. Grab fresh wipes and clean the toilet tank, handle, exterior, seat, and rim. Give the toilet a quick brush and flush it.

3. Use the glass cleaner to polish the mirrors, faucets, and other fixtures as needed.

4. Sweep the floor and use a disinfecting wipe to clean spots, especially around the toilet’s base.

5. Set out fresh towels and make sure there is plenty of extra toilet paper.

6. Dump the trash can and spray some air freshener. Then grab your supplies and head to the next room.

The Guest Room

(Skip this if guests are just popping by to chat.)

1. Toss any clutter into the laundry basket and put it in another room. Then, remove any stale smells by shaking the curtains to dislodge dust and opening the windows to let in some fresh air.

2. Dampen a clean microfiber cloth and use it to dust the furniture. Pay extra attention to the headboard, nightstand, and dresser top since your guests will see these surfaces the most. Once you’ve wiped everything, change the sheets and fluff the pillows, then make the bed.

3. Close the windows and use the glass cleaner to get rid of any smudges on them, then also use it on other reflective surfaces like doorknobs, dresser pulls, and picture fronts.

4. Quickly vacuum the floor and any upholstered furniture, then spray the air freshener. Finally, grab your supplies and head to the next room.

The Living Room

1. Toss any clutter into a laundry basket, put trash in the trash bag, and set them both aside. To make sure there are spaces to sit and visit, straighten the sofa pillows and fold throw blankets.

2. Use a damp cloth to wipe tabletops and the free space on any shelves. Switch to a clean cloth and use the all-purpose spray to clean doorknobs and light switches. While those dry, neatly arrange items on the coffee or side tables and make sure you’ve got coasters available.

3. Use a damp microfiber cloth or a vacuum to remove pet hair from upholstered furniture. Finish up by sweeping or vacuuming the high-traffic areas. Then spray the air freshener, grab your supplies, and head to the next room.

The Entryway

The entry is your chance to make an excellent first impression, so don’t skip it.

1. Use a microfiber and the all-purpose cleaner to wipe the doorknob, inside and out. Shake off the Welcome Mat and quickly sweep the front step. If you’ve got a glass storm door, give it a quick polish on both sides with the glass cleaner.

2. Step back inside and toss any shoes, sports equipment, and other clutter into the laundry basket.

3. Sweep or vacuum the entryway inside your home and use a disinfecting wipe to clean obvious messes on the floor. Spray air freshener, or leave the front door open to let in fresh air.

4. Take the laundry basket full of stuff to your bedroom closet and hide it to deal with when your guest leaves.

Final Touches

  • Put that laundry basket of clutter in your room or somewhere else that guests won’t see.
  • Throw away the bag of trash.
  • If you’ve got time, add a touch of hospitality to the guest room with a box of tissues, a book or two that your guests might enjoy reading, and a water carafe with a drinking glass, or some bottled water, in case they get thirsty at night.
  • Fill your home with a welcoming scent by simmering on the stove 2 cups of water, 2 whole cloves, a cinnamon stick, and half an apple, orange or lemon.

And Breathe

Once you’ve done your best tidying up and have tucked that basket of clutter out of sight, take a deep breath and relax. Take a moment to freshen up yourself, then put on some relaxing music or have a cup of tea and get ready to enjoy being with your guests. After all, they’re looking forward to spending time with you and your family, too.

Crisis Cleaning for Guests Checklist

Tap on the image below to open this two-page printable cleaning checklist. Be sure to set up your printer for double-sided printing. If you plan to use it often, slip this cleaning checklist into a plastic page protector and cross off items with a crayon or dry erase marker. When you’re through, wipe it off and it’s ready for reuse.

Get my free printable cleaning checklists for guests
Crisis Cleaning for Guests Checklist, Page 1 of 2

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  1. You had me at “shove dishes in oven.” I LOVE your blog!

    1. So-oo glad I’m not the only one to chuck stuff in the oven. Or the understairs cupboard, or the bedroom, or under the bed, or in various boxes (really should sort thru them sometime!!) I’m a fulltime at work mum, hubby works away Weekends end up being time to properly clean, shop, change bedlinen, do the garden, cook bake, craft, prep for work!)

    2. Katie Berry says:

      You are definitely not alone!

  2. I would love a printable for this 🙂

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Will try to do one soon.

  3. Catherine says:

    For his 50th birthday, my brother wanted to show us his favorite park, so we traveled across the country to Yosemite. The night before we left, I realized there was time to meet up with the parents of a friend, who we’d come to know over the years. But I had no cell phone reception in the park, or until we neared Merced. I finally called and asked if we could meet them for lunch at a restaurant. They were there in minutes, and after lunch Betty said, “Don’t order dessert. I have half a chocolate cake at home.” And she did! And took us into their immaculately tidy bedroom to see a wall of family photos.! That was 17 years ago, and I STILL have the goal to be as ready as she was, any time! Thanks for the emergency back-up plan!!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      What an inspiring woman your friend’s mother was!

    1. Katie Berry says:


  4. Brilliance, as per usual.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Aw, thanks!