How to Clean for Guests this Holiday Season

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When company is coming, you may find yourself wondering what to clean for guests. Sure, you want to create a clean, comfortable environment that also showcases your home’s beauty, but you don’t want to wear yourself out preparing for guests this holiday season.

If you’re fortunate enough to have plenty of warning, cleaning for houseguests can be spread out over several days. For those who don’t provide much notice, well, there’s always crisis cleaning.

Read on to find out:

  • What you need to clean — and what you can skip.
  • How to clean thoroughly to impress house guests.
  • Nice touches to make your home more welcoming for visitors.

Don’t Obsess About Cleaning for Most Guests

Preparing for overnight guests at your house should focus on creating a clean, pleasant environment without an enormous disruption to how you ordinarily live in your home.

With holiday activities and meals, it’s unlikely your houseguests will have a reason to explore, say, the closet in your bedroom or to inspect whether your recessed lightbulbs have been recently dusted. So, don’t waste time on such things.

Clean Based on the Visit’s Length

Etiquette says that guests should limit their visits to three days — four at the most — even if they’re family. Unfortunately, not every visitor pays attention to rules of etiquette (like bringing the hostess a gift).

For the most part, the shorter the stay the less you should bother cleaning. For instance:

Overnight Stays

Cleaning for guests who’ll only be spending the night is a breeze. You really only need to provide clean bed linens and fresh towels plus a clean bathroom. If guests are staying past breakfast, you’ll want to clear the kitchen table and maybe tidy the kitchen a bit, too.

Weekend Guests

Spend a bit more time cleaning the guest room and kitchen for people who’ll be staying a full weekend. Provide fresh sheets and towels, of course, and somewhere for guests to hang an outfit or two.

Also, make sure your kitchen isn’t filthy, and that you’ll all have a place to sit down for meals, but don’t obsess over it.

Longer Visits

The more time a guest stays at your home, the more of your home they’re bound to see. With visits lasting several days, your guests may want to do laundry or offer to cook a meal, too.

Preparing for longer guest visits requires a more thorough cleaning since such visitors are bound to see more of your home. Besides, you probably won’t want to clean much while you’ve got company, so it’s good to get it done beforehand.

So, read on for how to clean for guests when you really want your place to sparkle and shine.

What to Clean for Holiday Guests

What to clean for house guests - woman entering home

1. Deep Clean the Bathrooms

Having a house full of people means visitors may end up using every bathroom in your home.

So, even if you have a lovely guest bathroom, plan to deep clean all of the facilities. That means you need to:

  • Clean the toilet, including both sides of the seat and lid. Scour the bowl to remove odors and tackle stains if needed.
  • Clean the shower and tub well, and be sure to get rid of any bathroom mildew on the grout, shower curtain, or shower door tracks.
  • Don’t forget to check the tub or shower drain for hair, and clean stinky drains if that’s a problem.
  • Clean sinks and faucets then declutter and clean the bathroom counters, too.
  • Polish the mirror, so it’s not covered in toothpaste splatters or dust.
  • Empty the trash can. Wash it if it’s stained.
  • Sweep and mop the floor, paying extra attention to the area around the toilet where odors accumulate.
  • Make sure there are ample supplies of toilet paper, hand soap, and spare hand towels.
  • You might want to make sure there’s a toilet brush in each bathroom, discretely tucked in a holder near the tank. Everybody poops, and some guests feel awkward leaving evidence of that behind.
  • If you use them, be sure bathroom rugs and bath mats are clean and fresh, too.

2. Clean the Kitchen Thoroughly

Even if you plan taking guests out for every meal, you should still thoroughly clean your kitchen. It’s not only that people seem to congregate there — a messy kitchen can make your entire home smell bad.

  • Create as much countertop space as possible by putting away food items and seldom-used small appliances. This will help your entire kitchen look tidier, and makes it easier to tackle spills while guests are in your home.
  • Clean the countertops and backsplash, then the cupboard and drawer fronts and handles.
  • Spray and wipe all appliance fronts. Clean the inside of the microwave, your cooktop, and any spills on the oven floor.
  • Purge expired foods from the refrigerator and clean the shelves and drawers.
  • Scour the sink and clean the garbage disposal, if you have one, to prevent odors.
  • Empty the trash and wash the trashcan if needed.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.

3. Clean the Guest Room Top-to-Bottom

You don’t need to rush out and buy fancy new bedlinens, though if the budget permits that can be fun.

You do, however, need to ensure that your guests can get a good night’s sleep without worrying they’ll wake up sneezing from dust or covered in spider bites.

  • Dust the ceiling, ceiling fan, walls, windowsills, and baseboards. Use an extension duster if needed. (Here’s the one I use.)
  • Clean grime and spots off the walls, doors, and light switches.
  • Strip the bed completely and launder everything.
  • While the bed is bare, vacuum the mattress then move the bed and vacuum beneath it. (Here’s how to clean mattress stains.)
  • Clean the window treatments (dust the blinds or wash the curtains).
  • Dust and polish the furniture.
  • Once the bed linens are clean, remake the bed.
  • Empty the trash can.
  • Vacuum the floor as well as any upholstered furniture or throw pillows.

4. Create Space for Their Clothes

You don’t have to completely clean out the guest bedroom closet if you use it for storage, but guests do need a place to put their clothes.

  • Remove enough storage to give them a foot or so per person to hang clothes, and provide some hangers, too. Cover your storage items with a sheet or drop cloth if you want, though some guests may peek anyway.
  • If making closet space isn’t possible, consider mounting some temporary adhesive hooks like these with a couple of clothing hangers for guests to use.
  • Provide drawer space in a dresser for their folded clothes. If that’s not possible, make sure there’s a flat, raised space big enough to hold their suitcase, so they can use it to hold their clothes.

For guests staying a week or more, provide a laundry hamper to hold worn clothing, and show them how to use the laundry machines.

5. Create a Clean, Uncluttered Space to Sit

No matter how many activities you have planned for your guests, they’ll still need a place to sit while eating and maybe a spot to relax and unwind, too.

Clear the kitchen and dining tables, then clean and polish them. If they feel grimy, get rid of sticky wax buildup, too. Do the same for the chairs.

Make sure the living room or family room are tidy, and that there’s space on coffee tables and side table for guests to put beverages or other things. If you think guests may enjoy watching TV or movies, be sure the sofa is stain-free and provide a throw blanket or two for their use.

If you have space in your home for a reading nook, providing a comfortable chair with a blanket and a small table gives introverted house guests a place to retreat without shutting themselves away in the guest room.

6. Vacuum All the Things

Besides clean bathroom and kitchen surfaces, nothing will make your house smell or look better than a thorough vacuuming.

That means more than simply running the vacuum cleaner between furniture — it means putting all of the machine’s attachments to use.

  • Use the dust brush on baseboards and windowsills in every room as well as blinds, books, and woven baskets.
  • Use the upholstery attachment on throw pillows, sofas and chairs (including under the cushions), and the curtains.
  • Use the crevice attachment at the base of walls and heavy furniture that you can’t move, like bookshelves.
  • Adjust the height of the vacuum head to the correct setting for your floor and vacuum the right way: four passes (overlapping back and forth, back and forth) in one direction across the room, then turn at a right angle and repeat.

Be sure to empty your vacuum as needed while working, and clean your vacuum cleaner when you’re done.

7. Gussy Up the Entryway

Shortly before your guests are due, give your home’s entrance and entryway a good once-over.

  • Sweep the outside of your home’s entrance, including the walls and doors, to remove cobwebs and other debris. If you have a covered porch, sweep the ceiling, too.
  • Sweep or vacuum your entry mats. If the weather permits, give them a good scrub, too. Let them dry completely before putting them back in place.
  • Wash both sides of your front door with warm, soapy water to remove grime. Rinse with clean water and buff the door fixtures dry.
  • Update your door wreath and entry decor for the season if you haven’t already.
  • Make sure there’s a place just inside the door for guests to deposit umbrellas or winter gear. If your home has a “no shoes policy,” keep a small mat or shoe rack for their use, too.

While you’re at it, make sure there’s space in your coat closet, too.

Nice Touches When Company’s Coming

A clean and comfortable place — and the pleasure of your company — is really all that guests are looking for when they visit.

Your home is not a luxury hotel, after all, and your guests aren’t expecting that kind of treatment. But, if you do want to add some extra touches to make your home even more inviting, here are a few to consider.

A “Welcome Basket” in the Guest Room

Fill it with an assortment of spare toiletries, tissues, a magazine or crossword puzzle book (and pen), perhaps even a few packaged snacks and bottles of water.

Provide a Few Home Comforts

A spare bathrobe and pair of washable slippers in the guest room is nice since many people skip packing their own due to luggage fees.

Keep a supply of spare towels, blankets, and pillows in the guest room. Or let visitors know where the linen closet is, so they can find them if needed.

Help Them to Entertain Themselves

Most guests don’t want to feel like they’re a burden on their hosts. Give your visitors the ability to entertain themselves if they want, and you may find everyone enjoys the visit even more.

  • Stop by your town’s visitor’s center and pick up a few brochures about places of interest in your area. Putting them in the guest room lets visitors decide if they want to explore your town on their own.
  • Give them wifi access by leaving a card with your home’s wifi name and password in the guest room. If they’ll be coming and going on their own schedule, provide them with a spare key and the security code, too.
  • Stock the kitchen with their favorites. Keep a selection of coffee and tea (along with cream, sugar, and sugar substitutes) available in both caffeinated and decaf versions. Point out where they can find their favorite nibbles, too, so guests can help themselves.
  • Make TV-watching guest-friendly, too. Trying to figure out someone else’s remote controls is hard, especially for older folks. A large-print card explaining how to use the remote control and directions to access the viewing guide, Netflix, and other streaming channels is always appreciated.

Remember, despite all of the effort involved in cleaning before guests arrive, you really will enjoy all of your visitors — some you’ll simply enjoy more as they leave.

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