How to Clean Fast and Efficiently

I worked for a house cleaning company for about a year 2 years ago, and I loved it.  Once I got the routine and order of things down, it was easy to clean fast and efficiently.  I recently started cleaning my own apartment again since I have been feeling a lot better, and I forgot how easy it really is.  I found that I slipped right back into the habits that I made while cleaning professionally, and I loved that.  I feel that I have learned this great skill that will help me throughout my entire life, and I want to share with all of you what I do so that you can also develop skills to help cleaning not be so bad.  These tips are ones that I got in my training for my job, developed on my own, or learned from my customers.

1.  Schedule time to clean just as you would schedule an appointment with a cleaning company.

 This is really important because if you don’t schedule the time, it won’t happen.  I’m sure you all have experienced this.  There are two main ways that you can do this.  If you have a free day every week, and you don’t mind cleaning the whole house all at once, I would suggest scheduling all of your cleaning on that day.   If you don’t have a free day to schedule all of your cleaning on or you just don’t like cleaning everything all at once, schedule a little bit of time every day, and set a specific job to each day.  For example, Monday is for cleaning the kitchen, Tuesday is for bathrooms, Wednesday is for dusting and vacuuming, etc.

Another reason to schedule time to clean is so that you don’t get distracted.  Set a specific amount of time aside, and tell yourself that whatever you don’t finish in that time frame has to wait until next week.  This will motivate you to work faster and avoid distractions.  Also, turn off the TV and phone.  Don’t let them distract you.  Listen to music to motivate yourself, or work with a partner to help each other stay on track.

If you have kids and you don’t want them to help with the cleaning, make sure they know that on that day at that time every week, they need to do a specific thing such as watch a movie, play outside, go to the neighbors, etc.  Every house that I cleaned that had children followed this rule.  The kids knew that they had to stay outside or whatever it was until I was gone.

2.  Organize a tote that holds all of your cleaning supplies.

Invest in a cleaning supply tote, usually around $10.00.  Something simple that looks like this:

There are many different kinds, and they all pretty much work.  I would suggest that you get one that has two separate sides.  I like to keep my bathroom tools on one side and everything else on the other side.

Doing this will help save time because you don’t have to get every individual cleaner out, and you don’t lose cleaners around the house.  You don’t need to keep cleaners in every bathroom because you carry this with you everywhere you go.  You also don’t have to use up closet space for all of your different cleaners.  This will easily fit under the sink in any bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room.

3.  Dress for the part.

While cleaning, you don’t want to be worried about getting your clothes dirty, especially if you are working at a fast pace.  I had specific clothes that I only wore for cleaning, and they often got wet, stained, and dirty.  I would suggest something comfortable, such as yoga pants and a t-shirt.  I love the yoga pants because they are tight so they stay out of the way, but they allow you to move with ease.  I went to DI to get my clothes, so they weren’t expensive at all.  I also got some thick socks to wear since we never wore shoes in the houses that we cleaned.  If you want to wear shoes, I suggest comfortable ones that you aren’t afraid to get dirty.  Also, keep your hair up out of your way, and don’t wear any jewelry.

4.  Simplify your cleaning supplies.

I know a lot of people who have a closet full of cleaning supplies.  All of your cleaning supplies should be able to fit in your tote.  These are what I carried in my tote at all times:

  • a sponge for the bathroom and a separate sponge for the kitchen.  I used different colors so I wouldn’t mix them up.
  • toilet bowl cleaner and a toilet bowl brush
  • window cleaner or other low-grade multi-purpose cleaner
  • sink and tub cleaner
  • Stainless Steal cleaner
  • floor cleaner
  • heavy duty multi-purpose cleaner
  • hand gloves and knee pads
  • razor and toothbrush
  • duster with a long handle

White terry cleaning cloths (find them in the auto parts section as “detailing towels”) are very durable and are easy to wash with hot water and bleach.  I suggest using those for most of your cleaning.  Microfiber rags are the best to use when dusting because the dust will stick to the rag instead of being put back in the air.  They are also the best to use for glass and any surface that you want to simply wipe down because they don’t leave any threads behind like most rags usually do.  I would place both rag piles near the tote when you store them away.

5.  Before cleaning, pick everything up off the floor.  

When I would go to a house, they never had anything on the floor.  It wasn’t my job to pick it up, and I couldn’t do my job with anything in the way.  To make this easier, I would suggest that you make sure everything has a specific place to go.  If it doesn’t have a place, get rid of it.  If you can’t get rid of it, find a place for it.  That way, when you start cleaning you won’t have anything in your way or slow you down.  This also means that there should be no dirty dishes in the sink or papers on the table.  Doing this will make your job go much faster, and reduces the risk of tripping on something out of place.

6.  Clean Everything in your path before moving on.  

You don’t want to have to be running all over the room to do things.  When I clean a room (other than the bathroom), I walk in the room, turn to one side, and go around the room once.  I dust, clean walls, straighten furniture, fluff pillows, make beds, wipe down furniture, and whatever else needs to be done all at the same time.  After one lap around the room, I’m ready to vacuum.  This will save you lots and lots of time if you follow this rule.

7.  Learn to use both of your hands at the same time.

Your cleaning will go by much faster if you learn how to do this.  It’s kind of hard to get used to, but once you master it, you will be a much faster cleaner.  You can dust with one hand and straighten pillows on the couch with the other hand.  You can spray with one hand while scrubbing with the other hand.  You can use both hands to scrub the tub instead of just one.  This will save you a lot of time.

8.  Mop floors by hand.  

Not many people like to do this, but it’s faster and easier.  All you need is a small bucket and a rag.  Add your floor cleaner to the water, and put your knee pads on.  Start in a corner and end backing onto carpet so you don’t have to step where you’ve already cleaned.  This way you don’t have to spend money or space for a mop, and you can clean the base boards at the same time.

9.  If you can, work with a partner or as a team.  

It’s easier to stay on track with a partner because you know that you have to be responsible for your half of the work.  It also cuts the time in half!  Two people can make the bed four times faster than one person.  If family members help with the cleaning, they are usually more reluctant to making a mess.

10.  Tidy up before you quit.  

Clean and rinse your mop bucket.  Dry it before putting it away.  Throw all of your rags in the washer instead of letting them sit in a basket.  Tidy up your tote, and make note of any cleaning supplies that you are low on.  Put everything back in its place so it is easy to find next week.  This way you will be able to start cleaning next week without having to deal with moldy rags, empty bottles, and smelly buckets.

11. Touch up every day for a few minutes.

This is  not hard at all, and it makes a world of difference on the day that you clean.  I usually only touch up the kitchen and bathrooms.  For the kitchen, simply wipe down the counters and sink while cleaning up after dinner every day.  For the bathrooms, wipe down the counters and sink after brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed.  You can have a pile of rags and a low-grade multi-purpose cleaner under the sink to grab.  Have a small bucket there to put the dirty rags in once you are done.  It takes one minute every night, but it can save you lots of time on your cleaning day.

If you have a glass door for your shower or tub, invest in a squeegee.  After turning off the shower every day, simply run the squeegee down the glass before you get out.  This will keep most of the hard water and soap from building up, and it will save you a lot of scrubbing time on the day that you clean.  When my customers did this, I hardly had to clean their glass at all.  It was great.

If you can, use a paper towel over anything that you microwave throughout the week.  This will also make a world of difference.  I have spent 10 whole minutes scrubbing a microwave, which is a lot more than I plan on.  I want to be able to spray it, wipe it down, and move on.  If you use some sort of cover on your food, you will most likely be able to spend only a few seconds cleaning it on cleaning day.

Now for the actual cleaning.  Here is what I do:

I always start with the bathrooms because they take the longest.  It doesn’t really matter what order you go in, but always do vacuuming last, and vacuum everything at once.  If you have carpet in your bathroom, don’t vacuum after cleaning the bathroom.  Wait to vacuum it at the end with everything else.  While cleaning the bathrooms, this is the order that I use:

  • Throw any rugs, towels, and clothes either outside the door in a pile that will be easy to grab later or in a laundry basket.
  • look in the tub, counters, and floor for any trash, and throw it away.
  • set everything (laundry basket, garbage can, stool, etc.) outside the door so it is out of your way.
  • Use your duster to dust everything.  Go from top to bottom, and make only one trip around the room.
  • Fill up your mop bucket from the bathtub.  Add your choice of cleaner, and set it aside.
  • Clean the shower/tub by spraying the walls and fixtures with a multi-purpose cleaner.  Use either a heavy or light-duty cleaner, depending on what is needed.  Use a rag to wipe down the walls and fixtures.  I use two rags and use both of my hands to make it go faster.
  • Scrub the bottom of the tub with your tub cleaner, and rinse.  I also use both hands here.  Spray the inside and outside of the tub and all fixtures with a light-duty cleaner, and dry with a microfiber rag if possible.
  • If you have a glass door, clean this last.  Spray heavy-duty cleaner, and use a razor if needed to get all of the soap and hard water residue off.  If not, wipe it down with a microfiber rag.
  • Put toilet cleaner in the toilet, and let it sit.
  • Scrub the sink and fixtures with sink cleaner.  If the counter is really dirty, scrub it with your sponge at this time. Rinse.
  • Using a light-duty multi-purpose cleaner, spray the mirror, counter, sink, and any fixtures.  Use a microfiber rag to wipe it all down, starting with the mirror and ending with the sink.
  • Scrub the inside of the toilet with a toilet brush.  Spray the rest of the toilet with your choice of multi-purpose cleaner, and wipe down.
  • Move your tote and rags outside the door, and grab your knee pads and mop bucket.
  • starting at the farthest corner from the door, use your rag and bucket to scrub the floor. Back yourself out the door so you can get the whole floor without stepping on what you already did.
  • You are now finished.  Leave your dirty rags in the pile with your dirty laundry, and move on to the next bathroom.  You can grab the laundry when you come back and put everything back in its place after the floor is dry.

After cleaning the bathrooms, I move on to the kitchen.  For the kitchen, there isn’t really too much of an order to follow as long as you do the floor last.

  • Move all rugs, chairs, and anything else on the floor to another room.  As long as it is off the kitchen floor, it will be fine.
  • Empty your mop bucket, and fill it with new water.  Add your cleaner, and set it aside.
  • Take your duster, and dust everything that needs it.  Go from top to bottom, and make only one trip around the room.
  • Wipe down the stove (this is usually the dirtiest for me) using your choice of multi-purpose cleaner.  If the stove isn’t dirty, you can wipe it down while wiping down the counters.
  • Clean the inside of the microwave using your choice of multi-purpose cleaner.  If this isn’t too dirty, you can wipe it down while wiping down the counters.
  • Scrub the sink and fixtures with your choice of cleaner, and rinse.
  • Starting at one end of the kitchen, use your multi-purpose cleaner to wipe down everything.  Wipe counters, appliances, dirty cabinets, windowsills,tables, chairs, etc.  Skip the sink, and wipe it after you have wiped down everything else.
  • If you have stainless steel appliances, use your stainless steel cleaner on them now.
  • Move your supplies and rags out of the kitchen, and grab your knee pads and mop bucket.  Starting on one end, make your way around the room, and end backing onto carpet so you don’t walk on what you just cleaned.  Make sure that you are backing yourself into the room that you want to clean next.

With the kitchen and bathrooms finished, you only have the bedrooms and other rooms left.  I do all of these at the same time, doing the room that I backed myself into first.  After that first room, I put all the chairs and rugs back in the kitchen.  I then move on to the next room whether it is the office or a bedroom, it doesn’t matter.  I make my way around the house, doing the hallways, stairways, and entryways when I pass them.

  • Take a microfiber rag in one hand and the duster in the other hand, and dust everything that needs it.  Make your way around the room once, getting everything the first time.  Go from high to low, and use both hands.  While dusting, fluff couch pillows, and set them in their place.  Make sure to dust all furniture and windowsills.  Straighten all furniture and decorations.  Bring a rag and multi-purpose cleaner with you in case you see a mark on the wall that needs to be scrubbed.  You should be able to hang the cleaner on your pants pocket, or you can wear a small apron to put it in.  This should be pretty quick if you are sure to get it all the first time around the room.  If you pass any rugs that you want to vacuum or clean the floor under, move them out of the way. Dust the doorway on the way out, and move on to the next room.
  • After you have dusted every room, make your way back around the house.  On your way, put all items back in the bathrooms, and gather all of the dirty rags and laundry. Take them to the laundry room, and start a load.
  • Take your mop bucket, and clean all other hard floors, such as near the entryway and the laundry room.  When finished, dump your mop bucket outside, and rinse with the hose outside or in a sink.  Use a rag to dry it, and put it away.
  • Organize your tote, make note of any cleaners that you need to buy before next time, and put it away.  Grab the vacuum from the closet, and take any last rags to the laundry room. Put all rugs or garbage cans back in the laundry room.
  • When vacuuming, start at one end of the house, and get everything.  Bathrooms, bathroom rugs, bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, hallways, and stairs all get done in the order that you pass them.  After vacuuming a room that has a rug in it, set the rug in its place and vacuum it also.  This way you won’t have to go back and put them all back in their place.  Once you are done vacuuming, You are done!  Put the vacuum away, and don’t look at it until next week!

I often do the entry way, laundry room, and any other room that has hard floors at the same time as the kitchen if they are near one another.  I dust the room after dusting the kitchen, and I clean the floors after I clean the kitchen floor.  That way you can get the bucket and all of the rugs that need to go on the floors out of your way.

I can’t tell you how long it should take you to clean your house.  I cleaned a huge house with 6 bathrooms, 8 bedrooms, and 2 kitchens faster than I cleaned a house with 2.5 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms because the people living there kept it really clean throughout the week.  I clean my 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment in less than 30 minutes most of the time. It really depends on how dirty it is to start with.  I also had houses that I would have to go as fast as I could or I wouldn’t finish in time, and houses that I had to go as slow as possible or I would end up with too much time.  That actually happened a lot.  People would hire us, and we would tell them about how much time it would take.  They would then ask for an extra hour or half hour so that we don’t have to be rushed, but I hated that.  They would tell us that we don’t need to go fast and we can  relax and go at a more “normal” pace.  This really bugged me because I would get bored if I wasn’t going at my usual pace.  You get used to going at a fast pace, and that begins to feel “normal” for you.  It is possible to cut your cleaning time down by a lot if you get the hang of the routine and fast pace.  Don’t give up, and it will become your “normal”, also.  Good luck!  Let me know if you have anything to add or any questions to ask!  If you want, I will totally come teach you my routine in person and help you clean at the same time.  I seriously love cleaning.


2 thoughts on “How to Clean Fast and Efficiently

  1. I want you to come clean my house! 🙂
    One trick I read – somewhere, I forget where – that helps in the kitchen is, I take a small bowl (like a plastic cereal bowl) and put about 1″ of white vinegar in it. I put it in the microwave and set it for 2 minutes while I go about other cleaning in the kitchen. Then after the timer is up I let it sit in there another couple of minutes, and when I’m ready to clean the microwave the steamed up vinegar has loosened all the goop and I just wipe it out! Then I usually toss the vinegar into the sink and use it to scrub that out.

  2. wow! “I seriously love cleaning” is a wonderful characteristic to have as a woman. Congrats! It always feels great to have a clean top to bottom house. I appreciate your comment about the kids being out of the house. Since I work with my kids that doesn’t happen but I think I should use it when they finish their part early. Good advice! I am glad you wrote this all out! Thanks!

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