Independent Online

Saturday, December 9, 2023

View 0 recent articles pushed to you.Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by location

8 simple hacks for fake cleaning your home

Put clean hand towels in the guest bathroom, and fold them nicely. Picture: Bathroom Bizarre

Put clean hand towels in the guest bathroom, and fold them nicely. Picture: Bathroom Bizarre

Published Aug 19, 2023


By Jennifer Barger

Surprise! Your friendly neighbour/nosy mother-in-law/neatnik best friend is stopping by your place in 30 minutes.

But your entryway is piled with flip flops, your kitchen sink is stacked with pizza-crusted dishes, and your cat's hair is blanketing the couch.

How can you fake a clean house if you've got no time - and no live-in help? "If you're in a hurry to make things look acceptable, it's really about perception," says Becky Rapinchuk, who runs the Clean Mama blog and online housekeeping course. "You want to concentrate on where people will be, not on a whole house clean-up."

Here are the hacks that she and other experts deploy to fake a sparkling space in a flash.

Consider who's coming - and why

Before going on a directionless cleaning spree, "think about how you can make your guest comfortable in the space," says KC Davis, a counsellor and author of the book, "How to Keep House While Drowning."

"I worry less about dust on the floor or a ring in the toilet than about getting pet hair off the sofa if someone is going to watch a movie with me," she says. Keep a lint roller handy to quickly remove cat or dog fuzz from upholstery.

Cut the clutter

Clutter doesn't pose a health risk like dirt and grime might, but it can make visitors think your place belongs on a hoarding show.

The fastest way to zap it, say cleaning pros, is to grab a laundry basket or other large container and start tossing things in.

"The hot spots are the entryway, the living room and the kitchen," says Caroline Solomon, a professional organizer in New York City who creates cleaning-hack TikToks as @neat.caroline. "You can put everything into a catchall basket in an emergency."

Davis picks up rooms in her house by grouping clutter into five categories: trash, laundry, dirty dishes, things that have a place, and things that don't have a place.

"It puts your brain on autopilot," she says. "You can work on the first four categories quickly, and then toss all the things without homes into a lidded bin to deal with later."

In a rush, you can hide your bin of stuff in a room or wardrobe that guests won't be using, or - as Rapinchuk sometimes does - the boot of your car.

Turn up the lights

Studies have shown that people perceive well-lit spaces as cleaner than dimly lit ones.

One 2013 experiment found that people even believed litter looked cleaner in bright light.

"It goes back to ancient times, when sunlight was associated with health," says Vincent P. Magnini, a professor of marketing and hospitality management at Longwood University who has researched the perception of cleanliness.

"Natural light is best - open up your blinds!" Still, he cautions that bright lighting can backfire if you haven't recently dusted, so be mindful of obviously dusty spots, such as the TV.

Spiff up the soft stuff

Put clean hand towels in the guest bathroom, and fold them nicely.

Then fluff up the pillows on your couch and fold up any blankets in your living room. If you think someone might peek into your boudoir, make the bed.

Do a surface wipe

While picking up or putting away your stuff goes a long way, it can't hide the dust bunnies frolicking on your floor or the mysterious goop on your kitchen counter.

"People really notice if you wipe down the most visible surfaces - floors, kitchen countertops, get the soap scum off the powder room sink," says Grace Reynolds, co-founder of the American House Cleaners Association.

"Plus give attention to anything that has a sheen or that can show smudges - mirrors, the glass on your front door."

Pay attention to scent

Though you probably don't need scientific research to tell you that a lemon scent often signals freshness, a series of 2005 Dutch studies indeed showed that subjects connected citrus with cleaning.

To create the same association in your home, consider lighting a lemon- or orange-infused candle. (Though Solomon swears by Flamingo Estate's tomato candle - "it just gives a bright note to the air," she says.)

Reynolds counsels: "My former mother-in-law had a great trick where she'd rub Pine-Sol on the inside of the front-door frame" so the scent would immediately greet guests.

Aromatherapy, however, won't hide the stench of an overflowing kitchen garbage can or last night's fish dinner.

So, also be sure to empty the trash, turn on the ceiling fan and "air out your home by opening the windows," says Solomon.

Add a plant or flowers

A study Magnini co-authored in 2021 found that people thought indoor spaces with plants and other greenery were cleaner than those without. "It's not rational, but indoor plants have some crazy psychological power over us," he says.

Many housekeeping pros also believe adding fresh flowers to your home helps the space sparkle.

"If you are going to pick up chips and dip, get a bouquet, too," says Solomon. "That will make things feel finished and make it seem like you have your act together."

Prepare for next time

Not to sound like your parents, but if you set up a system to keep your house clean and your clutter at a minimum all the time, it'll be quicker to make things look company-ready in a pinch.

"My premise is to do a little bit every day so you aren't spending your whole weekend cleaning," says Rapinchuk. "I assign specific tasks to specific days of the week - floors one day, bathrooms another, laundry once a week."

When you're rushing to clean things up, it's tempting to go after everything with a pack of bleach wipes.

But simpler, less corrosive products - Reynolds swears by Bar Keepers Friend, Dawn dish soap, and essential oil cleaner for most jobs - are both effective and less likely to damage surfaces such as stainless steel or marble.

"And don't be afraid to use tools to make things simpler for yourself," advises Davis. She often uses disposable toilet brush heads to scrub down the exterior and the interior of the toilet. "Just do anything you can do to get a little time back."