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Hosting for the holidays? Here's your cleaning game plan

Everyone is crunched for time, but spending hours cleaning your house at the last minute is no way to start off the holidays.

Meg Roberts, president of Molly Maid, suggests making the holidays a little less stressful by breaking up household tasks over the five days leading up to a gathering. Here's her, and now your, game plan.

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5 DAYS OUT: Porch, foyer, and central closet

  • Concentrate on clearing and organizing clutter.
  • Wipe clean glass doors, light fixtures, doorways and knobs.
  • Vacuum or sweep floor and mop, if necessary.
  • Make sure you have clean doormats at every entrance. This will make a significant impact on minimizing debris brought into your home.
  • Storage containers, closets and spare rooms make great temporary homes for clothes, shoes, toys and the mail you haven’t yet sorted. Get the clutter out of eye sight with a focus on your high traffic areas.

4 DAYS OUT: Bedrooms, hallways and stairs

  • Dust top to bottom including ceiling fans, light fixtures, vents, nooks and crannies.
  • Wipe down doorways, furniture and knickknacks.
  • Vacuum floor, especially under the bed, along the baseboards and under furniture.
  • Mop floor, if necessary.
  • Lay out fresh linens and towels in guest bedroom(s).
  • Dusting light fixtures, ceiling fans, blinds and cabinets is easily forgotten! Dust with a microfiber cloth prior to performing chores in a room. Dust first, then vacuum!
  • For a guest room that also serves another purpose, reduce clutter as much as possible, such as putting away all paperwork in a home office and loose toys in a kid’s room. Remove anything you or the regular occupant might need during your guests’ stay so that they truly have a space to call their own.

3 DAYS OUT: Bathrooms

  • Dust top to bottom, including light fixtures and vents.
  • Disinfect toilet, tub, shower and surfaces.
  • Wipe clean cabinets, doorway(s) and knickknacks.
  • Wipe clean sink, mirror.
  • Vacuum and mop.
  • Pull all bath towels and mats and take to laundry room; start a load.
  • Add two denture cleaning tablets to the toilet and allow their fizzing to easily remove stains and clean the bowl. If you have little kids, they may like to add the tablets — getting others involved with these household tasks makes it easier on everyone!
  • Use a handheld vacuum to quickly remove stray hairs and debris near baseboards.
  • Sweep, then mop floor with appropriate product.
  • Return freshly laundered towels and mats to their proper places.

2 DAYS OUT: Living room, dining room and family room

  • Dust top to bottom, including ceiling fans, light fixtures and vents.
  • Wipe clean doorways, mantles, furniture, inside and out of cabinets, and knickknacks.
  • Vacuum furniture, along baseboards and under furniture.
  • Address all your flooring types when vacuuming by adjusting the settings. For tile or hardwood, use the bare floors setting. This will disable the carpet-cleaning beater bar, which can scratch delicate floors. The crevice tool is a great vacuum attachment for removing crumbs and debris from your baseboards.
  • For hardwood, use a dust mop next and do not use a cleaner as it will likely leave residue and actually attract dust.
  • For ceramic tile, a manufacturer-recommended mild detergent works best. Never use abrasive products, as they can scratch the tile, or bleach or ammonia-based cleaners, which can discolor the grout.
  • For cleaning natural stone tile, also follow manufacturer’s instructions, which likely will call for a soap-based product. Never use abrasive products, as they can scratch the tile, or bleach or ammonia-based cleaners, which can discolor the grout. Also do not use lemon juice, vinegar or other acids on marble, limestone or travertine.
  • Mix the cleaning product according to manufacturer’s recommendations and keep a soft brush ready to tackle stubborn stains.

1 DAY OUT: Kitchen

  • Dust top to bottom including ceiling fans, light fixtures and vents.
  • Wipe clean stove, fridge, microwave, small appliances, cabinets, counters, sink, islands and racks.
  • Vacuum and mop the floor.
  • To clean the stove, remove all burner covers or pans from the stovetop and all shelves from the oven. Soak them in soapy water in the sink. Wipe down all surfaces on and in the appliance. The top of most stoves lifts up for easy cleaning. To remove baked-on gunk, scrub with the rough side of a sponge using a paste made of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. You may need a more heavy-duty cleaner for the oven. If you opt to set the self-cleaning cycle, be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions carefully and get kids and pets out of the house while it runs as the fumes can be a health hazard for them.
  • Don’t forget to wipe down the bottom of the inside of the fridge. Crumbs and other bits of food fall to the bottom of the refrigerator as you put items in and take them out. Pull out the produce drawers, discard spoiled produce and wash drawers with lukewarm soapy water. Wipe the area beneath the drawers as food and spills often gather there.
  • To keep your refrigerator smelling great, add an opened container of baking soda or a small plate with new coffee grounds to absorb odors.

Tips for after the party

A best-kept secret is to use Pepsi or Coca-Cola to remove burnt stains from pots, pans and casserole dishes. Pour in the soda, let it sit overnight and the stains will practically wipe off.

Remove hard water, lipstick & coffee stains from glassware by adding a half cup of white vinegar to warm, soapy water. Soaking overnight will help loosen and remove the stains.

Buff out scuffs on a polyurethane hardwood floor by rubbing the area vigorously with a soft cloth. If this doesn’t fully remove the scuff, try a small amount of floor cleaner.

Red wine spilled on the carpet? Act quick! Don’t let the stain set before you spring into cleaning mode. A little salt on the stain will help prevent it from setting and prevent larger problems. You have a few options for removing the stain: white wine, club soda and commercial carpet cleaner are the most popular. Pour your cleaning solution of choice onto the stain and gently blot up as much wine as possible. Remember, rubbing will force the stain into the carpet.

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