Use these shortcuts from parents and pros to make your place playdate-presentable without stress.

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Dad and Daugher Vacuuming
Stephanie Rausser
| Credit: Stephanie Rausser

Now that you’re a busy parent, your home may never be the tidiest one on the block— but cleanliness isn't out of reach! Got 10 minutes? Attack and clean one area. Have a little more time? Freshen up your whole place in about 40 minutes. Keep things tidy enough with these no-fuss strategies.

General Cleaning Tips

Force your focus. Turn off your phone, set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes, and don’t stop cleaning until the timer buzzes. You may be surprised by how much you can get done if you work uninterrupted, advises Tracy Bowers, founder of Organize Simply, in Utah and California.

Plan for quick cleanups. To clear the floor for vacuuming or before a playdate, designate a large canvas tote as a catchall, suggests Carrie Kauffman, of Carrie’s Essential Services, in Pennsylvania. Her choice: the Navy & Ivory Rugby Stripe Storage Bin With Rope Handles ($17; It’s great for the playroom and any other room where things tend to gather on the floor.

Streamline supplies. Pare down your cleansers and tools to the basics, including an all-purpose cleaner that can tackle most jobs. Store them in a caddy you can tote from room to room. Now you won’t dread opening the overflowing cabinet under your sink to get started.


Save the kitchen for last. This room is typically the staging area for your cleaning routine, so wait to tackle it until after everything else is done.

Deal with the dishwasher. "Incorporate a system of running the dishwasher right before bed and unloading it each morning, so you can easily add dirty dishes to it throughout the day," says Joanna Monahan of Major Mom, a national professional organizing business.

Wear rubber gloves to do dishes fast. Use your gloved hand to quickly scrape scraps from the dishes into the garbage disposal or trash, says Villanova, Pennsylvania, mom of two Nancy Neff. You’ll also gain speed by getting a firm grip on dishes and enduring hotter water temperatures.

Let a scouring powder do the work. While cleaning aisles abound with spray products, Alissa Abramson-Densky, a mom of two in Pikesville, Maryland, says Comet is her secret weapon. “I use it to get burned oil and sticky goo off my pans,” she says. She also relies on Comet for slime-related food-coloring disasters.

Make dishes easier to put away. U.S. Air Force veteran Angela Cody-Rouget, also known as Major Mom and the founder of Major Organizers, says, “It is more efficient to put dishes away when there is actually room for the dishes in your cabinets.” Store your everyday dishes as close to the dishwasher as possible, and store second sets of dishes or special dishes away from the prime real estate next to the machine.


Skip the mop in the bathroom. In the bathroom, start at the top with the mirrors and work your way down,” says Pikesville, Maryland, attorney and mom Debbie Katz Levi. “By the time you get to the floor, you’ll have moist rags you can use to wipe the floor without having to get out the mop.”

Store cleaning wipes in the bathroom. Wipes should be easily accessible for all to see and use, says Bowers. “Do a quick wipe down nightly so that things stay fresh between cleaning days.” Ode to Clean Wipes ($8 for a pack of 60 wipes) are made with a plant-based peroxide that’s safe enough for kids to use.

Use a squeegee after each shower. Kauffman says removing excess water from the walls and the floor will cutdown on water spots and mildew growth. If your kid is big enough to shower, he’s also big enough to squeegee at the end! Then once a month, fill a spray bottle with hot water mixed with a few drops of vinegar, spray the shower with the solution, and wipe it with a cloth.

Freshen the room. While it’s always appreciated when someone sprays air freshener after they use the bathroom, you can give your bathroom a pleasant scent for each guest entering, too. Keep scented oil or a scented plugin, like Glade Tranquil Lavender & Aloe PlugIns, in the bathroom guests will frequent most to make it more fresh and inviting.


Supercharge your laundry. Toss a pod of GroVia’s Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment ($10 for ten pods) into your wash to skip the step of pretreating and soaking stains. “I used them when I was cloth diapering my girls, and I discovered they work on everything,” says Blake Miller, a Charlotte, North Carolina–based health coach.

Go ahead, throw in the towel. Don’t waste time rinsing and wringing out grimy rags; instead, make or buy triple the number of rags you normally have on hand while cleaning. Then as you dirty up a rag, toss it into a laundry bag and move on to your next clean one.

Divide and conquer. Put darks and whites in a divided hamper. Jeannie Kim, a mom to two from Milwaukee, does a separate load for each person in her family, including the baby. "Then I don't have to sort the clothes into different rooms," she says. Another idea: Designate a clean laundry basket for each family member.

Fold as you go. Resist the temptation to pile clean clothes in a basket or on your bed to deal with later. Leave them in the dryer until you can tackle them, and de-wrinkle an abandoned load by tossing in a wet washcloth and running the dryer for a few minutes.


You need to vacuum or mop about once a week in each room—then spot clean with a wipe or a hand vac.

Do a quick pickup. Even on the days you're not vacuuming, grab and toss large pieces of food and other items that stand out. Floors will stay cleaner longer—and be safer for your crawling (read: curious!) baby.

Deodorize rugs. Anna Moseley, founder of the cleaning blog, sprinkles baking soda to neutralize odors without chemicals. (Just be sure to stick to a light coating, because it can clog your vacuum's filter.) Let it sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum.

Handle wood and tile. Use a stick vacuum to pick up crumbs and dust bunnies, then mop (Swiffer's Wet Jet is fast).

Tips for Cleaning Faster

Speed up trash duty. Place 20 trash bags at the bottom of your garbage can so they’re ready to deploy when you take away a full bag, says Cody-Rouget, who adopted the habit in the Air Force.

Blast dust with canned air. Lindsay Wetmore-Arkader , a mom of three in Haverford, Pennsylvania, uses this office staple to tackle occasional dead bugs in light fixtures and spiderwebs in ceiling corners.

Enlist pint-size help. A 2014 survey conducted on behalf of Whirlpool found that 82 percent of parents reported doing chores when they were children, but only 28 percent said they gave chores to their own kids. Things your kids can do: Dust surfaces, wipe down cabinets with a microfiber cloth, use a Swiffer or a hand vac after meals, and pick up their own toys and clothes.

American Baby