Quick Cleaning Solutions: A 5-to-10 Minute Scramble Before the First Date

You’ve been working like a dog lately, so when you finally get home all that you want to do is throw off your shoes and plop in front of Office Space with a burrito. Despite the social graces, you’ve landed a promising first date. How do you find time to clean up the Chipotle foil? Take heart with The Cheater’s Guide to Housecleaning. Heaven forbid you’ve invited your family over to your place this holiday; these tips will work, too.

First off, let’s discern between “cleaning” and “picking up.” We’re really more concerned about the latter. The appearance of clean is what you’re going for in a pinch. Take care of what shows first, and don’t feel obligated to give a complete tour of your space. Make your bathroom hospitable, at least sanitary. If your guests are nosy enough to root through your bathroom cabinets, they deserve whatever they get.

Second, there’s no place for environmentalism here. Disposable products are necessary to keep you from cleaning up the cleaning up. Swiffer Wet Jet is a lightweight mop with a disposable head. Dry, it picks up lint, hair, and dirt, and with a push of a button it sprays floor cleaner that scrubs spots and leaves a shine. Just throw the pad away instead of rinsing out a bucket. Good bets also include baby-type wipes: Pledge for wood, Clorox for bathrooms, and Windex for windows. (Though there’s no time for windows tonight!) A little rubbing alcohol wiped faucets with a paper towel makes them very shiny and makes you look detail oriented. Toilet brushes with throw-away heads are fabulous, too. Really, who wants to have that thing just hang out wet under the sink?

Ideally, you’d have plenty of storage to hide your clutter. If not, make do for tonight, and spend a little time making a place for everything when it’s less hectic. For now, throw all of those nasty dishes in the washer. The cycle takes forever, so don’t bother running it now. Those unlucky souls without dishwashers can fill the sink with hot soapy water and let everything soak. If you happen to be drying plates when that date, or you parents, arrives, they’ll just think that you’re adult and very domestic. You can also throw half a lemon or lime down the drain and run the disposal just to freshen things up.

In the bedroom, first put away anything of an incriminating nature. Whether it’s adult items, Soleil Moon Frye’s autographed picture, or Fraggle Rock dolls, we don’t want to know you that well. If you haven’t made the bed, strip off everything but the fitted sheet. Throw excess sheets and blankets in the hamper and smooth the duvet over the bed (comforter for you guys). Fluff your pillows and you’re done. A bottom sheet and a top cover are all you really need. There’s no time for hospital corners.

If you already have laundry baskets for lights, darks, and delicates, you’re ahead of the game. Use one for really dirty items, one for those which you believe to be clean but are just lying around, and another for shoes and assorted abandoned accessories. Throw a dryer sheet on top of the dirty and “deal with you later” baskets to make them smell a little better.

Don’t use this as an excuse to overwhelm your apartment with scent. Choose either room spray or incense or scented candles, not all of them. Candles should be chosen in groups of complimentary scents. All tropical or all woodsy is much more harmonious than Key Lime and Cedar.

Candlelight is your strongest cleaning tool. Dim the lights and let the grime hide in the shadows. Let the soft glow lend a sophisticated ambiance which only shows a muted apartment. An apartment which the illusion lets us assume is clean. Do what you can, and let your company outshine your piggish habits. The candlelight will flatter the rosy glow you receive from pulling it all together at the last minute.

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