Are you hosting guests during the holiday season? Shopping and cooking for any big meal likely already leaves you with a full plate. When you add welcoming guests into your home—particularly if you’re planning on them staying the night—the extra tasks added to your list of chores can be the source of some serious anxiety.
To help calm your nerves and simplify your to-do list, we asked seven experts for their best advice on how to prepare your home and distilled it down to 29 essential tips.
14 Basic Cleaning Tips to Prep Your Home for Holiday Parties
Planning a holiday gathering is fun, but rarely stress-free. Meg Roberts, President of Molly Maid, shares her tips on how to prep beforehand to guarantee that you have time to enjoy your home and time with your guests come the day of:
1. Scour the Stoop
Your entryway is the first thing a guest will see when they arrive, so keeping it clean guarantees a great first impression. Wipe down the front door, shake out the doormat and make sure dust and dirt haven't collected on any patio furniture.
2. Wipe the Washroom
Make sure at least two of the bathrooms in your home are clean. Be sure to stock them with extra toilet paper and hand towels too. Squeegee the shower doors and walls, and wipe off counters and sinks after each use to stay ahead of the grime. Break out the stiff-bristled brush and scouring powder to really scrub things clean.
3. Cleanse the Kitchen
Wipe the stove, fridge, microwave, small appliances, cabinets, counters and sink clean. People tend to gather around food during the holidays, so it’s important to make sure your kitchen looks and smells nice. If you notice any strange odors, brew a pot of coffee to neutralize the scent.
4. Rinse Your Rooms
Dust the bedrooms, family room and dining room top to bottom including ceiling fans, light fixtures, and vents. Wipe down the doorways, furniture, and knickknacks. Vacuum the floors, especially under beds and furniture. Lay out fresh linens and towels in the guest bedroom(s) for when visitors arrive.
5. Brighten Rooms by Wiping Down Bulbs
Wipe down your dirty light fixtures and dusty light bulbs. These items are often overlooked during regular house cleanings, and doing so will make your rooms appear brighter.
6. Spruce Up the Fireplace
Fireplaces are a great luxury during the cold winter months. Dampen newspaper or a paper towel, and dip it in leftover ashes. Wipe the glass in a circular motion to loosen caked-on soot. Repeat until the soot is lifted and finish off with regular glass cleaner and a paper towel to leave the glass streak free.
7. Clean Out Your Closets
The best time to deep clean your closets is the switch of seasons. Make room for winter sweaters and coats by purging old items you no longer wear. Sort clothing into keep, trash, and donate piles. With your keep pile, visualize organizers and bins you could purchase to keep your closet tidy.
8. Tidy Up Toys
Children often receive toys and other little knick-knacks that often do nothing other than take up space. Before the holiday season, have your children select a few belongings to keep and donate or toss out the rest. You can make the holiday season brighter for someone else by giving away the toys your children no longer use.
9. Freshen Mattresses
Bedding is changed all the time, but how many times do we clean the actual bed itself? Sprinkle baking soda over the mattress and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then bust out the vacuum and drag it from top to bottom to eliminate germs, odor, and bacteria. Rubbing alcohol, laundry detergent, citrus-based cleaners, disinfectant sprays and hydrogen peroxide can all be used to remove any stains.
10. Release Wrinkles with Downy
Under a time-crunch to cook and set the table for your Thanksgiving feast? When you are picking out which tablecloth to use and matching your napkins, you will notice all the wrinkles in them from being stored away for a year.
Instead of spending 30 minutes or over an hour to iron each piece individually, Ryann Checchi suggests simply using Downy Wrinkle Releaser. All you have to do is take a couple of seconds to spray each item, finish picking out your plates and glasses, and, by the time you’re finished, your linens will be wrinkle-free.
11. Refresh Your Garbage Disposal
The stinkiest feature in the kitchen is the garbage disposal. Lauren Haynes of Star Domestic Cleaners suggests freshening it up before your guests arrive.
To clean it, freeze vinegar into ice cubes, fill the bin and grind them. You can also add lemon peels for additional freshness. After that, run cold water through the disposal to rinse it. According to Lauren, by using this simple trick, you will avoid surprising your guests with the bad disposal odor.
12. Protect Your Floors
Place doormats or area rugs in entryways and high-traffic areas. A common misconception is that hardwood is cleaner than carpet, when in fact, dust and dirt particles settle on bare surfaces only to get stirred up and redistributed deeper into the home whenever there is activity in the room.
Area rugs should be used to trap dirt and allergens in the home. These are easy to clean and maintain, and also help preserve the look and life of carpets and wood floors.
13. Don’t Forget About Your Upholstered Furniture
Most people think about vacuuming and cleaning their carpets and rugs but forget about cleaning their upholstery, despite spending significant time every day on their couches and chairs.
Vacuum fabric-covered furniture and wash removable upholstery covers. Professionals recommend having your upholstery professionally cleaned on a yearly basis to help keep it clean from dust, dander, and bacteria build up.
14. Maintain by Dusting Your Home Daily
Are you expecting guests mid-week? Prepare several days ahead of time, then maintain by spending 15 minutes each day by wiping down your rooms.
Make the bed each morning or at least straighten the covers out. Pick up the mail, toys, keys, and loose change. Wipe off counters and sinks after every use. Also, choose one room to vacuum and dust every day.
How to Repair Dings on Furniture and Wood Floors
Getting your home in tip-top shape for guests means paying attention to details that are often overlooked.
From small nicks and dings to deep gauges, host of Today’s Homeowner TV and radio, Danny Lipford shares how to camouflage any flaws in wood furniture or floors:
Grab a touch-up kit with markers that are meant to help hide small nicks, and dings on wood floors or furniture.
Go over the scratch with the pen that matches the color of the finish, wipe off any excess with a cloth before it dries. If you don’t have a kit on hand, a brown permanent marker will work as well—just make sure that it’s the right shade to match the wood.
Fill nicks and small gouges with wax filler sticks that match the color of the finish, use a soft cloth to remove any excess. Brown crayons will work as well. If you don’t have an exact color match, a darker color blend is better than a lighter one.
Fill deep gouge with color matched wood putty, or by mixing a bit of sawdust and colorant with epoxy glue.
Fill gouges by melting a matching colored shellac burn-in stick on the surface using a match, lighter, soldering iron, or burn-in knife. Carefully scrape off any excess with a sharp chisel, then smooth the surface by applying additional heat.
Tips to Keep Your Kitchen Tidy While Cooking
Alison Bradley at London Cleaning Team shared her favorite tricks for cleaning up after Thanksgiving guests:
1. Make Foil Your Ally
Put a piece of foil at the bottom of your oven to catch drips and save you the task of having to scrub. You can also place a sheet at the base of your roasting pan. Once you’re done cooking, fold the ends up to prevent spillage and remove.
2. Set Up a Leftovers Station
All you need is some inexpensive plastic containers and paper bags. Write the names of your guest on the bags, then divvy up any leftovers into plastic containers.
Guests can grab a takeaway bag as they leave, which prevents throwing away any food. Plus, guests get to savor some of their favorite dishes the next day.
How to Stay on Top of Spills
When guests are gathered in your home for food, drinks, and merriment, spills are almost guaranteed to happen. Here’s how to spot-clean your favorite fabrics:
If it’s a fresh spill, silk is quite easy to clean with warm water and a sponge. Simply blot the stained area until it's removed and allow time to dry.
For a dried stain, it’s a little trickier. Moisten the area with warm water, then blot the stain with glycerin. If the stain can't be washed off in 30 minutes, mix alcohol and ammonia and apply to the surface followed by a rinse!
Dab the stain with a damp cloth, don't rub! Then coat the stain with salt to absorb the liquid. While holding over a sink or a bowl, pour boiling water over the stain to flush it out. Finally, throw the fabric in the dryer for a few minutes to remove.
Sprinkle the stained area with baking soda and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Combine vinegar, dishwashing detergent and water in a bowl and blot onto the area. Use a clean town and cool water to clean the area and absorb as much moisture as possible. Make sure to air out!
Moisten the area with warm water and then apply dish soap that does not include bleach. A simple rinse should take the stain away. If it doesn't, wash the fabric with laundry detergent and repeat until it's gone.
This is surprisingly simple. For most stains, like ink for example, apply rubbing alcohol to the area with a towel and repeat 2–3 times until it's gone. For other stains like food, you can simply use hand soap or dish soap and water to rub the stain away.
Spot Clean Carpet Stains Before They Set
Kelly McNamara of Chem-Dry, a leading carpet and upholstery cleaning franchise, writes to say that it’s important to remember that not all carpet stains are created equal. Most stains fall into two categories: water-based (e.g., grass, beer/wine/juice, ketchup and most foods) and oil-based (e.g., buttered corn, salad dressing, mayonnaise, cooking or motor oil).
There are, however, three golden rules that apply to all stains before embarking on the standard carpet cleaning service:
Step #1: Remove Excess Particles
Before treating any stain, always remove excess particles of the stain from the area. For stains such as grass and dirt, begin by vacuuming the affected area with a suction tool attachment.
Do not use the entire vacuum, as the brush feature may make the stain set in deeper. For stains such as ketchup or barbecue sauce, scrape off any excess spillage or remaining dried particles from the carpet with a knife or similar object.
Step #2: Address the Stain Promptly
The longer a wet stain lingers, the more it sets and can penetrate deeper into the carpet fibers. For water-based stains, blot the affected area with cold water using a paper towel or clean white rag immediately after the spill or stain occurs. For oil-based stains, dampen a clean washcloth with warm water and blot the area, repeating as necessary.
Step #3: Never Scrub Wet Stains (Only Blot Them)
Never scrub wet stains - only blot them: While it might be tempting to attack a stain with vigorous scrubbing, it can actually push and grind the stain deeper into the carpet fibers. Scrubbing can also deteriorate some of the carpet's natural durability. Instead, blot the stain by starting on the outsides and pushing towards the center of the stain, so it doesn’t spread any further.
How to Repair a Broken Ornament or China
Being dropped doesn’t mean your favorite ornament or figurine is a lost cause. Danny Lipford shares tips for repairing cherished knickknacks or dishware:
The best glue to use is either instant glue or clear 5-minute epoxy since they require shorter setting times when holding irregular objects in place by hand.
Weldbond and EcoGlue are nontoxic glues that can also be used for gluing broken objects.
To hold irregular objects in place while the glue sets, try molding modeling clay around the item.
Spring-loaded clothespins and rubber bands work great for clamping small objects while the glue is setting up.
Tips to Prepare Your Home for Multi-Night Guests
Do you have guests staying for several nights? If you’re entertaining overnight guests, your job doesn’t end when the table is cleared. Jeffrey Welder, the interior design expert behind Vänt Wall Panels, shares his tips to help your guests feel welcome and comfortable.
If you have the time and inclination, Jeff suggests these extra niceties make any spare bedroom as inviting to visitors as a fine hotel:
Make sure guest rooms are decked out with all the necessities, like a reading light, cozy throw blanket, a big basket with bottled water and snacks, a kit with extras like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, and razors, nice sheets, fluffy pillows, and, of course, the WiFi password.
Help minimize the items that guests have to ask for by providing a few items that are frequently left behind at home. A docking station or extra phone charger is a nice touch. It’s also nice to have a nightlight in the hallway or bathroom attached to the guest bedroom so guests can find their way around at night.
Purchase a few small, scented bath sets for each guest and place the sets in the bathroom or bedroom with a welcome note.
Help guests feel extra welcome and give them a chance to unwind by leaving a bottle of wine with several glasses in their room.
5. If your guests have kids with them, make sure there are plenty of fun board games on hand in the guest room. Kids can never say no to a fun game of Candyland, especially during the holidays!
If you have a spare television set, place it in your guest’s room along with some favorite holiday movies (White Christmas, Home Alone, It's a Wonderful Life, etc.). Your visitors will appreciate being able to retreat to their room at times.
Finally, if your guests will be around for more than a day or two, it’s nice to arrange for a few activities to do while they’re visiting. Plan a little sightseeing tour, get tickets for a holiday play or concert, and if they’re active, maybe they’d like to join you at your gym or take a yoga class together.
Don’t Forget to Relax, Have Fun, and Live in the Holiday Spirit
What’s our favorite tip? Relax! As tempting as it is to get lost in your to-do list, try not to forget the reason behind welcoming guests to gather in your home for the holidays: celebrating and being thankful.
Remember people are there to gather with you and one another, not to judge the cleanliness of your carpet or the dust on your baseboards. If you need it, ask for help, laugh a lot. But don't mind if wood furniture is dinged or gravy boat is broken—above all, find moments of gratitude in the busy, messy, loud, and delicious holiday season.
For More Great Cooking, Hosting, Decorating Hacks & Tips, Visit Our 2018 Holiday Guide.