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Clean Up in Minutes

  • Illustration by Dan Sipple

    Family Room

    5-Minute Cheat: Toss out-of-place items—magazines, sneakers and video games—into a laundry basket and stash in the closet for the time being. Run a microfiber duster across coffee and side tables. Straighten and fluff sofa cushions and pillows.

    15-Minute Spiff-Up: Give floor and rugs a once-over with a vacuum. Dust the shelves and the flatscreen. A damp eraser pad takes care of any noticeable scuffs or fingerprints on walls. Quickly put DVDs and video games back where they belong.

    30-Minute Power Clean: 15-minute spiff-up plus

    —Roll back rugs. A dry cloth sweeper picks up dirt missed by the vacuum.

    —Swipe the top of tall furniture and cobwebs in ceiling corners with a long-armed duster.

    —Vacuum sofa and chair cushions with an upholstery attachment.

    —A microfiber cloth and a no-drip cleaner take care of smeared windows, says Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Cleaner.

    Timely Tip: Always attack a room from top to bottom and right to left, until you've gone full circle, says Debra Johnson, training manager of Merry Maids.

  • Swiffer 360 Dusters Extender Kit

    Bust dust on shelves with a wave of this fluffy wand, then add an extender to get a handle on the ceiling fan. for stores, $9

  • Fuller Brush Co. Glass Gel

    Use this miracle goo and kiss streaky windows and mirrors goodbye., $6

  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Power

    An old favorite gets tough on wall scuffs and fingerprints—plus the new design makes it more durable than ever.

  • Eureka AirSpeed ABS

    This high-speed machine goes to town on pet hair trapped in carpeting and upholstery., $129

  • Bissell Stomp 'N Go Stain Lifting Pads

    No more getting down on your hands and knees—just step on the premoistened pad and carpet stains disappear. $5/box of 5

  • Illustration by Dan Sipple


    5-Minute Cheat: Load dirty dishes, pans and glasses into the dishwasher. Move small appliances and clutter off the counter and into cupboards. Quickly remove crumbs with a sponge and swab countertops, sink, and island with a disinfecting wipe.

    15-Minute Spiff-Up: Sort garbage and recycling into bags and put outside. Clear surfaces and spritz countertops with a multipurpose cleaner, then wipe with a damp cloth. Scrub sink with a sponge and cleanser. Polish fixtures with a microfiber cloth. Vacuum or sweep floor to get rid of most crumbs and dust.

    30-Minute Power Clean: 15-Minute Spiff-Up plus

    —Using a combination of tough tools—a microfiber cloth, a degreasing agent and a scouring pad—work your way around the room, starting at the stove. Wipe down the outside of all appliances and the backsplash, paying special attention to grime around cabinet pulls and fridge handles, says Johnson.

    —Tackle the floor with a damp microfiber mop and spray cleaner. "Another great option is to use a steam mop," says Smallin.

  • Caldrea Countertop Cleanser in Palmarosa Wild Mint

    Spritz it on laminate surfaces and appliances and fingerprints vanish., $9

  • Ecover ZERO Automatic Dishwasher Powder

    Dishes shine with this chlorine- and phosphate-free detergent., $8

  • Scotch-Brite Botanical Disinfecting Wipes in Breeze

    Pretty and powerful, they're especially great for countertop cleanups. for stores, $3/35 wipes

  • Bissell Lift-Off Steam Mop

    Smallin can't live without her stick steamer—it's the bomb for polishing tile and linoleum., $150

  • Bon Ami Powder Cleanser

    This classic gets down and dirty on stubborn stains—in the sink as well as on pots and pans., $9/6-pack

  • Liquid-Plumr Disposal + Drain Foaming Cleaner

    One citrusy packet freshens and deep-cleans an icky disposal.

  • Illustration by Dan Sipple


    5-Minute Cheat: Quickly swipe the sink and its fixtures with a biodegradable wipe. Use a microfiber cloth on the mirror. Swish the toilet with a long-handled brush and flush. Disinfect the toilet seat with another wipe. Hide stray toiletries and makeup in a drawer. No need to do the shower or tub: Just pull the curtain or door closed.

    15-Minute Spiff-Up: Squirt bowl cleaner around the edge of the toilet and leave for a few minutes. Spritz the sink, the countertops and around the tub with an all purpose spray and swipe with a microfiber cloth. Return to the toilet, scrubbing stubborn rings and wiping the entire base and seat. "A wet pumice stone zaps water rings inside the bowl," says Johnson. Run a handheld vacuum over the floor. Empty trash. Swap clean towels for dirty ones.

    30-Minute Power Clean: 15-Minute Spiff-Up plus

    —Let an all-purpose spray cleaner attack grime in the shower and tub for a few minutes while you put away toiletries and makeup, recommends Smallin. A non-scratch scrubber takes care of any scum on grout and tile and inside the tub and shower. A mold and mildew stain fighter finishes the job. Rinse with water.

    —Remove dirt and stains by giving the floor a once-over with a vacuum followed by a dampened microfiber mop plus cleaner.

  • Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Tub and Shower Scrubber

    Tackle built-up grime on grout—without scratching tile. for stores, $4

  • Tilex Mold Stain & Mildew Stain Remover

    Eliminate shower gunk while stopping stains from coming back.

  • Method Antibac Toilet Cleaner

    Water rings have met their match in this nontoxic, spearmint-scented disinfectant., $4

  • Anywhere Cleaners

    Quickie Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

    Johnson loves these miracle workers, which are designed for a variety of specific surfaces—furniture, glass, counters—and color keyed so you can't go wrong., $10/4-pack

  • Libman Wonder Mop

    For spotless floors in a jiffy, Johnson uses a microfiber mop and hot water.

  • Waverly Floral Sponge

    Stiff scouring sponges are indispensable in the quest against dirt.

    Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.