It’s a scenario every host has experienced: A party or gathering is winding down, and you finally have a moment to take stock of the house or kitchen. You’re thinking to yourself, “I thought my friends/family/co-workers liked me,” as you see the chaos left in the wake of your guests. (They like you! People just aren’t always the most considerate or thoughtful when they’re having fun.)
The end of the night is, by all accounts, most hosts’ least favorite part of having people over. After the revelry is wrapped up, there’s a lot of cleaning ahead. But with the right playbook, you can approach tidying your space as a series of tasks—line them up and knock them out! Once you’ve learned how to clean up like a boss, you might even find the process to be kind of therapeutic, dare we say, fun. Follow these tips for stress-free cleanup.
1. Gear up
The first thing to keep in mind is that having enough cleaning products in your cabinet is essential for a job like post-party detail. It only makes cleaning more frustrating if you run out of kitchen spray, and try to clean the counters with glass cleaner. (Ever tried it? It doesn’t work.) Invest in quality versions of these products, and you’ll always have the right tool for the task.
- Disinfectant bathroom spray or wipes
- Toilet bowl cleaner
- Degreaser spray
- Multipurpose kitchen spray, or white vinegar spray (half a cup of vinegar diluted with 2 cups of water)
- Glass cleaner
- Dish soap and dishwasher detergent
- Fabric stain remover
- Feather duster
- Toilet bowl brush
- Scouring pad/steel wool
- Paper towels
- Grill brush
- Vacuum cleaner
- Broom, dustpan, and mop
2. Time your tackle
We almost always suggest doing the majority of the cleaning on the same day/night as your gathering; it feels so great to wake up to a tidy house. However, if it’s late at night or you’re in a food coma when the last guest heads out, you might not have the energy or time to do it all. If that’s the case, there are some things you should still do before hitting the hay, and some things that can wait until morning.
- Clean the grill. If you were grilling, take a few minutes to clean the grates and make sure the coals are fully extinguished or the gas is turned off. It’s much easier to scrape the grill grates when food residue hasn’t been sitting on them overnight. Cover the grill to keep it in great shape for the long haul.
- Gather the trash and recycling. To avoid feeling like you’re waking up in a frat house, do a quick walk-through of each room and pick up any discarded empties or fallen soldiers. Give cans and bottles a quick rinse, and take them out to the recycling bin. Same goes for dirty plates, napkins, and cutlery. Doing both of these tasks helps prevent mold and bacteria from growing, and ensures that the house won’t smell like funky food or a brewery in the morning.
- Put all leftover food away. Do not tempt pets or unwelcomed critters with the dregs of a chip bowl!
- Empty the cooler. Put any unopened beverages back in the refrigerator and dump the cooler. Then turn it upside down and prop it up against something to dry and air out.
- Treat any stains. Red wine, buffalo sauce, coffee...stains happen! The sooner you can mitigate them, the better.
- Do the dishes. Think of it as a gift to your future self, and load the dishwasher or clear the sink before bed. The only exceptions are any casserole dishes, crockpots, or other vessels with food stuck on them, which should be soaked overnight. This will make cleaning them much less of a headache. Spray and wipe the counters, and run a lemon rind through the garbage disposal at the very end to freshen it up.
- Sanitize high-touch surfaces. Grab a disinfectant wipe and hit up door knobs, light switches, staircase banisters, and any other places that guests came in frequent contact with. Don’t forget the bathroom!
- Deep clean the bathroom. If you sanitize the sink area before bed, the rest of the bathroom can wait! In the morning, give the toilet a deep clean, wipe down the floors, and empty the trash for good measure.
- Clean the floors. The night before, pick up any larger bits of food or trash on the floor, but leave the vacuuming til the morning, so you won’t risk waking up your sleeping kids, or bothering the neighbors with the noise. Sweeping and mopping is also much easier with the help of daylight.
- Move the furniture back. If you rearranged chairs, tables, couches, etc. to improve the flow of the party or allow more people to comfortably eat or watch the game, it’s actually better to wait to put them back to their original locations until after you’ve swept or vacuumed, so you can be sure to get every last speck of dust and crumbs.
- Clean up the yard. It’s too hard at night to properly clean up lawn games and toys. Daylight will help you safely break down any activities that were enjoyed during the evening. One exception is a kiddie pool. Anything that holds standing water should be emptied or covered to avoid becoming a mosquito breeding ground.
If possible, enlist your family and friends to help you, and maybe even ask them the night before and lure them in with morning-after mimosas! You don’t have to face all the cleaning tasks alone. And, if you are tackling it on your own, create a to-do list, crank up some tunes, and you’ll be enjoying a clean, calm space before you know it!