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Cleaning Tasks That Take 15 Minutes or Less

By Angela Ebron

No time to tidy up the house? No sweat. You can get a ton done in well under half an hour. Here, 15 cleanups that take 15 minutes or less.

15-Minute Tasks

Swipe and sweep the kitchen.
“Use disposable disinfecting wipes to clean kitchen countertops, appliance tops and exteriors, the sink, cabinet fronts and switchplates,” says Julie Edelman, author of The Ultimate Accidental Housewife: Your Guide to a Clean-Enough House. Then grab the broom and go over the floor.

Clean your sofas.
A thorough once-over with the brush attachment on your vacuum and you’re done, says Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean. Make sure to get under the cushions too, as well as the backs and sides of the sofas.

Unmake the bed.
Strip off the linens, use the vacuum attachment on the mattress and pillows, then toss the sheets in the washer, says Cobb.

Vacuum only high-traffic areas (near the front door, in front of sofas, etc).
Sprinkle baking soda beforehand for a clean, fresh smell.

10-Minute Tasks

Make glass gleam—no special cleansers required.
“To clean mirrors and television screens, just lightly dampen one half of a microfiber cloth with water,” says Laura Dellutri, author of Speed Cleaning 101. Wipe with the damp half, dry with the other half.

“Paint” the shades.
Pleated lampshades can be difficult (and time-consuming) to dust. Make easy work of it by using a 1½-inch paintbrush, suggests Marry Findley, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning and owner of Mary Moppins, a green cleaning products company. It’s the perfect tool to get in between each pleat quickly and efficiently.

Speed-clean venetian blinds.
Put a slightly dampened old (but clean!) sock over your hand and gently run your hand between the slats.

5-Minute Tasks

De-crumb seats.
If you have kids, then you know that the kitchen table isn’t the only place where crumbs linger. Somehow they always find their way to the chairs as well. “Five minutes is all it takes to brush off kitchen chairs and breakfast barstools with a soft brush,” says Cobb. Catch the crumbs in your hand as you go and toss them in the trash.

Don’t forget the fireplace.
Lay an old sheet in front of it and sweep the bricks with a broom. The sheet will catch all the dirt. “This method is much faster than trying to vacuum the bricks,” says Findley. (Plus, you can shake the soot off the sheet outdoors, launder it and reuse.)

Keep germs at bay.
“Spray all door, cabinet and drawer handles and knobs in the bathroom with a disinfectant spray,” says Edelman. Don’t stop there. Armed with your disinfectant, do a walk-through of the house and spritz all the other doorknobs, phones and the kitchen cabinet knobs.

Dust overlooked items.
Lightly dampen a cotton cloth with water and wipe down picture frames and the back of the TV—two easily forgotten dust magnets. “We all tend to forget to clean them, and we shouldn’t,” says Findley.

1-Minute Tasks

Straighten and stack.
If magazines you haven’t had time to read are cluttering your coffee table, take 60 seconds to neaten the pile, says Cobb.

Pour a cup of white vinegar in the toilet bowl.
A quick swish with the brush and voilà—a sparkling shine.

Keep your garbage disposal smelling fresh.
Some people put lemon rinds in the disposal to freshen it up, but Dellutri has another idea. “Skip the lemons,” she says. “They actually leave behind food particles that can cause odor. Instead, pour a bit of all-purpose cleaner in the disposal. Then drop in two cups of ice and let it grind. It will remove all the odor-causing grunge and gunk from the blades.”

Get the dryer ready.
Odds are you didn’t think to toss the lint from the dryer trap after you finished that last load. Take a minute to clean it out. You just saved yourself 60 seconds when it’s time to do another round of laundry—and every minute helps!

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