Cleaning for Christmas doesn’t have to mean tearing up your whole house. Who has time for that right now, am I right? If you want a “holiday clean” house you can knock out in small doses, you’re in the right place.
Extra Special Christmas Clean
I’ll assume if you’re my regular reader (the mom who’s struggling to keep up) you’re probably wishing for but not expecting perfection when it comes to getting your house clean for Christmas.
You’re hoping to make your house as polished as you can manage for the holiday season.
Doesn’t matter if it’s because your judgey Aunt Margaret’s on the guest list, ready to assess your housekeeping abilities, or if you just want a cozy, clean, vacuum-marks-on-the-rug-hot-cocoa-in-front-of-a-roaring-fire atmosphere for your family.
Either way, your goal is a sparkly clean house this Christmas.
For me, Christmas Eve is the one day each year I know my entire house is at its best.
It’s not a coincidence that we host Christmas Eve dinner.
Or that Aunt Margaret’s white-gloved fingers are itching to conduct her annual inspection.
Hey, whatever it takes to get motivated, right?
It’s a lot of work to get there, but it makes me happy. Yeah, I sometimes neglect most of it again until the following October (too bad Margaret doesn’t come over for Easter), but I really do enjoy it that day.
If Your House Needs a Little More Work
It’s possible if you’re one of my regular readers that you’re frantic right now. Maybe you’re reading this in December and worried about guests coming into a mess.
If your house is really, really messy and you’re not sure how to get started, you’re probably looking for this post:
You may not be ready for extra Christmas cleaning just yet.
But don’t worry, you’ll get there…
Cleaning for Christmas Without Wrecking Your House
As for the rest of you, I’m going to assume you’re interested in next-level cleaning but not super deep, hyper-focused cleaning that involves pulling out appliances, soaking refrigerator shelves or anything else that could cause more problems than it fixes.
This post will definitely touch on a little deep cleaning, but with as minimal effort and mess as possible while still giving your house that holiday shine.
I actually sometimes enjoy an all-out “take everything apart and scrub it to death” kind of cleaning, but trying to do that in the middle of the Christmas whirlwind is a bad idea.
Especially if follow-through is not your strong suit…
This post may contain affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here. As an Amazon Associate (and from other affiliates) I earn from qualifying purchases. This doesn’t cost you anything extra and means this blog may break even someday. Who knows? It could happen…
Before You Start Holiday Cleaning
If you’re like me, you sometimes make your house a whole lot worse when you’re trying to make it better. Which is maybe okay if you manage to finish with no trip-ups.
But not so fine if something like an overflowing toilet, unexpected ER visit, or early guest appearance happens.
It’s also not so wonderful to spend most of the holiday season living in a mess of organizing and cleaning upheaval, just so it can be super beautifully great for one day at the end.
So before you start, remember to stay on top of these things:
- Keep doing any daily routines you’re managing to do now (like dishes and bed-making)
- Keep up with daily and weekly cleaning tasks, if you have them. Just because you’re planning to scrub your bathroom down to within an inch of its life tomorrow doesn’t mean that today you should skip the 2-minute wipe-down habit you’ve established.
- Try to contain big Christmas messes.
For example, if you’re like me and like to start (possibly even finish) Christmas crafting but can’t seem to create even a simple ornament without spreading glitter across all 3 levels of your home, scattering paint-smeared paper towels and hardening paint brushes in your wake, take time to control the damage before you hop to the next Christmas distraction.
Once I started making sure I didn’t neglect the everyday cleaning up, it got a lot easier to make it to my goal of a holiday-clean home.
So read on for the supplemental cleaning tasks that will get your house Margaret-and-Santa-ready.
We all have different houses, lifestyles, and cleaning priorities, so be sure to pick and choose only what you care about.
We’re avoiding overwhelm here, so don’t try to do it all.
What to Address Overall for a Cleaner House at Christmas
Before I get to specific rooms, here are the tasks that you might want to add to your overall holiday cleaning list for the entire house (or at least the areas your guests will see).
Even though I’m listing them first to separate them from the room-by-room cleaning tasks, tackle them in whatever order makes sense with your cleaning.
Pick up and put away as much clutter as you can (at least the junk that’s not where it belongs – you can also address cluttery-looking areas of décor or storage).
If this is too much right now and you really want to start with actual cleaning, consider stashing and dashing to get it all out of your way.
WARNING: If you go this route, make a note of where you put each tub of stuff. Email it to yourself and put a note on your calendar to go get them and put them away.
Do not put anything important or time-sensitive away with the other stuff you’re stashing. If you might need it before January 3rd, put it away properly, not just hidden out of sight.
If you decide to stash a bunch of junk in the basement or an empty room, stack it as neatly as possible.
This is not only a kinder way to treat your future self, it will also keep your nosy sister from discovering your secret when she wanders from room-to-room inspecting your abode.
Bonus points if you take the time to cover any piles with a sheet and put a note on it that says “no peeking until Christmas.”
Lock any door where you’re stashing stuff but make a note where you put the key.
For God’s sake, woman, do not skip the step where you keep track of the key!
Cobwebs: Check corners, ceilings, above curtains, around ceiling lights, and tops of bookcases especially.
If you don’t do this regularly (I know I don’t), you’re going to be shocked at how industrious those little spiders have been.
Under furniture: Clean under furniture that’s open at the bottom.
Use your vacuum crevice tool and get down there to clean it out before something embarrassing decides to roll out on Christmas Eve.
Or before you have to move it to make room for the train setup Grandma got the boys.
With everyone watching…
No need to pull off an all-day window-washing operation. Instead, just:
- Check for nose prints and fingerprints
- Wipe off windowsills.
- Dust blinds and lint roll curtains at the bottom where pet hair collects.
Light switches and doorknobs: Use a magic eraser to get rid of any obvious dark spots on the walls or doors around them.
Wastebaskets: Empty, check inside to make sure they’re not nasty. Scrub them out or cheat and just line them if they’re not stinky.
Light fixtures: Check globes and other glass for obvious grime and bugs. Lint roll lampshades.
Carpets: Check for stains. Wait to do this spot cleaning until after you’re done vacuuming each room.
Room-by-Room Christmas Cleaning Touches
Okay, so that’s the stuff to address all over your house.
Now I’ll list possible things to clean in each room.
Even if you hope to get the whole house done, plan for disruption and concentrate on the main rooms first. Especially if your house needs a lot of work or you’re short on time.
Choose cleaning tasks you think you’ll have time for, depending on when you’re reading this post.
If it’s very early in the holiday season, you can tackle cleaning some of the harder or more hidden stuff.
If it’s late in the game, just go with the cleaning that’s quicker or noticed more.
Cleaning Up the Front Entrance:
Not only is any guest who comes into your house gonna see the entranceway, it’ll also be their first impression.
The guest entrance may be easy to overlook (especially if we come in through the garage entrance), but cleaning the front entrance is definitely a priority at Christmas.
Here’s how to get it cleaned up:
Shoes: Clear out the shoe graveyard as well as possible. Corral what’s left onto a boot tray or into a shoe basket.
Command Center: If you’re daring enough to have one of those open areas displaying all your paperwork clutter to the world, this is the time to get some control of it.
Declutter, neaten up bulletin boards, and straighten paper piles. Hide stuff, if necessary – just keep track of where you put it.
Tables/Storage bins: Straighten and dust décor (aka intentional clutter) and neaten storage bins (or put a lid on them).
Coat closet: Neaten and add extra hangers.
If you don’t have time or energy to organize the coat closet, just get it as neat as possible and make room for other people’s coats.
Floor: Sweep, mop, shake out the rug (or wash it, if possible).
Holiday Cleaning in the Kitchen
The kitchen’s also a high priority when it comes to Christmas cleaning.
I’ve never figured out how to keep guests out of the kitchen during holiday gatherings – they just kind of randomly wander in and out.
Luckily, they’re also usually willing to do dishes.
Margaret may be judging me with every ounce of her being, but at least she’s pretty handy with a dishrag.
To make last minute kitchen cleaning less arduous, I do my deeper, holiday kitchen cleaning early in the season and then redo whatever’s necessary the week before we have guests.
Usually only a few things need to be re-cleaned, and they’re a lot quicker the second time, since the major decrudding was done recently.
Here are my suggested holiday cleaning tasks for the kitchen:
How to Clean the Range:
Oven: Run the oven cleaning cycle and wipe it out afterward. If it’s not self-cleaning, try one of the methods recommended in this post to clean it out.
Stovetop: Scrub the stovetop and clean the burners and/or grates.
Oven knobs: Remove and clean these, or wipe them in place
Control panels: Shine ‘em up.
Range hood: Clean the outside of the range hood. Check underneath to see how bad it is. If it’s disgusting, wipe it down with a degreaser and run the filter through the dishwasher.
Oven drawer and feet: Check the oven drawer and wipe out crumbs. Then check out the oven feet under the drawer. They’re usually totally covered in lint and pet hair, since they get neglected during regular cleaning.
Holiday Cleaning for the Refrigerator:
Clean out the fridge as much as possible without taking it apart.
Freezer: Neaten and wipe out any crumbs or debris.
Shelves: You don’t have to do a full-blown cleanout but get the crumbs and butter smears and milk-shavings and spills out and wipe the shelves down lightly.
Toss old food: Get rid of anything spoiled or rotten.
Clear space: Make as much room for holiday groceries and leftovers as possible.
Deodorize: Put a box of baking soda in the fridge and anywhere else there’s anything smelly.
As far as new smells, double-bag chopped onions and anything else odiferous to keep the fridge fresh through the holidays.
If it’s cold enough, I store the stinky things like sliced onions in the garage until I’m ready for them.
Other Appliance Cleaning:
Microwave: Clean out the microwave – microwave a cup of water, let it sit, wipe the microwave out well. Run the glass tray through the dishwasher. Then shine up the outside and check underneath for grossness.
Dishwasher: Wipe down the outside of the dishwasher and clean the inside around the door and gaskets (trust me, you’ll need to – ick!). Run some citric acid or vinegar through it if it’s smelly.
Small appliances: Wipe down the outside of all the small countertop appliances – you may have stopped noticing, but if you don’t already clean them off regularly, they’re pretty gross from drips and crumbs and greasy dust.
Fingerprints on stainless steel: If you have stainless appliances, they’ll always have fingerprints. People get that, and you’ve probably learned to live with it.
But at least don’t leave them covered in ancient fingerprints. Clean the stainless well the day before or morning of your gathering, then whatever happens, happens.
To get the countertop area cleaned up and ready for Christmas, make sure to hit these spots:
Take the time to wipe down your cabinet doors. I know it sounds like a lot, but it takes me less than 5 minutes. Make sure to pay special attention to the doorknobs.
Murphy’s Oil Soap (way cheaper at Walmart) is a gentle degreaser that isn’t hard on wood finishes (just make sure to dry them).
You can shine them back up with Orange-Glo (also much cheaper at Walmart). It leaves a gorgeous shine – it only lasts a few days but it definitely gives a “company clean” feel to the kitchen.
Or, for painted surfaces, a microfiber dampened with hot water should do the trick.
Silverware drawer: Shake out the dividers, wipe out. Use a magic eraser for scuff marks.
Under-the-sink cabinet: Neaten and wipe out. Spray some Lysol around under there if it’s smelly.
Counters: Move everything off the counters and clean them completely, including under the microwave and any other large-ish countertop appliances you don’t want to move.
Countertop clutter: Find another spot for as much countertop clutter as you can so you have plenty of room to bake and cook holiday meals.
Sink: Scrub out the sink really well and make sure the faucet crevices aren’t gunky. If there’s a lot of gunk in the grooves or around the edges of the faucet, use a toothbrush to get it clean.
Pantry: Neaten the pantry closet – you don’t have to take the time to organize it a’ la Pinterest, just pull out all the trash or piles of plastic grocery bags and empty containers and packages. Sweep it out.
Other Kitchen Cleaning:
Finish up the kitchen with these final chores:
Trash can: Make sure to clean the inside, outside, and behind the trash can. Deodorize it (I like to drip some essential oils on crumpled newspaper and put them in the bottom of the can, below the bag).
Add some extra bags in the bottom so it’s easily relined during frantic holiday cooking. This will also keep your helpers from searching in your cabinets or pantry for bags.
Clean the dark scary places: Check the crevices next to large appliances. Like that space between the fridge and wall, and the deep, dark canyon between the oven and cabinets.
Wrap a damp cloth or clean (or dirty – I won’t tell) sock around a yardstick or wire hanger if the opening’s really narrow.
Windows: If you have a window over your sink, clean the parts you can see and the sill. Check the view and make sure your mother-in-law won’t be gazing out on a mess when she volunteers to do the dishes.
Unless it’s at night, then you’re okay.
Or pray for snow. If you have blinds, put them down (unless they’re really dirty – then leave them up until after Christmas!)
Pet stations: Don’t forget pet-feeding areas. They’re usually super nasty – thank you, darling cat-who-gets-more-canned-food-next-to-the-dish-than-in-his-mouth.
Maybe that’s why you’re perpetually starving, you messy little nutcase.
Tableware: Inspect dishes and cookware you’ll be using for the holiday meal.
Check glasses, silverware, candle holders, and plates/bowls/serving ware for smudges, smears, chips and crusty stuff.
If you don’t use your wine glasses or holiday glassware a lot, take the time in advance to rinse and polish them with a paper towel. Chances are, they’re covered in dust.
Kitchen floor: Clean the kitchen floor really well ahead of time so you can just sweep and damp mop at the last minute.
Finishing touches: Lastly, add fresh potholders, kitchen towel, and a stash of clean dishrags.
Getting the Bathroom(s) Ready for Christmas
If time is short, start with the main bathroom – the one guests will use.
Bathtub/Shower: Scrub the shower and clean the glass.
If the shower curtain liner is slimy or moldy, replace it if you can. Much easier and quicker than trying to wash and air-dry a crinkly plastic curtain.
Toilet: Clean the toilet extra super well – I’m talking down on your hands-and-knees. This is one place you don’t want to fudge it (pun intended).
I even wear my reading glasses for company-toilet-scrubbing! The rest of the time, I prefer to be blind.
If you have hard water rings, use a pumice stone inside.
If your toilet seat is gunky, remove the seat and clean under where the hinges are.
Use a toothbrush to clean around the bolt covers (and hinges if you really don’t want to remove the seat).
Sink/counters: Clean the sink and countertop. Remove clutter and put toothbrushes in a cabinet (or wash out the toothbrush holder if you can’t). Scrub the faucet and clean around it with a toothbrush.
Then shine it up!
Cabinets: Look inside for gloppy stuff and real messes, wipe off grunge and toothpaste spatters on the outside. Hide anything you don’t want your mother-in-law to see…
Walls: Check near the sink for toothpaste spatters.
Linen closet: Neaten and vacuum out any debris on the floor.
Dust and hair: Vacuum the entire room thoroughly and hit the ceiling vent while you’re at it.
Trash: Clean the trashcan if it’s yucky and put a bag in it
Floor: If your bathroom isn’t huge, clean the floor on your hands and knees. You’ll see a lot more. Wash any rugs or bathmats
Other things check for:
Sit on the toilet and see what your guests will see. Look for hair, cobwebs and yucky corners
Check behind the door – I almost always find my son’s underwear behind any bathroom door I check. It’s just a thing.
- Fresh towels
- Hand soap
- Toilet paper (plus a backup roll on the toilet tank – the less chance of a guest rummaging in your bathroom cabinets, the better)
- Deodorizing spray
A Christmas-Clean Dining Room
Cleaning the dining room extra well for Christmas is only a priority if you’re going to be eating in there.
Otherwise, you can get away with basic dusting and vacuuming, then turning down the dimmer switch.
Table: Scrub / polish the surface; clean out table cracks (even if you’ll be covering the table); find the leaf.
Chairs: If you have felt chair pads on the legs, wipe off the pet hair that accumulates. Wipe down the chairs completely.
Booster chairs/high chairs: If you have booster chairs strapped to any chairs, remove them and clean everything really well.
Trust me, the science projects under that seat are not something you’ll want to reveal to company.
Chandelier: Don’t make cleaning the chandelier a half-day undertaking, but do take the time to dust it and wipe off the globes and/or bulbs.
Glass cabinet doors and mirrors
Artwork: Dust wall art, clean picture glass
Clutter: Remove piles of stuff from corners and non-decorative clutter from buffet and china cabinet
Floor: Vacuum, mop
Cleaning up the Living Areas
Some ideas to get the living areas clean and ready for the holidays:
- Remove pet hair
- Check under couch cushions and under couches for big pieces of dirt or popcorn
- Use your crevice tool to clean under and behind.
- Spot clean stains (or buy extra throws)
- Dust including under and behind the TV
- Neaten cords
- Lint roll speakers
- Clean glass
- Clean TV screen
- Lint roll table runners (or shake out)
- Neaten inside drawers
- Wipe down the remote (have you ever actually looked at the remote? It can get pretty grimy)
Clutter: Neaten magazine piles and toys. Remove as much clutter as you can if this is where your guests will be.
- Dust the mantel and fireplace tools
- Clean any screens or glass
- Wipe down the hearth area and vacuum or wash rugs
Ceiling fan: Yeah, I’m going there…
If it helps any, mine hasn’t been cleaned in ages so it’s definitely on my list this Christmas. Ugh
Glass doors and windows (at least the areas you can see – what’s behind the blinds can stay behind the blinds)
Floors: Vacuum and mop, pay attention to corners
Staircase: wipe down the banister, vacuum or wipe down the steps; straighten any pictures on the wall
Prepping the Guest Room for Holiday Company
Clutter: Clear as much as possible, neatly pile the rest and cover with a sheet (remember those bonus points!)
Bedding: Change the sheets and freshen up the comforter.
Additional step in my house: inspect comforter for boogers.
Drawers/Closet: Make room for your guests’ clothing
Floor: Vacuum and mop, check the corners
Other Areas to Clean for Christmas
Once you’re done cleaning the main rooms where the festivities will happen, do at least some basic straightening and cleaning in the other rooms.
Master bedroom/Kids’ rooms: Especially in the master bedroom if you think coats may end up in there and in your kids’ rooms if you think their cousins will want to see their toys
Outside: Clean spiderwebs off the front door, neaten up the outside entrance, clean up around the garbage can area
Feel free to skip this if you’re pretty sure your guests are sexist and will blame your husband for any outside yuckiness.
Garage/Basement: If there’s any chance guests will be in the garage (for example, if you’ll be using the fridge out there for holiday food storage) or the basement (like if you’ll need help bringing gifts up or if the cousins will chase the cat down there), do the minimum to make these areas un-cringe-worthy.
Neaten the cat box area, shovel out a path to the fridge, sweep any floor that you can see.
Don’t feel like you have to do a garage or basement cleanout, but just having clean basement steps, no trash lying around, and a swept floor will make a big difference.
Clean out a cooler or two if you’ll be using them for drinks or ice
Bring anything out of your junk room (or basement – way easier than cleaning it!) that you or a guest might need (like wrapping supplies) and lock the door behind you.
Did I mention your snoopy sister?
Also, don’t forget to keep track of that key!
Last Minute Touch-Up Christmas Cleaning
A few hours before guests arrive for Christmas dinner:
- Clean litterboxes (take the litter all the way outside!)
- Light scented candles or turn on the melter
- Turn on the fireplace
- Take out the garbage
- Run and then unload the dishwasher
- Sweep the kitchen and entry way
- Vacuum the middles of the rugs and check the staircase
- Check for clean towels and dishtowels
Then touch up:
- Appliance Fronts
- Bathrooms (look behind the door again!)
If Christmas is just around the corner and you’re struggling to stay afloat, concentrate on cleaning the areas you really care about.
That’s what door locks are for.
But don’t lose the key.
I know I’m annoying, but I repeat these things because I love you.
In my energetic years, I try to do the bigger things early on because I know once Thanksgiving hits, cleaning won’t be a priority anymore.
So the more I do ahead, the better.
Having a super-holiday-clean house is one of my favorite things at Christmas. It’s like a big, fat, glitter-covered Christmas gift to myself.
And avoiding Aunt Margaret’s white glove judgment is the big sparkly bow on top…