Before guests arrive, how to speed-clean out of trouble

Tips on faking a tidy house when you have just 12 minutes to spare.
This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

During the holiday season, it's not uncommon for friends and family members to stop by on short notice. Or maybe you've just been so busy shopping and cooking that you haven't had a second to clean before your holiday party.

Whatever the case, Good Housekeeping has solutions on how to fake a clean house when you have just 12 minutes to spare. Tackle these hot spots before the doorbell rings.

Challenge • Cluttered entryway

Fastest fix: Grab a laundry basket, storage bin or large shopping bag to serve as a junk receptacle, plus a plastic grocery bag and microfiber cloth.

Load up your bin with any shoes, gloves or hats that litter the foyer. Stash hall table clutter that could get lost (mail, keys) in the plastic bag. Put the bag into the bin. While you're near the door, shake doormats outside.

Flip on the light for an indoor cobweb check; flick webs off with the cloth (don't worry about ones too high up - chances are, visitors won't notice them). Take your bin, and keep moving. (3 minutes)

Make it easier next time: Add a shoe bag to the inside of your entryway closet door. It makes a great stash spot for hats and gloves, unopened mail and shoes when you're picking up in a hurry.

Challenge • Disheveled living room

Fastest fix: Keep filling the bin with kids' toys, newspapers and anything else that doesn't need to be there. Run your microfiber cloth over the coffee table and other dusty surfaces, such as the TV screen. Pile magazines or books into neat stacks on the end tables; gather all of the stray remotes in one place.

Plump up throw pillows and chair cushions (even easier: flip the latter, if possible). Use a clean corner of the micro-fiber cloth to nab any obvious clumps of pet hair or dust stuck to upholstery or carpeting.

Drape throws to hide dingy chair arms or furniture stains. Drop off the bin in the laundry room or a nearby bedroom, or hide it in a closet; swap the cloth for a few paper towels. Move on to the bathroom. (4 minutes)

Make it easier next time: Store a pet-hair-removal tool such as GHRI fave Scotch Fur Fighter ($10;, in a living-room drawer or cabinet, so it's handy.

Challenge • Not-quite-spotless bathroom

Fastest fix: Tuck stuff from the vanity into the cabinet or drawers, and close the shower door or stretch out the curtain. Wet a paper towel with rubbing alcohol to both clean and shine, and wipe down the mirror, faucet, sink and countertop. Use a new alcohol-dipped towel to go over the toilet's seat and rim. Clean up spots and hair from the floor with a third water-dampened paper towel.

Finally, put out fresh hand towels. Make a round-trip to the kitchen with the wastebasket to dump it into the larger trash can. (5 minutes)

Make it easier next time: Save seconds with premoistened disinfecting wipes such as those from Clorox, which are ready for cleaning right out of the canister.