Pre-guest cleaning checklist – the 9 essentials to tackle before hosting

Present yourself as the perfect host by cleaning these nine spots before guests turn up

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‘House-barrassment’ is certainly something you’ll want to avoid if you have incoming guests, but we don't always have the time to clean every inch of your home before they arrive – that’s where the essential pre-guest cleaning checklist comes in.

Between making a good plan to tackle the most important areas of your home and readying some tried-and-tested cleaning tips, you can get your guest spaces spotless without having to tidy your whole home. 

Here, professional cleaners share their pre-guest cleaning checklist so you can get your home in top shape before the doorbell rings.

Pre-guest cleaning checklist

Whether you have a full guest bedroom suite or are hosting guests without a guest room, these nine cleaning tips will make their stay enjoyable and save you from stress while they’re here.

1. Blitz your bathroom

Bathroom storage

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Cleaning the bathrooms should be a top priority when you have overnight guests visiting you, begins Ronnie Kendrick, cleaning expert and founder of CompanyClean. This is especially important if there is only one shared bathroom that sees a lot of use, he explains: 

‘One spot you definitely can't skip is the bathroom. A thorough wipe-down of all surfaces, including the sink, counter, and toilet, is crucial. Let's be real, after traveling, the bathroom is probably one of the first places your guest will visit. So, sparkling fixtures and a streak-free mirror make a big impression that says, 'We care about cleanliness here.'

‘About an hour before your guest arrives, give the guest room and bathroom a light spritz of a soothing natural scent like lavender or eucalyptus. Trust me, this adds an extra layer of coziness and shows you're attentive to the details.’

2. Spritz up the sleep space

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Whether or not you have a guest bedroom, the next most important spot to tackle is the space guests will be sleeping in – be it cleaning a bedroom, living room, or home office.

Mufetta Krueger, professional cleaner and founder of Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants, suggests dusting all surfaces and furniture, including dressers, nightstands, and soft furnishings. Use a microfiber cloth or a suitable dusting tool to capture dust effectively, or even a good vacuum cleaner. ‘For stubborn spots, lightly dampen the cloth and wipe gently,’ she adds.

‘A dust-free environment not only enhances the aesthetics of the guest room but also helps guests with allergies have a more pleasant stay,’ Muffetta explains. You might want to enlist the help of a good air purifier too if you know your guest struggles with allergies.

It is not just the furniture that needs attending to, but the bedding itself, Muffetta continues:

‘Begin by changing and washing bedding and linens for the guest bedrooms. Use a high-quality laundry detergent and follow the manufacturer's instructions for each item. Be sure to dry them thoroughly and fold them neatly for a crisp appearance.’

Make sure to clean mattresses with a vacuum too if the space has not been used in a while, or take steps to clean and make an air mattress more comfortable if you are using temporary furnishings.  

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Muffetta Krueger
Muffetta Krueger

Muffetta Krueger is a cleaning expert and founder of Muffetta’s Domestic with over 16 years of operational management experience in the service industry. Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants provides housekeepers, house cleaners and maids, and is based in New York.

3. Declutter a closet or drawer to give guests storage space

white closet drawers with dressing table

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There are several guest room storage mistakes that can make guests feel less welcome, and not offering them space to hang or store clothing is one of the major ones. Karina Toner, cleaning expert and operations manager at Spekless Cleaning, recommends clearing out some space in a closet or drawer if your guests are staying for longer than one night, and giving the area a clean down with a scented antibacterial spray to ensure nothing comes out musty.

Karina Toner
Karina Toner

Karina is the Operations Manager at Spekless Cleaning, a trusted maid service based in Washington D.C. The team has over five years of experience providing top-quality cleaning services for both residential and commercial clients. Karina oversees every aspect of the business, ensuring that every client gets the same top-notch service and a spotless clean every time.

4. Don’t neglect shared areas

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Although the guest-only spaces should be prioritized when you have people coming to stay, the common spaces such as your living room and kitchen need some attention too so your guests feel more able to relax in your company. 

‘In shared spaces like the living room, dining room, and kitchen, declutter and organize,’ advises Michael Grotton, cleaning expert and founder of Germicidal Maids. ‘Wipe down frequently touched surfaces, such as countertops, tables, and doorknobs. Vacuum and mop the floors to create a clean and tidy atmosphere throughout the common areas.’

You don’t need to go over the top when cleaning a living room or cleaning a kitchen, but everything should look tidy on the surface and be hygienic at the very least. 

5. Free floors of dirt and grime

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Our flooring is the most common culprit of bad odors around our home, and no one likes stepping out of bed in the morning to feel dust and debris sticking to their feet. 

Tonya Harris, cleaning professional at Slightly Greener, advises that you should always freshen up the floors after you have finished dusting and decluttering:

'For hard floors, vacuum and mop, and for carpeting, help take out any odor by sprinkling a very thin layer of baking soda on the carpet and vacuuming up 15-20 minutes later. The baking soda works to absorb any odor and will help keep the room smelling fresh.'

Tonya Harris
Tonya Harris

Tonya is an environmental toxicity specialist and author of The Slightly Greener Method, available on Amazon. She aims to help people, especially families, detoxify life and find easy ways to go green when cleaning. 

6. Take out the trash

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It should go without saying that full trash cans need to be emptied before a guest shows up at your house, says Angela Rubin, cleaning professional at Hellamaid

‘Empty and disinfect all trash bins in the guest room and bathroom – and the kitchen if it is on the fuller side. Replace liners as needed – you can find scented liners at Amazon to help keep smells at bay.

‘This simple task prevents unpleasant odors and ensures a clean and tidy space for guests. It's often the little things that make a big difference in their experience.’

7. Set out some fresh towels

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Guests should always be offered some fresh towels when they arrive, just in case they haven't brought their own, cleaning expert Tonya Harris suggests: 

'Have a couple of separate sets of guest-only bath and hand towels and washcloths on hand. This cuts down on the more frequent wear and tear and helps to keep them nicer for longer.

'Always wash towels placing them in the guest room to make sure they don’t have that musty closet smell on them. Do the same for the spare set of sheets and bedding for guests.'

8. Ensure your entryway is clear

entryway with blue walls and wooden console table

(Image credit: Kate Guinness)

One of the easiest ways to make an entryway inviting is to declutter and clean the space before guests arrive, says Angela Agranoff, professional organizer and owner of The Unclutter Angel. This not only gives space for guests to sit down and remove their shoes but sets a tidy precedent for the rest of your home – first impressions count.

Clear off some coat hooks, ensure seats are free from clutter, and make some room in a shoe closet or rack to allow guests to feel included in the space as opposed to shoved in haphazardly, Angela suggests.

9. Clean light fittings for a finishing touch

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(Image credit: Graham & Green)

Some of the dirtiest spots in your home are the most forgotten when it comes to cleaning – one of these is your light fittings, Karina Toner, cleaning expert reveals. 

‘Cleaning your light fittings is a small detail with a huge impact,’ she says. ‘Clean light fixtures enhance the ambiance and ensure a well-lit space, while also adding that final touch that is bound to impress guests with how thorough you are.’


How long should it take to clean a guest room?

When cleaning a guest room, it should take you at least 20 minutes to ensure you are doing a thorough job. These 20 minutes should be spent vacuuming properly, working forwards quickly and backward slowly, picking up all the dust from any carpet or rug fibers, dusting all surfaces, and straightening out the bed. 

What is the last step in preparing a guest room?

Once you have cleaned and tidied a guest room, the final step is to add some welcoming touches to make your guests feel at home. This could be to light a candle or turn on an oil diffuser to lightly scent the space with a relaxing fragrance, or set up a guest basket with some essentials and snacks for them to help themselves during their stay. 

It is important to remember that while it is good to make a guest bedroom look beautiful, ‘your home doesn’t need to be perfect,’ says Angela Agranoff, professional organizer.

‘Creating a warm and inviting space where guests will feel welcome is key. If you start a few days before your guests arrive, you will be rested and not stressed, so that you can enjoy their visit too!’

Chiana Dickson

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.