How Long Will it Take to Clean My House?

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Dear Home Ec 101,
How long will it take to clean my house?
Curious in Corpus Christi

Heather says:

Well Curious, what is your favorite color?


Ok. I’ve plugged that variable into the top-secret Home-Ec 101 House Cleaning Algorithm, and I’ve determined it will take you exactly 18.36 hours to clean your house thoroughly. Oh. Wait. That doesn’t make much sense, does it? A question like “How long will it take to clean my house?” has an incredible number of variables.

What kind of home do you have?

Someone who lives in a McMansion is going to have a lot more surface area to clean than someone who lives in an efficiency. In that case, just doing surface cleaning? Just mopping? The person who lives in the tiny apartment will be done in no time. Even if the floors are equally grubby, it simply takes longer to mop more square footage.

How many people live in the house?

More people means more messes. Humans are rather nasty creatures, and in this case, I’m not even counting what the young ones do -one of my minions has a cold, and she’s at the age where I have to remind her to blow her nose. Good times. People shed skin cells and hair, and they track in dirt, even if they wipe their feet. The oils from our skin linger on keyboards, remote controls, wall plates, and door jams.

Did you know there is actually a guideline for how often you should vacuum? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know I was recently involved in a focus group discussing a vacuum cleaner and it surprised the hosts. Each week you’re supposed to thoroughly vacuum a carpeted room AND add a quick vacuum of high-traffic areas for each additional family member, including large dogs. So, if you have a family of four, that’s one deep vacuum and three quick. . . do you see how this adds up? For what it’s worth, babies don’t count, but you’ll probably vacuum even more often once they can crawl.

Are there pets?

We love our animal friends, but anything other than beta fish tend to bring their own measure of mess into a home. From tracked in dirt to litter boxes, shed hair and damage to furniture. They all have a cost when it comes to extra work. -How long until someone tells me about the hairless cat they trained to use the toilet? That’s the exception that proves the rule, people-

Are there children under the age of reason?

Do I really even have to explain this one? It’s chaos in a 3 feet tall package -unless you’re my kid and then you bump it up to under 5 feet-. Sure, children can be taught to help with damage control, but for years even the most perfectly behaved, helpful, and polite children create more mess than they can possibly undo.

How many people actually clean in the home?

How well chores are divided will help reduce the amount of time any individual has to spend cleaning a home. For even the most well-adjusted adults, this often requires a lot of effective communication of wants and needs on both parts.

Do you cook in your home?

Cooking food adds moisture and often sends aerosolized grease particles -yes, even vegetarians, just less so- into the air. The particles float around and cling to surfaces. Once they are on a surface, a dust magnet has been created. The longer the dust magnet sits on the surface, the harder it will be to remove.

Let’s consider clutter.

Imagine two bookcases. One has neat rows of books, and the other has glass figurines, odds and ends, a pile of papers, etc. The first only requires the soft bristle attachment of the vacuum or a feather duster. The other? You will have to unload each shelf, wipe the item carefully and replace it gently. Multiply this around every horizontal surface in a home, and it quickly becomes obvious that the amount of STUFF in a home drastically affects the time it takes to clean.

How often has the home been cleaned?

If you’ve lived in a home for five years and never cleaned the tub, it is going to take a long time to undo the damage. Some of it may not even be fixable. Regularly attending to chores keeps grime from building up. Without a lot of grime to remove, cleaning takes less time.

I wish I had a simple answer for you, Curious. The truth is I can’t give you a good answer. Trying to figure out how long a person should take to clean their home without any other variable is a very overwhelming task. Here is what I do know.

How to reduce the time it takes to clean:

  1. Communicate
  2. Delegate.
  3. Don’t procrastinate.

Good luck.

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6 thoughts on “How Long Will it Take to Clean My House?”

  1. Hahaha, I wouldn't have even gone with the magic 8 ball – I would have just said "about 30 minutes" and been done with it. And then laughed and laughed.

  2. Hahaha.. love your post. And it highlights all of the tiny ways a house gets dirty! Thanks for reminding me why my house is always such a mess. All of us hear that queston and think DUH, but you can give an intelligent and detailed answer. That's why youre the Home-Ec 101 teacher! 🙂

  3. It seems like cleaning my house will take the entire weekend! And mainly is is beacuse I have put so many things off for months. This is the weekend I get this stuff done!
    I love your blog! Excited about the book !
    Have a pretty day!
    My recent post Bringing Pretty Back at bedtime!

  4. I don’t think my whole house has ever been clean… I have kids that are clean magnets… They find the room I just cleaned and that is the room they want to play in.

  5. I live in about a 700 sq foot apartment with 1 other adult and a little dog. It takes me DAYS to clean. I’m very lazy honestly so it will go weeks (some things untouched for months) before I finally get to it. When I do every little thing you have to do is so taxing to me. Dishes take 1-2 days alone. I can get 1 room surface clean a day, which means 4 days before I can get into deep cleaning. I’m not even sure how long that would take me since I always give up part way through. I’m cleaning right now and I’ll get done when I get done, then I need to seriously teach myself how to just keep on it.


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