The 11 Golden Rules Of Cleaning That Will Save You Time

golden rules of cleaning

Several years back, I read an article in Reader’s Digest about “the Golden Rules of Cleaning.” I don’t even remember any of the rules that were featured in the article, but I do remember that it got me thinking about my own set of “golden rules” that I follow when I clean.

That train of thought led me to realize that I actually do have several unwritten rules that I follow when I’m cleaning, and I’m sure you all have cleaning “rules” of your own! But I had never thought to take the time to actually write them down, but today struck me as a good time to do just that! :-)

So I’ll be sharing my own 11 “Golden Rules of Cleaning” with you in today’s post, otherwise known as “Jillee’s rules for making cleaning as quick and easy as humanly possible!” ;-) I hope these cleaning tips save you some time and effort, and feel free to share your own “golden rules” with us in a comment at the end of this post!

The 11 Golden Rules Of Cleaning

golden rules of cleaning

1. Clean It Sooner Rather Than Later

The longer you let a mess sit, the harder you’ll have to work to clean it up. This is especially applicable to stains on clothing and fabrics, because stains are so much easier to remove completely when you treat them right away.

But this rule doesn’t just apply to splatters and stains—it’s a smart approach for clutter and messes too. If you leave a mess in the kitchen after dinner by telling yourself you’ll get to it in the morning, you’ve already written off a chunk of your morning. And if you end up putting it off even longer, you’ll eventually have a much larger mess to clean up!

golden rules of cleaning

2. Give It Time

While this rule may sound like it’s directly contradicting the previous one, I promise it’s not! :-) By “give it time,” I mean that you should to give your cleaning products time to work by letting them sit for a little while.

In the bathroom, for example, you might spray the toilet and countertops and then empty the trash or restock the toilet paper while the cleaning solution works its magic. When you come back to wipe those surfaces down in a minute or two, it’ll be quick and easy! This simple time management trick will go a long way toward making your cleaning efforts more efficient.

golden rules of cleaning

3. Never Leave A Room Empty-Handed

Many years ago, someone gave me this nugget of advice and it has served me well ever since! I honestly can’t think of an instance where everything in my house has been in its rightful place at the same time, so this rule is perfect for me ;-)

Every time I travel from one room to another throughout the day, I look around to see if there’s anything I can take with me that belongs in the room that I’m headed towards. It only takes a second or two to do, and it works even better if you can get the rest of the family on board too!

golden rules of cleaning

4. Carry Your Supplies With You

Similar to the rule above, there’s no reason to make multiple trips to grab certain cleaning supplies or tools while you’re cleaning. You’re just making more work for yourself and making it take longer than it needs to!

That’s why I suggest carrying your most essential cleaning supplies and tools around with you in a cleaning caddy, and storing the caddy in a central location so it’s easy to grab. (If your house has more than one level, you may even want to keep one on each level.)

Just make sure that you’re keeping your most versatile cleaning supplies in your caddy, and not weighing it down with specialized cleaners. For instance, an all-purpose cleaning spray, microfiber cloths, a duster, and glass cleaner are all useful things to keep in your cleaning caddy. But toilet bowl cleaner is only really useful in the bathroom, so you’re better off keeping it under your bathroom sink.

golden rules of cleaning

5. Clean From Top To Bottom (And From Back To Front)

The law of gravity is hard to fight, which is why it’s almost always better to clean things from top to bottom. If you have a two story home, start on the top floor and work your way down to avoid dragging dirt back into areas that have already been cleaned.

The same philosophy applies to individual rooms too. Dust the ceiling fan and light fixtures, followed by windows and drapes, then conquer the furniture, baseboards and lastly, the floors. This ensures that any dust or dirt that gets pushed around while you’re cleaning won’t fall onto a surface that you’ve already cleaned.

For similar reasons, it makes sense to clean from back to front too. If you’re cleaning one room, start in one of the rear corners and work toward the door. If it’s a cabinet, begin in the back and clean out toward the edge. It’s a simple idea, but it really does help ensure you don’t have to clean anything twice!

golden rules of cleaning

6. Use Dry Methods First, Then Use Wet Methods

Another way to avoid “double-cleaning” is to use dry methods first, then wet methods after. When you’re cleaning a room, start with “dry” cleaning tasks like, dusting, vacuuming, and sweeping.

Once you’re finished with those, you can move on to “wet” methods such as wiping down surfaces, cleaning windows and mirrors, mopping, etc. Following this rule, you can avoid kicking up dust and dirt that ends up clinging to wet surfaces (which could easily leave them dirtier than they were when you started!)

golden rules of cleaning

7. Read The Directions

As silly as it sounds, reading the directions or instructions provided by the manufacturer is a good habit to get into, whether you’re using a new cleaning product or washing a new sweater. (I’ve personally never enjoyed being told what to do or how to do it, so this reminder is as much for me as it is for anyone!)

And keep in mind that you can always refer back to the directions… as long as you keep the care tag or user manual! So as much as you can, resist the urge to cut off that tag or toss that manual.

golden rules of cleaning

8. Stop Dirt At The Door

I supposed this one is slightly more of a golden rule of prevention, because dirt that doesn’t come into your home is dirt you never have to clean! Stop the dirt in its tracks before it ever has a chance to make extra work for you inside by placing doormats at every entrance to your home, both inside and out.

Placing machine-washable mats near such high traffic and spill-prone spots like the kitchen sink, fridge, tub, and toilet is also a good idea!

golden rules of cleaning

9. Use Only What You Need

It’s always better to err on the side of “less is more” when applying cleaning products, regardless of whether they are conventional or made with natural ingredients. Start with a small amount and use more as necessary for tough spots and other challenges.

Using more than you need to start not only is wasteful, but it also makes more work for you when you go to rinse it off or wipe it up!

golden rules of cleaning

10. Be Safe

And last but not least, make sure to protect yourself properly around cleaning chemicals. Many cleaning products, including commercial, natural, and even homemade formulas, contain substances like acids, bleach, and abrasives that can irritate your eyes, skin, nose, or lungs.

You can avoid these effects by taking simple precautionary measures while cleaning, like wearing cleaning gloves and making sure your space is well-ventilated. And maybe most importantly, avoid combining cleaning agents unless you are completely confident that it is safe to do so!

golden rules of cleaning

11. Something Is Better Than Nothing

When it comes to cleaning, I occasionally need to remind myself that something is better than nothing. So even on those days when you just don’t have the time or energy for cleaning as thoroughly as you normally do, don’t give up entirely!

In fact, committing to just 10 or 15 minutes of cleaning can be much more impactful than you might think. Set a timer on your phone and do as much tidying up as you can until the timer goes off, and I think you’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes!

In the OGT Plus Inner Circle, reader Carrie Ann shared a fun spin on this idea: “Spend one song’s worth of time cleaning each room in the house every day. After a week, you’ll be searching high and low for something to clean!”

What are your Golden Rules of Cleaning?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • I worked for a cleaning company and now have my own,I was always told ways to speed up cleaning tasks. In a kitchen you should work your way around the room, not skip from one area to another.I have always thought it was silly to save all cleaning for the weekend..I clean one room a day in my own home and assign days of the week for certain rooms,like Monday is kitchen day etc..It might sound OCD but if this gets ingrained in your mind, you’ll do it.If the rooms are small, do two. I only work part time so this works for me.Your house won’t have a build up of dust or grime and once the weekend comes, you’re all done. Unless you live in a big house (which I don’t luckily) then this might not I also have days I do laundry,twice a week (pick two days and stick to it) colored clothes,once a week, towels sheets etc. I like having a schedule to stick to! Jillee has a lot of the same ideas as me!

  • I love this blog! I make most of my cleaning supplies now and have become the expert on cleaning with my friends. I love your list here but disagree with one item. I always vacuum first because it raises dust. Then I start form the top down.. yes sometimes I have to revacuum an area after but that’s the way I learned it. Keep up the good work

  • Your have so many wonderful tips. Several are new ideas for me. My favorite tip I just heard this week. If a job only takes one minute you have to do it now. I am amazed at what I can accomplish in just one minute. Set a timer you may be surprised also. I also find once I start cleaning it is easier to carry on with other chores. Often it is just getting started that is my problem.
    I keep duplicate cleaning supplies in each room. No need to carry them around and then carry them back to the room you keep them in.

  • One of the best pieces of advice I every received was “when ever you were going either upstairs or downstairs ALWAYS bring something with you. Simple & logical.

  • That’s a good list. My favorite way to clean the tub and shower is to do it while I’m in it anyway. I don’t mind the excuse to stand under the warm shower a little longer, lol, and a magic eraser does a nice job without spraying any toxic (or not so toxic) cleaners close to me. And it makes cleaning the rest of the bathroom look so much less intimidating if the shower is already done.

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