Cleaning the clutter off of surfaces and emptying the dishes in the sink ain’t enough.
Unless you live in a magical land that bestows a fairy godmother to clean up after you (or you have a maid), getting an apartment spotless is a task. If you truly clean top to bottom, it becomes a monumental undertaking.
Some guys have a hard time leaving a blot of marinara sauce on the stovetop if it splatters. Other guys haven’t bought a sponge since their mothers had them go out to the grocery store. Most of us are in between.
While an occasional scrub down and polishing definitely gives off an aura of a clean household, we have to do more. When it comes to the women in your life — and this is all women: pal, girlfriend, fiancee, or wife, and, maybe most importantly, mothers — coming in and doing an inspection, the game changes.
Whether it’s some sort of sixth sense, women know where to look to see if you legitimately clean or do the company-is-coming-over clean. The type that carpet bombs high-traffic areas. You know: dust the family photos, wipe off the counters. That kind of thing.
The lesser-cleaned — not even the nooks and crannies — areas of your home are the places you need to look into.
1. Your Floor
When you’re in a mad rush to make sure all the tables are cleaned of clutter and your dishes are put away, you may forget that the crumbs in the washcloth, the soles of your shoes or the dripping bag of trash all went to one place: your floor.
Although you may find yourself in the eternal struggle with the never-disappearing dustpan line, it’s better than nothing. You’ll always be surprised with what you find when you dump the dustpan into the trash. Hair, dust, crumbs, coins.
Don’t forget to mop.
And if you have carpet, it’s a completely different story. If you’re prone to walk around with shoes on, you’ll never really feel the luxury of soft carpet — which is a shame. But once you take off your shoes and the soles of your feet are covered in debris, crumbs and any other random specks, the difference will be clear. Go vacuum. If you’re a guy who loves making patterns in the field when you mow the lawn, go crazy on that carpet. It’s worth it.
Protip: If you have stairs in your apartment, vacuum those, too.
2. Your Mirror
Truth be told, the bathroom itself should be an entire project in its own right. Your mirror, however, is definitely one of the most important but underappreciated things in your place.
Any person—male or female—is going to look in the mirror if he or she uses your bathroom. And if a cursory glance shows that your mirror is filthy, that could be a deal breaker. How can a woman respect a man who doesn’t respect the one thing that never lies to him?
3. The Corners of The Bathtub
Whether it’s under the bottles of your shampoo or just the angled parts of your bathtub, the corners of your sanctuary are the places both under the most scrutiny and also the parts of your bathroom that are most telling of whether you actually keep your place tidy or not.
Look, nobody really knows what the hell that stuff that gets in the crevasses of your tile and solidified beneath the bottles of shampoo is, but it’s still there. And it’s disgusting, despite your bathtub being a place that, technically, gets rinsed every day. That’s what makes it so disgusting.
Use a little spray cleaner, leave the bathroom fan on while you go about making sure the other items on the this list are taken care of, then go rinse or wipe it away. Not only will it make the women in your life feel as though you take the hygiene of yourself seriously, it’ll make a lasting impression of a clean, sparkling bathroom.
4. The Toilet — All of the Toilet
Yes, it is classically known as a bacteria-filled biohazard after some days. Yes, it’s also a place that’s used every day and can really do well with a wipedown with some cleaning cloths or spray, but it’s not what you use. It’s where you use it.
As guys, you may have the luxury of always being able to leave the seat up. But before you just saturate that porcelain throne with some nose-burning chemicals, put the seat down. Remove anything from around the toilet, including the carpet. Really clean that bad boy up. Behind it, where the little bolts go into the floor, all of it.
Dust collects in places we don’t clean or come in contact with. With the frequency we use the toilet, we get used to seeing it every day. And as dust and grime build up on it slowly, it may slip our minds. The toilet is one of the make-or-break kind of things: Take care of it and, and it’ll take care of you.
5. Your Microwave
Hopefully you’re not using the microwave to make dinner too often in the first place and know how to cook something without it. Either way, cleaning the inside of a microwave may be a task requiring a little contortion to get in all the corners, but it’s definitely something you need to pay attention to.
Not only can it make the kitchen smell bad, the inside of a microwave can become something of an impressionist painting. A microwave that has never been cleaned after a steady diet of nuked food can leave some pretty nasty contents on the ceilings and walls of this magnificent machine.
The top of your microwave, too, regardless of whether it’s been relegated into just another place to put your bread, bagels, bag of clementines, whatever. Dust and debris floating in the air can collect up there — as well as long forgotten foods left to fend for themselves against time.
6. Window Sills and Tracks
Even the most scrupulous landlords who tell you they put their apartments through 20-point inspections sometimes forget this. Glossy white paint made matte with months (or years) of caked on dust is fairly grotesque thought. Because, you know, dust is supposedly some disgustingly high percentage of flakes of dead skin.
Cleaning window tracks, however, can be a process, sometimes requiring cursing on your behalf to finish properly. They can be home to all sorts of dark, grimy and disturbing things. Mainly, the bloated corpses of flies and other insects that get trapped between your blinds and the screen.
Plus, if your windowsill is nice and decorative, why wouldn’t you want to show that off? “Look, ma, I’ve got sills designed to look like marble!”
7. The Sinks
I have a friend whose little sister legitimately vomits when she sees the remnants of a man’s beard after he shaves in the sink. She’s in her twenties now.
Like the floors, these are the final touches to cleaning. If everything else in the kitchen is good to go, make sure the place you went to rinse your sponge, mop, washcloth or whatever, is clean, too.
On that same note, your bathroom sinks are the altars of judgment when it comes to personal hygiene. A bathroom is a sanctuary — a place in which you may feel free to express yourself by singing in the shower and psyching yourself up by flexing your pecs in the mirror.
In the immortal words of John Wooden, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is looking.”
Rub off the blobs of toothpaste if there are any, scrub off any soap scum, shine the faucet and wash away any build-up. A dirty sink in a clean bathroom is like a boot around the front driver wheel of a Bugatti Veyron: Everything about the scene is really attractive except the one glaring thing that just makes it obvious you screwed up. And then it isn’t, “Wow, his bathroom was really clean except for his sink,” no, it becomes “God, his bathroom sink was disgusting.”
8. The Stovetop Burners
Cooking is easy. And nothing is more romantic than a from-scratch meal you made for the lucky lady (or more heartfelt, than the same meal if you make it for your mother), so take heed. If you’re in the group that shouldn’t even be in front of the stove to boil water, take note. Your stovetop is not only a sign of your general cleanliness, it shows a lot about what you’re eating.
If the stovetop looks like a bloodied battlefield flecked with dried red liquid (Thanks, Chef Boyardee!), you’ve got a problem. Even if it’s lemon butter sauce with capers in it from your famed chicken piccata, it’s still a blemish.
Although a completely spotless, demo-looking stovetop isn’t necessary, showing that you went the extra mile to clean off and scrub is a testament to either your true desire to make a good impression or your willingness to fake being a good cook.