4 Things to Clean Before Vacation

Your bags are packed. You’re ready to leave. Before you head out the door, here are 4 things to clean before vacation.

I know I’m not the only woman who cleans her home before leaving for vacation.

There’s just something about knowing that I’ll be gone for a while that makes me want to get all my homemaking ducks in a row.

I come by this habit honestly: I watched my mom scrub and scour our family home before any trip. So now, as a wife and mom, I scrub and scour my own home. Everything has to be just so, so that when my husband and I close and lock the doors to our house, it looks more like a model home.

And I’m passing this trait along to my family, too. For the past five years, my husband, kids and I hurry to clean up the outside of our home before vacation, too. We rush around, weeding, mulching, and mowing to leave a nice looking home for our neighborhood. It’s like we try to create a Stepford house … and then we escape to our getaway.

While it might sound like we’re leaving our home in ideal condition, it’s exhausting. And we’re more than ready for a break when we pack up and leave.

Your bags are packed. You're ready to leave. Before you head out the door, here are 4 things to clean before vacation.

Why come home to a clean home?

Inevitably, I make the vacation preparation process so much harder on myself as I plan and pack for our trip – and then rush to majorly clean our house.

But it’s just so welcoming to finally come home … and everything is clean. (That is, it’s clean until I start unpacking.)

Practically speaking, there’s no way I’d want to come home after a restful vacation to a messy house. It’s tough enough to leave our fun getaway, unpack, look at my souvenirs (by the way, I love these creative ideas!), and settle back into everyday life when I’m used to living in vacation mode.

Because I know it’s one of my most effective motivations to clean, I absolutely welcome vacation preparation.

(Sometimes, though, I think my need to clean may stem from a little bit of paranoia – if something happens to me on my trip and I don’t return home on the expected date – I want people to find a clean home.)

Your bags are packed. You're ready to leave. Before you head out the door, here's how to get cleaning your home before vacation.

What you need to make sure you clean before you leave

You may not feel a need to deep clean your home before you leave for a trip. And that’s OK.

But I have to warn you … if you don’t clean certain areas of your home before you leave for an extended time, you’ll be welcomed home with disaster.

Believe me. One year I was sure I had cleaned everything. But after one week away, I was shocked to come home, open my door, and be welcomed by the stench of a rotting potato.

Ever since that trip, I check how old any potatoes or onions are before I leave them for a week.

So what should you clean? Here are 4 areas you’ll definitely want to make sure you clean before you leave:

1. Garbage

Make sure you empty all the trash cans and garbage cans in your home. And make sure to flush the toilet, while you’re emptying things.

2. Refrigerator and pantry

Eat, drink, or throw away anything that may spoil. Like old potatoes. Or milk.

3. Laundry

Make sure all wet laundry is out of your washing machine and dried. If possible, take the dried clothes out of your dryer so they don’t get completely wrinkled.

If you’re drying them late at night before you leave and you don’t feel like putting them all away before you leave early in the morning, simply fold them and neatly stack them in your dryer. I’ve done it before. It works.

4. Dirty dishes

Make sure to wash your dishes before you leave. If at all possible, put them away, too.

Other areas to clean

Aside from those essential areas, you may want to:

  • Make your bed.
  • Do a quick clean of your bathroom. (Make sure any damp bath towels are hung up to dry properly.)
  • Pick up clutter.
  • Put clean laundry and dishes away.
  • Mop and vacuum your floors.

Now that everything is cleaned, get ready to leave … and have a wonderful vacation!

Your bags are packed. You're ready to leave. Before you head out the door, here are 4 things to clean before vacation.

When you clean before vacation, what do you always make sure you do?

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All images courtesy of Unsplash.


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  1. I go way overboard with the pre-vacation house cleaning. Every time I find something else to add to the list of jobs that really don’t have to be done but I insist on doing anyway; and every time I hate myself a little bit for freaking out about it so much, when other people don’t bother to alphabetise their spare toothpaste before they leave. (I know – I feed some neighbours’ pets and from time to time have had to snoop in cupboards, for instance, to find cleaning supplies after a cat throws up on a rug. The toothpaste tubs are all in a tangled-up mess, with the Crest before the Aim!) But on the other hand it is so. nice. coming home and knowing you just have to do some laundry and find a space for your new treasures – and that you don’t really have to do anything more than the basics for the next week, because everything is clean and tidy. Going to bed that first night back home knowing that your sheets are cleaned and your blankets have just been aired – it’s heavenly!

    1. Ha! You sound like me, Becca! I may not alphabetize my toothpaste :) but I always do way more cleaning than I probably need. I always desperately need a vacation after all of the hard work of getting our home to be just so. But it really is so worth it, both for the peace of mind and for being welcomed home. This summer I’m trying to get a month’s head start on the cleaning and yard work so my husband and I won’t have to work so furiously a few days before we leave for vacation.

      1. Well, I did exaggerate a bit. My toothpaste isn’t actually alphabetised; it’s all just stored higgledy-piggledy in a basket in the linen closet. But that is exactly the sort of thing I freak out about. We just came back from Japan a couple of days ago, and once again, it was so nice to walk into a clean, organised house. I have considered, as an alternative, actually hiring a maid service to come in two or three days before we get back from vacation just to give everything a solid once-over . . . but I’m too cheap! But if money was no object, I’d get the maid service, and I’d also get someone to stock the fridge with fresh bread and milk and cheese and eggs, because after eating everything down just before a holiday, that post-holiday grocery trip is a pain. (Yes, I know, I’m terribly lazy.)

        1. I understand about wanting to come home to some fresh food … especially when you’re tired out from traveling. Besides … it’s tough to get back to everyday life after you’ve been away!

          (Hope you had a great time in Japan!)

  2. Best thing ever? Take a roll of quarters with you and the day before vacation ends, go to a laundromat and do ally your dirty clothes in an hour or two…take a book and it’s like another vacation!

  3. Hi, Hilary! Really great advice in this article. I’m with you – I don’t want to come home to a messy or dirty house after vacation. I do pretty much what you do, but it’s great to have a checklist like this. One thing I always do before heading out the door is to make sure all the toilets are flushed. It can get nasty in a week if somebody forgot to flush! Pinning this article on my Pinterest cleaning tips board. Thanks!

  4. Great tips. I always clean before we go. When I get home I always have a ton of laundry to do, things to put away the last thing I want to do is clean my house. Also, I like to put a meal or two into the freezer for when we get back. Gives me a chance to catch up on everything before life gets back to normal. Thanks

    1. Bessie, I LOVE your idea of making freezer meals before you leave for vacation! I’ve never tried it before, but it’s a brilliant idea. The last thing I want to do when I get back is to get back to the routine of cooking meals right away! (I’m like you … I have a ton of laundry if we’re travelling without washer/dryer access.)

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