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Everything You Need to Do to Clean Up After a DIY Project

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Photo: Sambulov Yevgeniy (Shutterstock)

Anyone who has done any DIY work in their home (or someone else’s home) knows that in most cases, the project will take longer than you anticipated, and no matter how small it seems, usually ends up being pretty exhausting. This means that when it’s time to clean up, you’re faced with a tough decision: Push through your fatigue and tidy things up, or put it off for another day.

And as tempting as it may be to change out of your work clothes and spend the rest of the day relaxing, your future-self will be very appreciative if you took the time to do at least a quick clean-up that day. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to get the bulk of the job done, so you won’t have it hanging over your head. Here’s what to do.

How to clean up after a DIY project

We know you’re exhausted, so we’ll keep this brief. The goal of this clean-up isn’t to spend time in all the nooks and crannies, trying to achieve Monica Gellar-levels of cleanliness. Instead, it’ll clear out your space and at least allow you to talk through the work area safely. Here’s what to do (in chronological order):

1. Get rid of the big stuff

Remove any large debris from the space, placing it in or near your trash, a dumpster, the vehicle that’s going to haul it away, etc. Make a pile/area for tools or appliances to put away. When you’re done in that room, return the equipment to its normal spot.

2. Pick up any metal pieces

If your project involved screws, nails, metal shavings, or other metal debris that you don’t want someone stepping on, use a large magnet to go over the floor, counters, tables, and any other surfaces where stuff might have landed. One of those magnetic sweepers would be ideal, so use one if you have it, or see if you could borrow one from a neighbor.

3. Sweep up the remaining debris

Next, use a broom and dustpan to sweep up the bigger pieces of debris still left on the floors, countertops, tables, etc., emptying the dustpan into a large (sturdy) trash bag as you go.

Try to get as much as you can off of the surfaces: The next step is vacuuming them, and in addition to not straining your vacuum, its probably easier to sweep up as much as possible now, instead of having to empty your vacuum container multiple times later.

4. Vacuum the area

Ideally, there won’t be much left on the floors and other surfaces. Use a shop vac if you have one—if not, a regular vacuum is fine—to go over the entire floor, taking your time to ensure you suck up as much as possible. Bust out the attachments for corners, counters, woodwork, anything high up, etc.

5. Do some dusting

Depending on your DIY project, there may still be some remaining dust in the area. Grab a few microfiber cloths, and wipe everything down, including places like ceiling fans, air vents, and woodwork where dust can easily hide. Finish up by vacuuming again to get rid of any dust that may have dislodged or spread.

6. A final wipe-down

If, after dusting, you’re content with how the area looks—at least for now—you can stop there and get to everything else later. Otherwise, take a clean, damp cloth and wipe down any tables or counters, using your household cleaning product(s) of choice (or one of these DIY options). Finally, if you have the energy, and it makes sense with the rest of your DIY schedule, mop the floors.

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