So, you made the mistake of inviting all your friends over for a little get-together—only you forgot what happens when you mix your friends with four kinds of booze. (And don’t forget the nachos.)

You haven’t checked the bathroom yet, but based on the Memento-style flashbacks you’re having, you know it’s in rough shape. And what’s worse is that in all the excitement of planning your party, you forgot to take the necessary precautions and stock up on all the essential bathroom supplies.

So, it’s time to put on some pants and roll up those sleeves, because if your friends are anything like mine, and if that night was as rowdy as you’re remembering it, then the day ahead is about to get ghastly.

Follow these five steps to tackle the mess, and with any luck, your disastrously dirty bathroom will return to a place of silent grace and dignity once again.

Step 1: Quarantine the Area

caution bio hazard sign on a lab windowIf you’re like me, the last thing you want to hear the morning after a party is someone else’s voice.

People are the reason you’re in this mess to begin with, so it would be a good idea to call off any prior engagements. (And, yes, that includes the world-conquering commitments you made last night with your best friend Sheila. Unless she’s helping you with the mess—which you know she’s not—then Sheila can wait.)

Next, you’re going to want to secure the surrounding area. Stepping on cups and bottles and other remains from the night before will only act as a reminder that the cleanup goes well beyond the bathroom, and that will only make you angry and distract from the task at hand.

It’s time to throw on some nonintrusive music—some singer-songwriter-type stuff—push through the pain in your brain, and focus like you never have before.

Step 2: Decide on Cleaning Supplies

Different stains call for different solutions, so you’re going to want to get a visual on the wreckage so that you know which bathroom supplies to buy.

For example, if someone spilled juice on the tile flooring, you’re going to need some hot water and laundry detergent. If there’s blood, however, not only will you need to call your friends and get your stories straight, but you’ll need something stronger, like hydrogen peroxide or a solution of bleach and water.

On the other hand, if your guests managed to maintain a modicum of class and relegated their stains to towels and rugs and other fabric-y things, then there’s a litany of ingredients that’ll help with the various spills, splotches, messes, and stains.

Now might also be a good time to plug in that automatic air freshener so that the stench won’t be quite as unbearable when you’re in it for real.

Step 3: Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

woman holding basket of cleaning suppliesNow that you know what you’re dealing with, it’s time to take stock of the cabinets and maybe even rush out to the store for some backup bathroom supplies.

If you don’t know exactly what to get, here is a list of some of the most essential cleaning supplies you’ll require:

  • Bleach
  • Glass cleaning spray
  • Multipurpose cleaning spray
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Air freshener
  • Disinfectant spray
  • Broom (don’t forget the dustpan!)
  • Soft rags/microfiber cloths
  • Sponges
  • Paper towels
  • Rubber gloves
  • Toilet brush
  • Bucket
  • Mop
  • Trash bags

Name-brand products work well, of course, but if you’re looking for something more natural, you can always make your own cleaning solutions with a few simple ingredients.

Step 4: Spray, Soak, and Let Sit

The first mistake most people make when attacking a dirty bathroom is to hit it head on.

While it might make sense to tackle your toilet with the ire of an angry bear (especially if you want to be in and out and done with it), if you don’t have the mind of a monk—and at least a little bit of patience—you’ll end up doing more harm than good.

The reason is that tiny, dirt-kicking chemicals called surfactants need time to do their duties. Found in all effective cleaning agents, both natural and synthetic, surfactants are what separate oil, grease, and dirt from the surfaces they’re soiling.

So, after spraying down the counters and toilet and adding bleach to the toilet bowl, now would be a good time to remove the rugs and towels, wash what you can in the washing machine, hand-wash the rest, and toss them in the dryer after a liberal spritzing of disinfectant.

Step 5: Don the Gloves and Get to Work

man with gas mask cleaning toiletNo more ignoring the inevitable. There’s no turning back. You’ve gathered your cleaning supplies, the music’s playing, you’ve prepped and sprayed the area, and now there’s nothing left to do but get down and dirty.

You can do this.

If you don’t have a plan, make one. You don’t want to battle blindly. Because when that smell hits your nose and mixes with cleaners and bleach, you’ll be dizzy, disgusted, and unable to react.

If you don’t want to make a plan, don’t worry, you can use mine:

  1. Sweep the floor
  2. Scrub the toilet bowl
  3. Wipe down the toilet
  4. Clean the counters
  5. Spray and clean the mirror
  6. Respray and rebleach if necessary (repeat items 2 through 5)
  7. Check the bathtub (spray and scrub if someone slept in it)
  8. Mop the floors
  9. Return washed and dried linens and rugs to their rightful places

Cheat Code: Hire a Best Pick Home Cleaning Service

It’s like I always say: if you can’t stand the heat, have somebody else put out the fire.

And while I’ve laid out a pretty perfect plan for restoring your porcelain palace, if you roll out of bed with a head of aching lead, and you can’t stand the glare of the bathroom’s suddenly bright lights, and the smell is just atrocious—so bad that your stomach can’t stand it—then it’s time to lay back down, pick up the phone, and hire some help.