Mommy Tips is a Go Valley Kids series dedicated to real world, tried and true, practical advice for coexisting with your tiny humans. This is not “Sleep when your baby sleeps” type of advice. This is all about what to stock in your diaper bag, (can you guess why I suggest post its?) and where to find the best deals on kids clothes and toys (hello rummage sales!)
Laundry and Cleaning (could there be any worse jobs!?)
Best stain fighter ever- The Sun
When my first son was a baby, like most babies, he stained all of his clothes. He crapped and spit up all over not just his clothes, but mine too. I thought of myself as pretty handy when it comes to stains, but all these baby stains really through me for a loop. I found myself pitching onesies in the trash that were half white, half poop colored. It wasn’t until I started experimenting with using cloth diapers that I discovered the power of the Sun! I read through countless articles and advice about cloth diapering and found a recurring theme, if your cloth diapers have stains, just hang them in direct sunlight and they will be bleached clean. I was skeptical at first, but hung my diapers outside. Like magic, the stains literally disappeared. I thought, well the stains on the diapers are the same as the ones on my sons clothes, poop is poop, right? I started putting any clothing stains in the sun. Even if I had already washed and dried the item, the sun worked its magic and the stains disappeared. It was a revelation! I am sure I am not the first to discover this little secret, but for me it was the answer I was looking for!
Over the years I have discovered a couple of things about this trick. If the stain was food, dirt, grass, poop, blood or throw up, the sun usually erased it or at least greatly faded the stain. Things like grease or ink the sun didn’t have much effect on.
The best part about this stain fighter is that it is free! You don’t even really need a clothesline. Just find a sunny spot and lay out your clothes, making sure the stain is getting direct sunlight.
The downside is that we live in Wisconsin and in the winter, the sun can be hard to come by sometimes. If you have a sunny window, you can put your clothes in front of it. Another option is to wash your clothes as normal and make a pile of the stained ones by your door. When a sunny day finally arrives, just lay them outside.
Honestly, this is my lazy trick. My, I don’t feel like scrubbing at that stain all day, trick. My mother actually taught me this when I was a child and I still do it to this day. All you need is a squirt of good old dawn dish soap and a bucket of cold water. You could also use a scoop of Borax (see below.) Submerge the stained item in the water and let it sit for a day, or whenever you happen to remember it again. Then all you do is remove the item, drain the excess water and wash as usual. This works best if you get the stain soaked as soon as possible.
All purpose cleaner
A few years ago, I switched from using pre-moistened disinfecting wipes for cleaning just about everything in the house to a dollar store squirt bottle filled with Vinegar and water. I would find myself cleaning a mess on the kitchen floor only to watch my baby crawl right through the area I just wiped. I would immediately wash his hands, thinking he got cleaner on them. It made me think that maybe I should use something else to clean. Vinegar is safe if it is ingested and compared to those tubes of wipes, was a fraction of the cost. It also breaks down stuck on food really great. Even better than many store bought cleaners I’ve used in the past. And if you mix vinegar and baking soda, it makes a paste that will scrub away any floor or counter stain, in the kitchen or bathroom.
A box of borax at Target is about $4. It is super cheap, all natural and can be used for a lot of things. I add a scoop to the dishwasher along with my regular dishwasher soap. I add a scoop to my washing machine along with my regular laundry detergent with almost every load. I use it on fabrics as a stain fighter. I sprinkle it on carpets and let it sit for a few minutes before vacuuming. I use it to scrub pots and pans, it scrubs away dried on food without scratching. Unlike vinegar though, which if the kids get a little in their mouth, is harmless, Borax is not safe if ingested and should be kept away from children.
Get the kids in on the act!
This part is not always easy for me. I just want to get the cleaning done and do it my way, but they will never learn if I don’t show them how. And I do want them to learn, because they older they get, the more household duties I want them to inherit! Here are some tricks I have found helpful in trying to get them to help out, without losing my mind!
Give them cleaning tools that are their size
We have a battery operated floor sweeper for the kitchen floor, my husband took apart the handle and removed one of the sections, then put it back together. It is now short enough for my 3 year old son to easily maneuver. You could also do this with a broom by cutting the handle shorter or they do make child sized brooms and dustpans in the toy section.
A small dust buster vacuum is the perfect size for little hands who can help vacuum while you use the big one.
Make it fun
I give each kid a feather duster, turn up the music really loud and we dance while we dust.
I give the kids window markers and let them go to town on the patio door and windows. Then we squirt them with vinegar and water and watch their masterpieces melt and wipe clean.
After dinner, I set the timer and announce, if we can clear the table before the timer goes off, we can watch something on TV or everyone gets a piece of candy or whatever prize I think will motivate them. My husband and I usually each take a post, one at the table and one at the kitchen sink. We help the kids get the dishes in the sink, any leftover food put away and clean off the table and sweep the floor.
Find what they like and make it their job
We all have certain jobs we like better than others. If you find a job your kid likes, be sure to give them that job often. My oldest son enjoys putting the books away. For some reason we always have a carpet of books at our house. I give him the job of collecting them and putting them back on the shelf. My other son loves to vacuum, so I always try to give him that job. Of course, they will sometimes have to do jobs they don’t love so much, (welcome to the real world kids!) but I feel like this is a good way to encourage them to help out.
Please share with us your best laundry or cleaning tips!
Kelly Arnell is a stay at home mom from Kaukauna. She has a husband who is completely in charge of bath time, 3 little monsters to cherish and love and to drive her insane! When she is not yelling at her kids to stop licking things, changing poopy diapers or trying to all around keep her kids fed, clothed and alive, she can be found at her at her blog, Why did we have to have all these kids anyway? Visit her on Facebook and Twitter!