Posts Tagged ‘cleaning’

How to Safely Clean Baby Toys

Monday, October 10th, 2016

baby toysI’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little bit of a germaphobe.  Before having kids, I always had my trusty squirt bottle of bleach cleaner and Clorox wipes to clean and sanitize my house.  Although I still use bleach in my bathroom, I have found gentler and less abrasive options to clean my kids’ toys.  I clean most of our toys using the following three methods:

Vinegar: Instead of a bleach cleaner, I now use a vinegar solution to sanitize toys.  To make the vinegar solution, mix equal parts vinegar and water in a squirt bottle.  Spray the toys down with the solution, let them sit for about 15 minutes, and then wipe off and solution that is still on the toys.  Vinegar is a dilute solution of acetic acid which denatures proteins in many viruses and bacteria that cause colds and other illnesses, making it a suitable–and safe–cleaner to sanitize.  I clean many of our larger plastic/rubber toys, toys with batteries, wooden toys, and board books with the vinegar solution.  Just as a warning, some people are very sensitive to the smell of vinegar, like my husband, so make sure you can open a window or two if needed. You can also infuse your vinegar with natural scents like lemon, thyme, or lavender.

Dishwasher: Many toys are dishwasher safe, and it is a great tool to use to clean many toys at once.  Any toy that is made out of plastic or rubber that fits in the dishwasher can be washed in it.  Toys that require batteries or are made out of wood should not be cleaned in the dishwasher.  I set my dishwasher to the sanitize setting (or use your hottest setting), add regular dishwashing detergent, and run the dishwasher.  Let the toys completely air dry before using.  I always use my best judgement about whether or not to put something in the dishwasher.  If there is any question about whether or not it’ll melt or get ruined by the dishwasher, I clean the toy using the vinegar solution instead.

Washing Machine: I use the washing machine to clean our blankets, playmats, and stuffed animals (again no batteries).  I put the stuffed animals in a pillow case (two to three together in one pillowcase), and tie the top, to offer a little extra protection.  Use the hot setting and wash like normal.  To dry, you can either let the toys air dry or dry on a low heat, gentle setting in your dryer.

Kids are inherently germy and dirty.  Although I will never be able to completely stop the spread of colds and other illnesses in my house, using these three methods keeps our toys as clean as possible.

Becky Nagel is a stay at home mom to two girls, a three year old and a one year old, in Denver, CO who enjoys cooking for her family, running, and hiking.


Konmari with Kids: Is it Possible?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

KonmariLate last year, my turn finally came on the wait list at my local library for Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I’d been wanting to read it for some time (apparently not enough to just buy a copy though); despite purging before moving halfway around the world recently, I still felt like my family and I had too much stuff. The mere thought of it stressed me out. Anytime you needed to clean (around my house, that’s pretty much anytime), you had to clean and move stuff just to clean more stuff. I felt more and more like I was spinning my wheels and something had to give.

Enter the book, and it’s brand of Konmari magic (Konmari, or KM for short, is the term the book and it’s aficionados use for the process). It’s not necessarily a book on minimalism, but more a mindset change. Basically, you have to think about every item in your life and decide if it “sparks joy” for you. If it doesn’t (and doesn’t spark joy by it’s mere usefulness, like a washer or oven might), it doesn’t belong in your life and must go.

Sounds easy, but things get tricky when you find out the rules of Konmari also state that you cannot KM another person’s belongings. Like, say my husband has a terrible old beer logo t-shirt that’s so busted the armpits now have built-in ventilation. My complete lack of joy seeing that t-shirt doesn’t mean I get to toss it. He has to decide on his own if it sparks joy for him.

Still, easy enough…unless you have kids. Kids are rarely mentioned in the book. My four-year-old is a Tasmanian devil with his clothing and the KM way of folding (yes, there’s a special folding method she recommends. Sounds terrible, but I swear it works great) absolutely would not stand a chance with him. Also, his four-year-old faculties are not mature enough to be able to go through his own toys and belongings the way the book describes.

So, what’s a well-meaning Konmari-ing parent to do? You could give up before you even start, and maybe even write a scathing commentary condemning anybody who dares suggest that keeping baby gear and outgrown clothing for future children is forbidden by this book (it is not). Or, you need to use the tools the book teaches you to work through this mindfully (and ultimately, mindfulness is the desired outcome of this methodology).

For me, Konmari and my kids’ belongings and baby gear still meant going through each item, but the joy sparking bit had to be considered from multiple angles with this stuff. Is the item broken (and if so, will it actually ever get repaired)? Do I have attachments to it for non-joy sparking reasons (I have this issue personally with items that were gifts, particularly from special people in my life)?

If it is gear that I am storing for future use, I have to consider the condition of the item as well as its practicality. Kondo reminds the reader periodically that storing items has an ultimate flaw of hiding them, which leads to forgetting the item and it never being used again. So for me, being a thrifty hand-me-down fan, I had to get real with myself with not only what I was keeping, but also if I was being realistic on its usefulness down the road, and also I had to be able to maintain some sort of system to not forget about or lose the item when it came time for its re-use.

Honestly, I think that not only does having kids NOT preclude you from applying the Konmari method to your own life, it is even more beneficial for families because we have more people living under a roof, and therefore more stuff. More stuff owned by people that aren’t yet capable of taking care of their belongings independently.

Being mindful while going through all of your belongings demonstrates just how much stuff you have accumulated, stuff that you don’t even know you had and don’t care for. This leads to mindfulness in the future as well, as you will start to think about each item you plan to buy and decide if it sparks joy for you.

For me, I found that part of the reason having so much stuff (that wasn’t being used or loved) stressed me out was because I felt bad about all of the money that had been spent on it. It allowed me to reassess a lot of priorities in my family and personal life too. It really has been a life changer, not just a change to how I fold my socks.

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to two boys and is currently living in Japan. She enjoys running and eating (of course those two things are not mutually exclusive), and now finds that throwing out worn-out running shoes sparks joy because of all of the miles they have provided. 

Caring For Your Beco

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 9.50.40 PMAdmit it. You got tired of having the baby pull your hair and handed him a snack. Those berries (drink, food pouch, crackers, distraction of your choice) seemed like a great idea at the time. You keep your hair, baby is happy, everybody wins! But then, baby comes down and you see it. Your beautiful carrier looks like it visited a cafeteria during a food fight. What to do?!

As with most carriers, you generally want to spot clean an SSC (Soft Structured Carrier) like a Beco. Use a mild detergent, cool water, and rub gently to clean any small stains that may arise. Hang or lay flat to dry and you’re good to go.

But what do you do when it’s more than just a bit of smushed food? What do you do when, say, baby has a blowout of all blowouts while riding inside her carrier, or when she soaks that diaper that you knew you should have changed, or when it slips to the floorboards of the car and becomes a target for muddy feet? Then, my friends, it’s time to actually wash your Beco.

Per Beco’s website, their advice is to “Wash on DELICATE/WARM cycle with a mild detergent. Hang dry in well ventilated area or tumble dry on low and remove when seams are still damp. Spot clean when needed. Do not wash frequently.”

So, should you need to toss your Beco in the wash, here’s what I recommend. Depending on the model of your Beco, remove any detachable hoods or pockets, unless they also need to be washed. Connect both the chest strap buckles and the hip belt, so that the buckles and straps are less likely to get caught during washing (especially if you have a standard top loader with agitator). For extra protection, toss your carrier into a pillow case and tie up the top before washing. No loose straps! Then add your carrier to your machine with a mild detergent, set to your most delicate cycle, and choose a warm water temperature. Close the lid, start the cycle, go find out what your kid has gotten into while you’ve been in the laundry room.

Once washed, I prefer to hang to dry. By keeping the chest clip buckled you can easily hang the carrier over a sturdy coat hanger. You can also lay the carrier flat to dry, but if you’re not using a drying rack of some sort, be sure to place it on a towel and flip it every so often so that it dries evenly. If you really need a quicker option, you can tumble dry your Beco on low or the air dry cycle. I recommend the pillow case again for this, to protect the buckles.

Then you go. You should have your Beco back to shiny condition, ready and waiting for that next stain to come its way. Cupcakes, anyone?

Kate Cunha is mom to a tall 3 year old that still needs to go up on occasion. Her toddler Beco is one of her favorite choices.

Pregnancy Week 19: Nesting

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Pregnancy Week 19: NestingTo say I’ve been a bit obsessed with organizing and cleaning is an understatement. It is amazing how the pregnancy hormones start to take charge and you begin to zero in on a certain task or job that must be done. For me it has been cramming my two older boys into one room and figuring out how to share that space.

Pregnancy nesting instincts can begin at any time around or after the fifth month–some earlier, some later, some not at all. It can be a sudden urge to clean or even an urge to organize something. For the mothers to be, it is a primal urge to prepare for the new baby, to get things in order so that your energy and focus can be on this next addition to your family. Women have been known to scrub the entire kitchen with a toothbrush, to organize and then reorganize the baby’s room, scrub linen closets and iron and refold everything in sight before baby comes. These often make for great post-pregnancy stories.

There is nothing unhealthy about nesting, except when it gets out of hand. Pregnant women should avoid painting, ladders, any harsh chemicals and heavy lifting, especially in the latter months. Many oil based paints have many chemicals and volatile compounds that can irritate a pregnant woman’s airways, not to mention cause fainting. If painting must be done, have a friend or spouse help out and look for a Low VOC or natural Paint to help off set the fumes.

Cleaning chemicals are generally a no-no for pregnancy, but to tell a nesting mother that she can’t clean her house would be a bad idea. Aim for using natural cleansers, baking soda and vinegar, and essential oils for freshening your house. Ladders and step stools are also not good ideas as the center of gravity is off by the belly and it’s even easier to fall off a step stool while pregnant.

So far, I have repapered and organized my entire kitchen, scrubbed my bathrooms with baking soda and relined the shelves in every closet. I’m a bit obsessive about my instinct to be home and cozy–even to the point of avoiding social situations and wishing to be only around close friends and family. Soon this will pass, but in the meantime I am enjoying my clean, organized home.

Pia Watzig is a stay at home mom of two boys with a third due in November. She is not an avid cleaner or organizer but is trying to become one.