Becoming a parent is like living on a whole other planet. On the one hand, you have to navigate taking care of a small human, and on the other hand, you’re trying to keep up with the demands of a home that’s not going to clean itself. Balancing the two is where things start to get tricky. Before I had my son, cleaning up was relegated to weekends and only took up to a few hours tops. I didn’t fully grasp how hard it would be to do this with an adorable toddler running amuck all over the house. Case in point: Their hands are always sticky, and they love to leave a trail of toys behind them (I’m looking at you, building blocks). Cleaning up messes a bajillion times a day can get exhausting, to say the least. Luckily, the internet is here and ready to make our lives easier by providing a plethora of creative parenting hacks to pick and choose from. In the time I spent researching this article, for example, I texted my husband a minimum of five times with screenshots of different hacks we needed to try (thank you, wise redditors). Below are 20 of my favorites to help busy moms clean, organize, and—hopefully—prevent messes before they even begin. So sit back, put your feet up, and prepare to be awed.
1. Stay calm and remove crayon from your walls.
This is first on our list because there’s nothing quite like finishing up a day of deep cleaning to find your child has drawn their latest masterpiece all over your walls (been here too many times to count). Before you go into a full blown panic attack, rest easy knowing that there is a safe, non-toxic way to remove crayon from your walls. We owe our endless thanks to one savvy redditor who discovered the magic solution to removing these pesky lines: Combine 1 tablespoon of coconut oil with 1/8 teaspoon of lemon essential oil. Not only will you breathe a sigh of relief, it will leave your home smelling so fresh and so clean.
2. Organize your kid’s artwork using a drying rack.
As a mother to a miniature painting aficionado (aka toddler), I know firsthand how coloring pages can end up all over your living room floor and pretty much anywhere that’s been recently tidied. Picking up strewn coloring pages gets annoying, let me tell you. But all of this seemingly unmanageable mess can be easily remedied with one specific item: your average drying rack. Rubbermaid’s Large White Dish Drainer’s coated wire cushions are great for placing coloring books and loose pages. You can also use the caddy for storing markers and crayons.
3. Wash baby clothes in mesh lingerie bags.
Babies have the teeniest, tiniest of clothes that love to get tangled (and lost) in your washing machine and dryer. More specifically: baby socks and hand mittens (where on earth do they go?). Luckily, there’s a simple way to keep these delicates from tearing or disappearing altogether. Place these itty bitty clothing items in mesh lingerie bags and then toss them into the washing machine without worry. Gogooda’s Mesh Laundry Bags for Delicates are exactly what you need. You get seven different sizes, which also comes in handy when washing your child’s beloved (yet stinky) teddy bear.
4. Pick up glitter with your lint roller.
Ah, childhood, that magical time when small humans spread sparkly powder all over their families’ furniture and clothes. While we love our children’s artwork, we’re not a big fan of the glitter cleanup. Fortunately, the Extra Sticky Lint Roller Set is here to save you hours of cleaning (and added headache). Use it for easy glitter pick-up and for collecting those tiny pieces of paper from craft projects. The set comes with three refills of 60 sheets each to make cleanups a breeze. Additional bonus: You can remove all those food crumbs from your child’s car seat (finally!).
5. A Genius Way to Clean Up All Your Kid’s Toys
You have to love a hack that is so obvious you don’t know why you didn’t think of it before. Washing your child’s toys of all those yucky germs is tiresome and time-consuming (they’re going to get dirty again STAT). Throwing them in your dishwasher gets all of this work done with minimal effort on your part. And if you’re worried about using harmful chemicals on toys that will (most likely) wind up in your kiddos’ mouths, fear not: Sparkle Clean by True Green Organics offers a non-toxic dishwasher detergent that’s eco-safe and 100 percent organic.
6. Get rid of food-coloring stains with this clever trick.
For my son’s first birthday, we had studio pictures taken of him sticking his angelical face into a very large, blue smash cake (side note: These are spectacularly fun and something every parent should try!). However, getting the blue food coloring off his tiny face and hands was a challenge. Needless to say, water and soap alone weren’t cutting it. Thankfully, we can all continue our colorful baking projects without stress—simply squirt a little whitening toothpaste onto the stain and massage the area for two minutes. Then wash off and repeat as necessary.
7. A magical pacifier that stays clean.
Who doesn’t love the ease of calming a crying baby with a pacifier? What we don’t love so much: Worrying about all those yucky (and scary) germs considering baby’s favorite pacifier gets dropped all over the place. If only there was some magical pacifier that would close when hitting the floor. Well, you’re in luck, because such an item exists! The RaZbaby Keep-It-Kleen Rosa Penguin Pacifier will not only save you the hassle of having to constantly clean these tiny (yet necessary) objects, but they also come in all kinds of jazzy colors and stylish designs for you to pick and choose from.
8. This instant stain remover is your new BFF.
Taking your kids on a picnic or out for dinner? Expect disaster to strike. Just kidding…sort of. Let’s face it: Children have the uncanny ability to spill any and all things onto their clothes. And sometimes these are brand new clothes you artfully arranged before leaving the house (sigh). So what’s a busy mom to do when faced with this dreadfully common scenario? Enter: Instant Stain Remover by Tide. This powerful little pen helps you get some of the toughest fresh food and drink stains out before they set in. It’s also super portable so you can stash one away in your purse for easy access.
9. A Smarter Way for Messy Snacking
Speaking of stains, why not avoid them altogether by dipping your child in a bath while eating their popsicles, ice cream cones, or peanut butter? Place these gooey snacks in a cup and keep them secured on a bath caddy. This way, they can enjoy a yummy treat without all the added mess. Try out Hermosa Collection Kids Bathtub Storage Basket, which easily adjusts to fit most tubs. Bonus: The caddy doubles as a way to keep your kid’s toys and bath products organized.
10. A Portable Placemat That Catches Messes
I’m a big believer in avoiding cleanups by preventing them in the first place. That’s why I was thrilled to come across Benedict Harry’s Reusable Silicone Baby Food Placemat. Take it anywhere and the built-in scoop compartment catches the mess as it falls always. This means you’ll spend less time cleaning up fallen foods from the floor (which comes especially handy when eating out) and more time enjoying your meal. The placemat is also made out of hygienic material that prevents mold growth and bacteria, so you can rest easy knowing your little one isn’t eating off a germy surface. Roll it up and take it on the go!
11. Create a water-resistant outdoor play table.
Have a wooden picnic table you don’t want getting stained by art supplies? Rather than fret over potential spillage, try covering it with oilcloth to protect against paint leaks. My little one (the painting aficionado) pretty much always ends up with finger paint all over his palms. Oilcloth is a simple remedy for having to wash paint off of indoor and outdoor furniture. It also doubles as protection against messy snacks and water games. Bonus: Use it for fast cleanups when working on baking projects.
12. Wipe away dirty pots and pans in a breeze.
It’s no surprise no one likes to do the dishes—but even worse? DIRTY POTS AND PANS. I’ve had my fair share of scrub-filled afternoons that could have been easily avoided with this life-changing hack. According to Mike Sphor at Buzzfeed, placing a dryer sheet in a dirty pan before soaking overnight will make it easy to wipe away the baked-on crust in the morning. Bounce Fabric Softener Sheets will help you do the trick, and they also provide a gentle, hypoallergenic fabric-softening option for your clothes.
13. Prevent gooey popsicle messes.
My sweet munchkin of a toddler loves popsicles. Problem is, as soon as I place one in his tiny eager hands, it’s already melting away onto his palms, shirt, and pants. Fortunately, there’s an incredibly simple solution to this problem and you can find it right inside your cupboard: Push the popsicle stick through the center of a cupcake liner before handing it to your kid. Easy peasy.
14. Simply Clean: A Book for All Your Organizing Needs
Whether you’re a working mom or a stay at home mom (or, like me, some hybrid of the two)—you probably want to spend less time cleaning and more time with your little one. Becky Rapinchuk, author of Simply Clean understands this long-standing dilemma and offers us an easy-to-use guide for cleaning our homes in just 10 minutes a day (no joke). But more than simply tidying up, she teaches us to transform a chore into a habit that we can pass on to our kids.
15. Keep laundry (and the rest of your life) smelling fresh.
Nothing is more delightful than opening a drawer full of clothes and having the fresh scent of lavender waft all over the room. Your own DIY sachets are perfect for keeping kids’ clothes and gym bags smelling fresh. Just put in a few dried lavender leaves dotted with essential oil in a mesh bag and voila! Bonus: Keep one in your car for some much-needed aromatherapy.
16. Peroxide is your friend.
As a non-toxic, all-natural chemical, hydrogen peroxide can perform countless wonders that range from disinfecting food prep surfaces to getting rid of burnt spots on pots and pans to—you guessed it—cleaning kids’ toys! Harness the power of peroxide by filling a large bucket with just enough peroxide to cover the toys. Toss the toys in and let them fizz and bubble. After they stop bubbling, take them out and let them dry.
17. A Chore Chart for Fun Cleanups
As they say: The best defense is a good offense. In other words, let the kids in on the housecleaning action! Create good habits by teaching your small humans the importance of a clean and tidy home. The Roscoe Learning Responsibility Star Chart can help you make it a fun experience by giving kids a visual reward system that they can work toward achieving. The board keeps track of progress on chores and can easily be hung in any room. It also comes with reward stars that will take you back to your own childhood (who didn’t get a star on their forehead as a kid?).
18. This Instant DIY Home-Freshener
Got a stinky-smelling house and guests arriving any minute? Don’t panic, redditor jimothywhite gives us this fabulous tip: “Put two caps full of vanilla extract (you can use other oils, such as lemon and lavender) in a coffee cup (or oven-proof dish), then place it in the oven at 300 degrees for one hour. The smell will start to spread after around 20 minutes and encompass the whole house after the hour duration. Should last for at least a day.” (A note of caution for pet-owners: Essential oils can pose a risk to our furry friends, especially for cats who can have an adverse respiratory reaction upon inhaling them.) Pro tip: Switch them out during the changing seasons, for example, nutmeg oil for Halloween and cinnamon for a cozy Christmas scent.
19. Remove stickers with this clever trick.
Confession: As a child, I collected all manner of stickers. I picked them up from road trips, those little toy machines at malls, and pretty much everywhere you can imagine. That’s right, I was that kid. But I also took it a step further and stuck all of these treasures on my wooden drawer cabinet. When it came time for my parents to sell it, there was no way these suckers were coming off. If only they’d known about this one small miracle hack: coconut oil. According to Melissa Maker at Fisher-Price, you can “mix equal parts coconut oil and baking soda to create a paste to remove stubborn stickers.”
20. Baby Wipes: The Mother of All Hacks
You know how in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the father of the bride-to-be is always using Windex as a cure-all for everything—ranging from glassware to a random pimple? That’s how I feel about baby wipes. Basically, there is nothing they can’t do. Here are just a few of the things you can do with these multi-purpose wipes to make your life easier: Wipe off dust, get rid of deodorant marks on your clothes, use for quick oil stains, clean your kid’s toys, and sanitize germ-ridden public areas. We love Pampers Aqua Sensitive Water Baby Wipes, which are free of alcohols, dyes, and fragrances. Aside from cleanups, you can also use them on your little one without worrying about irritants.