Photo: Ryan Szulc
One thing the baby books never tell you is just how much of a mess kids can make—and how baffled you’ll be about the best ways to clean it up! We assembled a panel of experts from across the country and convinced them to share their tricks for cleaning and disinfecting the hardest-to-clean kid's messes—from poop blowouts and dried puke to sweat-stained baseball caps and germcoated stuffies.
Here we will cover gear and toys; stuffies, soft lunch bags, sippy cups, water bottles, high chairs, car seats, strollers, bath toys, stinky shoes, and sweat-stained baseball caps.
Getting water out of bath squirters is a pain—and that’s why they get gross and smelly. To keep black, slimy mould at bay, try this method every once in a while: Fill the bathtub a quarter full and add 1 cup of disinfecting bleach and half a scoop of powdered Tide detergent. Then, toss your kid’s tub toys in for 10 minutes. Rinse, then air-dry.
Tip: Consider sealing holes in bath toys with a hot glue gun or drilling them larger for easier drainage.
Whether it’s looking a little dirty or it’s covered in puke, your kid’s favourite stuffie will need a clean eventually. Here’s what to do. For a quick refresh; Instagram-famous Sarah McAllister of Calgary’s Go Clean Co. suggests putting stuffies in a tied garbage bag and inserting a vacuum nozzle in the top to suck out all the air and dust. Repeat a few times. For very dirty stuffies TikTok cleaning guru Danielle Tays of @momthatlovestoclean says most can be washed on a gentle cycle with a laundry sanitizer. For extra protection, toss them inside a tied pillowcase. Dry on regular heat for 10 to 15 minutes. You want them to be mostly dry, but leaving them in for a full cycle will compromise the stuffing. Use an old brush to smooth out any matted hair or fur while damp. Lay flat to finish drying. For very delicate stuffies, opt for hand washing. Add 1 cup of vinegar to a sink of warm water and a little bit of laundry soap, submerge the stuffie for a few minutes, then squeeze out excess liquid. Lay flat to dry.
Tip: Buy a backup of a beloved stuffie in case of loss, damage, or biohazards before it costs an arm and a leg to buy a replacement from eBay.
By the time you empty and wipe it, it’s crusty and repulsive. Solution? Unzip it fully and place it face down on the top rack of the dishwasher. It’ll be super clean but very wet when it comes out, so remove the excess water with a hand towel, then let it air-dry. No dishwasher? Toss it in the washing machine on gentle.
Tip: Lunch bags lined with a fresh paper towel or dish towel each morning won’t have to be cleaned as often.
Tays recommends scrubbing crusty high chairs using a dish wand filled with a mix of Dawn Ultra (the blue stuff) and vinegar. If you’re left with any stains or stuck-on food, try cleaning with a solution made of a dissolved Cascade dishwasher tablet in hot water. Cleaning the harness incorrectly could compromise it, so check the manual beforehand.
Note: Always check the seat manufacturer’s warnings before cleaning. For example, many car seat makers advise not to launder or even submerge their seats’ harness in water, as it can compromise its integrity. (In this case, you can wipe it with a damp cloth and mild soap, and a toothbrush can help here, too. Or the manufacturer may be able to send you a replacement harness.)
Give these dirt collectors a good cleaning every few months—especially if you store yours in the garage, where trapped dust, fumes and germ-carrying pests can create an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, yeast and mould, right on your stroller.
They’re so small and cute—why do they smell so bad? McAllister’s iconic formula for laundry stripping is super effective on shoes, but admittedly not exactly low-maintenance.
No time to try laundry stripping? Go ahead and launder those stinky kicks! Vet the care instructions (no to leather, yes to most canvas), remove the insoles and place in a mesh laundry bag, filling the drum with extra towels. Wash with liquid detergent on a cold, slow or no-spin cycle.
Tip: If you know your kid has a propensity for smelly feet, get into the habit of sprinkling baking soda in their shoes as a deodorizer as soon as they start to give off a funk. A few drops of essential oil wouldn’t hurt either.
Baseball caps get those white sweat marks on them, but tossing them in the washing machine could ruin their shape. Tays has the solution:
Sarah Mcallister—Calgary With more than two million followers, McAllister’s company, Go Clean Co., is kind of a big deal on Instagram. Known for her undying love of powdered Tide detergent and for bringing the concept of laundry stripping to the mainstream, McAllister is a serial entrepreneur and mom of one.
Danielle Tays—Hampton, New Brunswick Better known as @momthatlovestoclean on TikTok, this mother of one and stepmom of two soothed her COVID anxiety by sharing her knowledge and tips. Boasting more than 450,000 followers, she and her like-minded cleaning squad refer to themselves as the #mopsquad.
Jamie Moorhouse—Toronto Along with partner Sean Campbell, Moorhouse started Condo Fresh Inc. in 2011 with a goal of providing professional cleaning and organizing with a natural spin. After encouragement from his customers, he recently launched his own line of natural cleaners, called Moorfreshouse Inc.