Little Kids

10 Hacks to Make Puke Cleanup Easier to Stomach

There’s nothing grosser than cleaning up your kid’s vomit, but prep yourself with these hacks to make the task a little less disgusting.

10 Hacks to Make Puke Cleanup Easier to Stomach

Photo: Roberto Caruso, Prop Stylist: Jay Barnett, Slime:, Paint Colour: Amethyst Cream 2071-50 by Benjamin Moore

The first time my oldest daughter threw up when she was about 15 months old, I nearly did too. We were both covered in partially digested berry-applesauce, crying (her) and gagging (me), and I completely lost my faculties for a minute or two. My first reaction was, “Ew, ew, ew, I need a shower immediately,” but that was quickly replaced by, “OK, OK. Think, Katie. What now?”

It’s taken me years to answer that question, and I still have a moment of panic every time my kids vomit. I know I’m not alone—at least, I hope I’m not the only mama who dry-heaves as she cleans—so here’s a list of the best tricks to make the next tummy bug just a little more bearable. (Until you’re down for the count, that is. Then it’s every kid for themselves.)

Compile a barf box

An episode of vomiting often comes without warning, but you can still be prepared.

Clear a space in your bathroom or laundry room for a puke first-response kit. Pack a tote with old sheets and towels, extra washcloths, a clean bucket or bowl for every family member, and an extra lovey for little ones who can’t sleep without their favourite stuffed companion.

Add to the box when you learn what works for your kiddos, and restock after every illness.

basket of towels sitting on the floor iStock

Make puke-proof beds

Do yourself a favour and make a bedding sandwich the next time you change the sheets. Start with a waterproof mattress pad and a sheet set, followed by another mattress pad and another sheet set. In case of a puke in the night (or an accident or bloody nose, for that matter), just take the top layer off, including the first mattress pad, and throw it in the washer (just shake out any chunks first!).

helix kids mattress, helix youth mattress Flippable sides on the Helix kids mattress, Merchant

This is also the time to remind you that choosing a toddler mattress, crib mattress or big kids' mattress with a removable, washable and waterproof encasement is a good idea.


Keep plastic bags close by

Plastic bags are like the friends you didn’t know you couldn’t live without…until now!

Line barf buckets with plastic grocery bags for easy cleanup. (Rinsing out buckets in the laundry tub at 2 a.m. is the last thing anyone wants to do.) Large sandwich bags are also a smart alternative to puke receptacles, says Michelle Bennett, a mom of three from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. “Toss cookies, zip, dispose.” (Mamas with little ones who get motion-sick, take note.)

garbage bin with a plastic bag in it iStock

Get glowing

OK, so we’ve all been there. It’s late, everyone’s asleep, and suddenly, your kid feels queasy. You can’t always plan for these things. But here's a neat trick to keep your bathroom clean. Toss a disposable glow stick in the bottom of a bowl or bucket to give the patient an easy-to-see target in the wee hours. It’s not just about making the bathroom a bit brighter, but can also help kids be more secure and comfortable, especially when they may be feeling scared or disoriented due to illness.

glow sticks Merchant

Need some cheap options to keep on hand? We love these affordable glow sticks that cost about 30 cents each. Oh, and they make brilliant accessories for indoor games on rainy days.

Steel yourself against the smell

Ugh, cleaning up vomit is the worst, right? You’re already dreading that awful stench, and wondering if it’ll haunt your dreams for the next few days. But, hey, next time, before you pinch your nose, give this essential oil trick a shot. You’ll be so amazed you’ll want to send us a thank you note later.

“I have a lemongrass lotion that I put under my nose and in the crook of my elbow when I have to clean up vomit,” says mom-of-two Jen Pinarski, from Peterborough, Ont. “I hide my face in my arm to get the job done!”

lemongrass next to a jar of oil iStock


Don't throw out those old gift cards

Getting vomit out of carpets can be a challenge, given the structure of carpet fibres. Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and founder of Clean My Space, suggests using an old gift or credit card to scrape out any hidden bits before treating.

“Get your rubber gloves on and use paper towel or an old rag to pick up big chunks; then drag the card across the stain to get at any smaller pieces that may not be picked up as easily. From there, you can treat more effectively.”

Her go-to vomit treatment? An enzyme cleaner—it has biological compounds that digest organic matter and is available at most stores with a dedicated cleaning section. “You’ll spray the stain, leave for five to 10 minutes, blot and let it dry,” says Maker. Repeat if necessary.

two people exchanging a gift card iStock

Soak it all up

This is an oldie but a goodie that even works on carpeted or upholstered surfaces. After picking up as much of the vomit as possible, blot the area dry and sprinkle with baking soda or cornstarch. The powder will absorb the remaining liquid and, once dry, can just be vacuumed up. It even helps with any lingering vomit smell. Puke? What puke?

Alternatively, get yourself a BISSELL Little Green Machine. It'll wash and suck the vomit right out of upholstery, mattresses, rugs and other hard-to-clean areas.

bissell little green machine review Image: Bryce Gruber

Build a trail of towels

Don't forget to add some old towels to your barf box. They come in super handy for making a ‘sick runway’ from the kid’s bedroom to bathroom, for those just-in-case moments.

And since we all know how throwup can be a bit of a wildcard, it’s smart to cover the bathroom floor with towels too. Saves you the hassle of having to scrub the floor on your hands and knees later on.

towel on the floor iStock

Avoid the crewneck at all cost 

Don’t even think about putting your kid into crewneck jammies. You’re just going to kick yourself later, when you have to drag a barfy shirt over your child’s head. Go for button-down PJs or adult-sized shirts that can be pulled down over the shoulders and stepped out of.

Onesies with envelope-fold necklines can also be pulled down.

child in button up pajamas iStock

Spot-clean car seats carefully

If you just need to do a spot-clean, you can usually use a mild cleanser (like a spray bottle of water mixed with a little baby laundry detergent). But whenever you’re cleaning the car seat, it’s a good idea to check the manual first.

“It all depends on how the seat was constructed and how the fabric has been treated,” says Care Sinclair, a prenatal and parenting educator, registered midwife and certified car seat technician in Toronto.

So, when vomit gets in your convertible car seat’s nooks and crannies, make sure your plan of attack is approved: “For some seats, you can take the cover off, throw it in wash and lay it flat to dry or let it air-dry in the sun; for others, machine washing, sun exposure or even removing the cover is strictly prohibited.”

woman inspecting a car seat in the back of a car iStock

Never launder the harnesses

Can’t find the manual? Call the customer service line or look online. Many major manufacturers offer free manual downloads on their websites. However, there’s one hard and fast rule across all car seat models.

“You cannot launder the harness. The spin cycle of the washing machine will stretch the structure of the fabric, and it will not perform as it should in a crash,” says Sinclair of even the best toddler car seats.

Wipe them down instead, or call the manufacturer if the straps are beyond cleaning. “Some of them will provide a replacement harness or have replacements for purchase.”

man unbuckling a car seat in the back of a car iStock


Tidying up after the bug

Once the illness has fully ravaged your household (face it, it’s going to happen), do a thorough clean-up job. Wipe down all surfaces, and don’t forget less obvious ones like doorknobs and wastebaskets. Maker also recommends opening the windows to air everything out and diffusing an essential oil to banish the barf smell.

This article was originally published on Feb 02, 2018

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