Dear Home Ec 101,
Okay, so I have a ton of things I want to ask you. I was searching the internet for cleaning tips and I came upon your site, which I have now subscribed to. I need some pointers.
- First, my mattress has yellowed stains on my husband’s side for some reason, but we can’t afford a new one. Any tips on how to get the stains (and smells) out of the mattress?
- Second, my house is constantly becoming a disaster area because my husband and roommate are apparently allergic to cleaning and I have a 7 month old baby that is constantly fussy, any ideas on how to keep it clean?
- Third, my husband leaves our son’s wet or pooped on clothes in bags around the house that I don’t find. By the time I do find them they smell up to high heaven and they are stained, any tips on how to get the smell and stains out of those?
- Fourth, we have a bunch of things on our carpet and I need help getting them out, if that is even possible. One of the things is hair dye from my hubby’s friend, any ideas? And we have food stains and stuck on food from our son, help? There are also stains that really bug me from the previous tenant (we’re in an apartment) and I have no idea what those are from, any suggestions?
- And finally, I have some issues with washing dishes, but my hubby and roomy NEVER do them so they pile up and get nasty old food on them and mold and other such grossness. What is the best way to hand wash dishes, how to I get rid of the fruit flies, is there any way to keep from smelling the mold/old milk/whatever else is there, and do you have any suggestions as to how I can do the dishes regularly without them getting nasty?
It’s an EMERGENCY!
Thank you SO much for your help.
Many new parents go through a period like this, rest assured you are not alone. Some of these have been covered elsewhere on the site. Get comfortable, this answer is going to take a while. Home Eccers, you’ve probably heard me say a lot of it before, feel free to give Overwhelmed your best advice in the comments.
If your mattress is under warranty, call the manufacturer. If not, rent a steam cleaner or hire a professional to clean the mattress. Use an enzymatic cleaner like kids and pets and allow the mattress to dry thoroughly. Mattress pads sound frivolous but are a very cost-efficient way to prolong the life of a mattress.
Dividing chores is a pain in the butt. I came up with a relatively painless way and I strongly advise you to talk to your husband privately before the two of you talk to the roommate. Roommates can be great, but they can also bring all kinds of weird social dynamics into conflicts that should remain private. It’s one thing as part of a couple for one person to assume some of the chores, it is an entirely different ballgame if a roommate takes advantage of the situation.
As far as fussy babies go, it feels like it will never end, but it does. I can promise you that much. My oldest screamed pretty much from the day he was born until he could walk. At six he’s a pretty cool kid and the nightmare of his colic has faded. Your baby could be going through a temporary phase such as cutting teeth or going through a growth spurt; cut yourself slack on the bad days. If you find you’re having a lot of bad days, call your doctor preferably your OB and discuss the situation. Your kiddo is about to be mobile and things are about to get a lot more hectic, before they calm down.
You don’t have to do every chore to completion to make progress. If the kidlet takes a nap, take a deep breath and dig in on the dishes or laundry. It’s ok if it doesn’t get finished, just make sure wet clothes aren’t left in the washer.
During the aforementioned chore discussion, bring up the fact that there is no such thing as the laundry fairy. (Wouldn’t that be nice? Unless of course, she was more like fairies of European tradition and then the whole thing could get downright scary.)
If you have a top loading washer, a pre-soak with just the soiled items can make a huge difference. Fill the washer part way with cold water, turn off the cycle and add 1/4 cup of borax to the water. Don’t leave the clothes in the borax soak for several days without changing the water, they will get NASTY. If your washer has the standard dial, turn it to the end of the cycle to drain the water, then wash normally. If you don’t have one, soak the clothes in a sink or bucket, but only use the latter if it has a tight fitting lid. Babies and toddlers can topple into buckets with horrifying consequences. If your son’s clothing is badly soiled, check out this post on cleaning up potty training accidents.
With regard to the carpeting, the hair dye may be permanent. You can try to hair dye remover found near the hair dye, it’s designed to get rid of a bad dye job, but. . . Treat the rest of the spots and stains as outlined here. In the future, put a tarp under the baby’s high chair, shake it out after meals. Starting today, get into the habit of keeping all food and drinks, except water in the kitchen. It’s a pain, but certainly easier than cleaning up carpet stains for the next few years. They will happen.
Dishes are one of those thankless and seemingly endless chores. The best way to handle it is to try to not let them pile up. Easier said than done, I know. Just as an FYI it is time to call in reinforcements with the baby for a brief period; best case scenario plop the baby on your husband’s lap and dare him to complain. Alternately do this while the baby is down for a nap or recruit help for a morning or afternoon. It sucks to admit we need help, but do it anyway. Ask a friend or neighbor to distract the baby for you while you get control of the kitchen. Just as an aside, this is not saying the kitchen is your realm by default. You’re the one who wrote in which leads me to believe you are the one most fed up with the dish situation. Reset the situation, then work on the chore dynamics.
Before you get started, if you don’t have a dish tub, get one. Frequently they can be found at any one of those dollar stores for -wait for it- a dollar.
I find when I have a crappy job I can work my way through it if I’m distracted by something I enjoy -as opposed to the dulcet tones of my bickering children- for some people it’s music; in true geeky fashion, I like podcasts. If you have an mp3 player load it up with your best distraction then start by clearing your work area. It’s hard to feel like you’re making progress if you’re staring at crusty food. Set the dishes aside for a moment, on the table or another counter.
Scrape whatever food you can into the trash or the disposal if you have one. Stack the dishes and clean the sink. If your dish drainer is nasty clean that, too before getting started on the dishes.
Wash the dishes. If you’re freaked out by germs, you can always sanitize the dishes after scrubbing in a solution of bleach water (1/4 cup per gallon or 1 TBSP per quart of cool water). Use one of those handy dish tubs to hold the solution.
Dry them, put it away, and hide somewhere quiet for a few minutes to enjoy a little peace before returning to dealing with the fussy baby.
Hang In There!
More women than you know have been exactly where you are, but no one likes to talk about it. After having a kid there is this huge adjustment phase and most of us go through periods of rebellion where we just. don’t. want. to: change another diaper, wash another dish, or do another load of laundry. It’s ok to feel that way for a little while, just don’t overindulge in it, letting the problem pile up only makes returning to the workload that much harder. Hang in there and check back to let us know how you are doing. No questions are too basic around here and admitting you need some help isn’t weak, it’s part of the human condition. I don’t trust those people who seem to have it together every second of every day, sometimes I want to check for a USB port or a cord.
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