Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cleaning the bathroom with little helpers

Here comes a confession. A few Fridays ago, before he left for work, my husband kindly asked me if I would make it a priority to clean the bathrooms that day. Now if Douglas was asking, you'll correctly surmise they weren't in a pretty state. I had neglected them for a long time, due to a lot of factors (hello, new baby). But it really was getting gross. So, I determined that I needed to stop procrastinating and get a system going that would make it easy for me to get the bathrooms clean on a regular basis.

Here's my problem: I want to train my kids to help around the house, to work hard and to appreciate cleanliness. However, it is slow, frustrating, patience-shattering work to train them, so I tend to put it off. Edmund is four and he can be genuinely helpful with certain tasks. Lavinia, who just turned two, not so much -- but I don't want to let her play elsewhere while Edmund works. We're all in this together. I gave it some thought and here's what I came up with to help me in my task.

Cleaning with little helpers

Before you start, ask God to give you His patience and cheerfulness. If at any time during the process you feel yourself losing it, stop and take a break for a minute. Pray, regain your good attitude, apologize to your kids if needed, and start again. Another good idea is to start the cleaning right after breakfast or after a mid-morning snack, so everyone's tummies are satisfied and there's no hunger-induced crankiness to add tension to the atmosphere. If you like, put on some calming music.

Write down, in minute detail, all the jobs needed to clean your bathroom(s). On my own, I am perfectly capable of cleaning a bathroom in logical order, knowing what to do next and keeping on pace. When I am overseeing two little helpers, my brain flies out the window. It is very helpful to me to have a list to consult so that I don't have to think about what task to do next. You could either put it in a homemaking binder, or laminate it and keep it with your bathroom-cleaning supplies. Mine looks like this:
  • put away toys, dirty clothes, throw towels/rugs down chute
  • dust surfaces (shelf, cupboard, window)
  • wipe down medicine cabinet shelves
  • organize drawers/shelves (if needed)
  • clean mirror
  • spray and wipe down sink, toilet, tub
  • clean inside of toilet
  • clean soap dish, replace soap if needed
  • empty trash
  • replace handtowels with clean ones
  • restock toilet paper, if needed
  • sweep and mop floor
  • wash floor rug, towels, and replace when clean
(That is my intensive cleaning list for our main floor bathroom. I also wrote an abridged one for maintenance.)

Gather all your cleaning supplies in one place. I put all the bathroom supplies in one bucket so that I can easily grab it and not have to spend time hunting up various cleaners or utensils from the far reaches of the house. Whatever your stance is on using "green" cleaning supplies, with little kids it is good to use some mild cleaners because I guarantee you will be hearing things like, "I just sprayed my eye!" I have a spray bottle of 50/50 vinegar water that I let the kids go to town with. I also have a shaker full of 50/50 salt/baking soda which is a good abrasive for scrubbing soap scum from sinks and tubs. Cleaning wipes are very handy and if you don't want your kids handling store-bought ones, make your own.

Demonstrate and delegate. As far as the actual cleaning, there are two approaches you can use and they both have their places. The first is to do the work very slowly, alongside your kids, explaining and demonstrating what you are doing with each task as you go. This is good for the first couple of times you are training or for a deep clean. However, if it takes me 3+ hours every Friday morning to get the bathrooms clean, that is a serious bite into our time and I am more likely to not do it. So the other way is to delegate small tasks to your kids, and while they are occupied with that, do as much thorough cleaning as you can, as quickly as you can. In the time it takes Edmund and Lavinia to spray and wipe the bathtub, I could have the mirror, sink, and toilet clean, etc. This is good for maintenance.

Maintain. Fridays are our bathroom-cleaning days. However, the most heavily-trafficked bathroom (our main floor bathroom, which is also the kids' bathroom) can get messy and dirty in a hurry and start looking dreadful before another Friday rolls around (or you may have to skip a Friday from time to time, when other things come up). One good idea I gleaned from the book Large Family Logistics is to superficially clean and straighten up the bathroom while your little ones are playing in the bathtub during bath time. I will often take a used washcloth or a handtowel that's headed for the laundry basket, wet it with water, and just wipe down surfaces that have accumulated dirt or dust. Put away toothbrushes, toys, dirty clothes; pick up trash off the floor; straighten towels; even grab the broom if needed (our kids tend to track in sand from the sandbox).

Since implementing this system, I am a lot more dedicated to keeping the bathrooms clean and it is an easier job. If you have any more suggestions or great ideas, please leave them in the comments!


  1. So helpful! Thanks for sharing what you do in such detail! I know I should be letting my kids help/teaching them but often have no idea how to start... So I avoid it altogether. Avoiding cleaning + little kids = big disaster.

  2. I am impressed with your system! Everyone is learning--prayer, patience, how to clean a bathroom...I wish I had been more diligent when my children were younger. :-)

  3. You're doing great! I have three children, two with autism. My oldest, 10, is obsessed with water and takes several splashy, messy baths a day. We currently only have one bathroom and so I pretty much have to do a good cleaning in the bathroom every day. One thing that has helped me from getting overwhelmed with it is to do "10 things" in the bathroom between other tasks. I'll go in and straighten up 10 things, wipe a few things down, etc. This also helps me notice what kind of messes he's got started in there (he also likes to bring in soaps or any kind of liquids and pour them from container to container...hello messy sink and lots of containers!) so I can get him to pick up fairly quickly after he's left things that way. This wouldn't work for everyone but I am running around the house all day and our bathroom is close to the main area so it's easy to head in there for just a couple minutes numerous times during the day.

    1. Wow, you are really staying on top of things! Great tip!

  4. I've wanted to start working with my kids (5,3 and 2), and this was such an encouragement! Today we took the plunge, and, thanks in part to your tips, had a very busy but positive time. The list was a life saver! Also, I think the kids really got excited about it when they saw the spray bottles in our supply pile. ;-) Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Yay! That is wonderful to hear! I'm so glad it was helpful to you. :)