Overwhelmed by Messy Toddlers? I Tried 3 Products That Promise a Cleaner Home

Last Updated on July 22, 2022 by admin

I remember taking my 2-year-old to stay a few days at my sister-in-law’s house before she had kids. I was mortified at all the fingerprints he kept leaving all over their clean glass doors — fingerprints I probably wouldn’t have noticed at my house. (I’d gotten used to the film at that point.)

Anyone who has had a toddler knows they tend to cover your home in a layer of sticky residue of food and bodily fluids. And when you’re parenting a small child, you have less time to clean than you ever did before. So, like many parents, over the years I started researching and buying products that I thought would make certain housework easier and quicker.

Here are some thoughts on the biggest purchases I’ve made to that end, including whether I’d buy them again.

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A Machine-Washable Couch (LoveSac Sactional)

The giant couch that my husband and I bought for an open floor plan looked ridiculous in the home we bought after we had a baby, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a smaller one for years. After all, a couch is a big purchase for a tighter budget. I didn’t want to blow tons of money on a piece of furniture that was bound to get covered in spit-up and worse.

After some research, I was convinced I’d found the solution: A couch with removable, machine washable upholstery. The Sactional couch we bought from the company LoveSac had other perks, too:

  • You could buy a new cover for any section of the couch that got irreparably damaged. (I liked this because we had cats with claws.)
  • You could rearrange the couch sections to make it larger or smaller, or even divide the couch up into chairs as space needs changed in the future. (This appealed to me because of what had happened with our old couch.)
  • Delivery and moving the couch is simple because you can take it apart almost completely. (Moving couches is a huge pain, even when you’re moving it from one room to another and not to a new home.)
My kid watching TV as we assemble the new couch; you can see about half of it here.

That said, we’ve had this couch for more than four years now and I’ve only washed a few cushion covers a few times. (Most of the couch upholstery covers have never been washed at all.) Why? Mostly because getting the covers off isn’t easy, and getting them back on properly is even more difficult. I am a small lady with stick arms, and it takes some muscle to shove the cushions back into their covers.

Here are some of the other obstacles I’ve encountered with the LoveSac:

  • It’s impossible to lift the couch up to get the toys out from underneath it without completely disassembling the couch. That means we end up with a really gross collection of toys (both kids’ and cats’) and crumbs by the time we get around to cleaning under there.
  • Modifying the couch’s design seems like a good option for years down the road, but only one configuration is likely to work in the space we bought it for. (In fact, we found that the couch was a more comfortable when the couch was arranged for more depth, but for that to work, we’d have to spend several hundred dollars on new back cushions that fit properly. )

Meanwhile, my friend pointed out that she uses a handheld carpet/upholstery cleaner to clean her couch whenever her little kids have an accident.

Hoover CleanSlate Plus Carpet & Upholstery Spot Cleaner, $110 or more

In retrospect, I think this is a much simpler solution than investing in a couch that’s completely washable, especially since washing it piece by piece has been so annoying. (Another option would be to opt for a couch in a material you could wipe down, but I didn’t want to buy anything that cat claws could ruin.)

I bought one of these handheld upholstery cleaners and have used it in the disgusting back seat of our car, on the carpet stair treads on the steps, and now on the couch where the kids sit the most. It works great! The machine sprays on soap solution, you scrub it in with the brush, then you use the vacuum part of the brush to suck the dirty water back into a separate tank. It’s not cheap at more than $100, but it’s much cheaper than a washable couch.

Machine-Washable Rugs (Ruggable Rugs)

One style of Ruggable Rug, 2.5’x7′, $169

At some point during my adulthood, I swore off buying carpets that I couldn’t wash. I had read too much about dust mites to ever want to buy a standard rug again. But once I had toddlers, it made even more sense to buy a rug that could be cleaned easily and thoroughly.

Ruggable was one of the first brands I noticed advertising machine-washable rugs several years ago. Ruggable rugs require a special sticky pad, and you peel the rug off of the pad when you want to wash it. I bought a runner for my bedroom and liked it, so followed it up with a 5×7 Ruggable rug in my dining room and an 8×10 in the playroom.

I generally like the rugs, but also I’ve experienced the shrinkage and the curling edges that other people in my FB moms groups have complained about. Plus, it’s very difficult to get the 8×10 rug back onto the pad properly, even when my husband and I are working together.

Ruggable no longer makes this “solid tonal light gray” pattern, but that’s what I have here in the playroom in an 8×10.

Finally, (and maybe this will be obvious to anyone who is better at housework than me), most of the spills that require washing the rug also end up requiring spot cleaning anyway. In my playroom, at least, the paint stains under the kids’ easel and the oily stains from Aaron’s Thinking Putty (yes, I’m holding a grudge) didn’t come out in the washing machine. Machine washing is great for removing general dirt from foot traffic, though.

Sun Joe 14.5-Amp Electric High Pressure Washer, $169 or higherest

The handheld carpet cleaner I already mentioned for the couch is also designed to spot clean carpets. But if you’re looking for a more comprehensive clean in less time, you could try a power washer. The same brilliant friend who suggested the handheld carpet cleaner told me that her husband takes a pressure washer to their non-machine-washable area rugs and lets them air dry outside.

I did a little Googling that seems to confirm that pressure washers are a good way to clean regular carpets. I haven’t tried a pressure washer personally and I know they can even be dangerous if they’re too powerful. That said, pressure washers can also come in handy for things like cleaning sidewalks and patio furniture, as well, so investing $200 or less for a small pressure washer might make sense if it helps you avoid the added expense of machine washable rugs.

If you don’t have an outdoor space or would rather keep your rugs inside to clean them, you can also consider an upright carpet cleaner like this one for about $200.

I’d guess that none of these gadgets gets the carpet quite as clean as a full machine wash does, but it’s nice to consider all your options. I think I’d buy the Ruggable again for high-traffic areas as long as the rug was 5×7 or smaller. Then, I’d probably go the pressure washer route for larger area rugs.

A Robot Vacuum (BobSweep)

bObi Pet Robotic Vacuum Cleaner and Mop – Scarlet, usually about $200 on sale

Our cousin designs vacuum cleaners for a living, and he told us that these little robot sweepers weren’t great. They didn’t have nearly the suction power of a larger sweeper, he explained.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the housework department since having kids, its that my goal level of house cleanliness is probably only about 70%.

I don’t want dust flying everywhere when I walk through a room, but I won’t freak about a few cobwebs on the ceiling every now and then. I don’t want mold in the bathroom, but I don’t need the whole house smelling like antiseptic and bleach because I’ve scrubbed every corner. I have other priorities!

Bobi here has turned into the best little cleaning buddy for my 70% cleanliness goals. Maybe because my expectations were so low when I bought it, I’ve been the happiest with this piece of home cleaning tech. 

The dream that robot sweeper companies typically sell is that the robot vacuum will independently clean your house while you’re at work or something, and that it will manage to avoid “eating” or getting tripped up by all the stuff that gets left on the floor, and then it will quietly find it’s docking station when it’s finished — all completely unsupervised.

But there’s no need for all of those features with my cleaning style. I keep my expectations low and just let the little robot sweep the floor while I tidy up and clean the rest of the room, or clean an adjacent room. That way, I can tell if it gets stuck or eats something it’s not supposed to and just rectify the situation.

For example, I usually run Bobi in the dining room and kitchen area while I wash the dishes and wipe counters, and it picks up a LOT of crumbs and dirt. Or, I’ll have it sweep kids’ room (including under their beds — under-bed sweeping is a huge perk for these robot sweepers) while I put their laundry away. Then, when the power gets low, I just grab it and empty it before I put it back on the charger. I usually run it one room at a time with the door closed so I don’t have to worry about Bobi getting out and falling down the stairs or going into a room where there’s a bunch of stuff on the floor.

One problem I’ve run into is that Bobi likes to “eat” the corners of my Ruggable rugs, which makes their curling-up edges worse. I’m not sure if that’s a downside for washable rugs or robot sweepers, though.

So, there you have it. Maybe I’ve spent too much over the years trying to avoid the physical work that it takes to really get things clean, but so be it. When you’re carrying little kids around all day, the last thing you want to do is scrub or push a vacuum around.

Good luck cleaning up after your little nuggets!