Housekeeping Learned the Hard Way

A few housekeeping lessons I learned this past month:

1. If you decide to freshen up your winter blankets, first check if they are machine washable.

(Four blankets went into the washing machine, but only three came out.)


2. Before you empty your dust pan outside, take a second to see which way the wind is blowing.


3. Wool sweaters do not go in the dryer.


What housekeeping lessons have you learned? Don’t keep it to yourself! Share it with us in the comments.
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Ah…yes…the joys of cleaning faux pas! Thanks for sharing yours. The drawings are great! :D

    Mine would be:

    If you let your child vacuum, be prepared to fish things out that weren’t supposed to be sucked up.


    Child who is in a dunking stage + cup of milk = spilt milk every time (when will I learn?!)

    Juggling Motherhood´s last post…Photos taken at Botanic Gardens, Wellington

  2. For me the worse ever was putting undies in the washing machine on an auto “cotton” wash…they got boiled!!! While that killed the germs, well…everything came out dark grey and soon was not quite the shape it had been…. always use “delicate”…
    and whenever you are unsure, use an ironing cloth – much easier to use that and not ruin good clothes than to test first and find out you need one (spoken from experience :( )

    angelvalerie´s last post…the triumphs and disappointments of modern technology

  3. Denise C. says:

    HAHAHA! Love your sketches!

    I put a quilt in the wash (it had been washed before) and I did not realize there was a hole. All the filling came out in the washer!

  4. Love those great drawings, Rachel!

    A week ago I was helping Elijah wash his hands. The bottle was clogged and when it finally squirted out it sprayed on a funny angle – straight into his eyes! It was awful – I felt like the worse mom ever.

    (And we’re not using that brand of soap anymore!!)


    steadymom´s last post…My Little Girl

  5. Make sure the oven is empty before starting the self-clean cycle!

  6. Oh, how I have missed your doodles!

    My tip is one everyone knows, but one that I somehow seem to forget – check pockets before putting things in the wash, especially with little curious toddlers who like to collect things!

    Elizabeth´s last post…Bennett 5 Months

    • Not so Wise Mom says:

      Good tip on checking pockets before the wash for little ones that like to collect things; I had to learn the hard way.

      After washing and drying my sons pants I noticed he had something in his pockets as I was folding his clothes. I reached into his pockets and found a dead although throughly clean)frog! Uggggh!!!

    • Very good timing with this post. Yesterday I put a few things in the washing machine, not before checking the pockets. I pulled out a pack of chewing gum, a ring and a tissue. Then just before going to bed I hear my boyfriend cursing as his two favourite pairs of trousers (along with other things) were now ruined. What was the culprit? Chewing gum!

      I’ve spent the past couple of hours trying to scrap off the dried chewing gum, which looks a lot like tissue. And getting it out of the actual washing machine. I’m now waiting for them to come out the washing machine to see if they are okay after a second wash.

      • For stuck on chewing gum, use an ice cube to harden it and it should flake of easier than pulling the stringy stuff.

        • That’s all well and good if you just got chewing gum stuck on the clothes naturally. It’s totally different if it has gone through a wash cycle with your clothes.

    • Crayon. Enough said.

    • I had an ink pen explode in my dryer from not checking pockets. Blue ink was everywhere. It was horrible. I need to start checking the kiddos pockets now too.

  7. 1.) Check every pocket before a garment goes in the washer, especially if you haven’t worn it in a while… ballpoint pens and Kleenex are my usual culprits.
    2.) You cannot get to every yucky area of the house in the time between when someone calls to say they are dropping by until they actually arrive. Best to either keep the house tidy all the time (ha ha) or clean the bathroom well(because that’s the only room guests will be in by themselves), then corral the messes and close doors (laundry in closets, dirty dishes into the oven, etc.)

  8. Probably not a problem for many people but … if your son takes a summer job roofing, no matter how much his dirty pants are bothering you, do NOT wash them and put them in the dryer. Heat + roofing tar = BIG mess. But if you do make this mistake, peanut butter will clean the tar right off the dryer drum.

  9. When throwing away your kids’ artwork, always hide the evidence. Nothing is worse than having to explain to your kids that yes, that is their most prized piece of art in the trash can covered with coffee grounds.

    Danielle´s last post…$850.94

    • Too funny! I keep Grace’s “art” for a week in a pile and if she doesn’t ask for it, I pick out the “treasure” for a box and hide the rest in the recyled paper box! Bruuhhhahahahahaha! (evil laugh here).

      Lisa´s last post…ABC Song Gets 10 Toes Up!

    • Here’s a tip: take a photo of the artwork before tossing it. It’s not the same, but it sends the message that it’s special enough to keep in some form!

    • Barbara the CT Granny says:

      All that artwork should be kept with the gift wrap so that you can wrap presents with it. Enjoy it while you can. I have to buy all my gift wrap now.

  10. I love the illustrations! :)

    David´s last post…shearerd: : Wow! Game 1 could NOT have gone better!

  11. if you have double ovens – make sure you put what you are cooking in the right oven. I just did this yesterday. Turned one on and put my pear cake in the other. Let’s just say – it didn’t cook real fast : )

  12. Sandra Gonzales says:

    Oh my goodness I love your drawings! My absolute faviorite was a loaf of baked bread. You labeled it too and that really cracked me up!

    Anyhow, once the shower door closed behind me when I was scrubbing the shower walls. I almost passed out from the Tilex fumes.
    Death by Tilex is not how I want to go.

  13. Hilarious. Thanks for sharing. Little boys, left to put together their own clean socks, will NOT match them. They will put together anything.

    Andrea Holloman´s last post…Help kids understand what it means to have a job

  14. How about bleaching little stains on a white duvet cover but without enough under it to protect the carpet!
    You know just as a fyi – to freshen those winter blankets that can’t be washed I like to use those Dryel things you put in the dryer. They come out fresh and cozy but not washed.

  15. Great post idea… Just this week I discovered that if you don’t have time to sweep the floor from start to finish then don’t even start… I was sweeping and leaving a little pile for the dustpan when my hands were next free only my very helpful one year old was sweeping and dumping dustpans loads of dirt in the cupboards, in our bed, in her sisters drawers… hmmm a little dirt suddenly goes a very long way!!!

    Don’t even talk about things left in washing machines, even washing machines still under warranty… and keeping a straight face while the repairman takes half a pair of scissors out of the filter with all the kids bouncing round to SEE whats going on!!! Click on the last picture in this post to see what can come out of our washer…

    se7en´s last post…Se7en Bake Alaska in Se7en Steps…

  16. My teenage daughter is into bobby pins for her hair. When they are left in jeans pockets, they end up in the washer, and then they go through the holes in the washer tub, and then they end up in the washer pump, and then they whirl around really fast and poke a hole in the plastic pump cover, which causes the water to leak out…very expensive lesson…!!

  17. The worst lesson I learned was that a king sized mattress pad put into an apartment sized washing machine may deflect the water as it is pouring into the machine and leak out the top of the machine. Then down through the the floor. All in a matter of minutes. That was a tough lesson!!

    Andrea´s last post…How to make (last minute) ladybug wings

  18. Turn on the burner you INTEND to cook on! (Maybe no one else sets things on top of their stove . . . ?)

    • I turn on the wrong burner all the time.

      All of these are so funny!

    • When he cooks, my dad sets the cookbook down on the “unused” burner. But inevitably he ends up turning on that very one by mistake.

  19. Do not shine up your stove with the spray bottle of 409 and leave the bottle sitting on the stove when you turn on the oven and put the chicken in to roast. The bottle melted, the 409 leaked all over the top of the stove and cooked into the finish. Luckily the bottle was only about 1/3 full.

    • Haha! I do this more now that we live in a place with a glass topped stove. How do you remove plastic bag?! Ah well.

  20. After having mopped all the apartment I decided to clean the freezer. I took one drawer out and left it on the balcony to let the (dirty from frozen and melted meat) ice melt. As long as it liquified I took it to the bathroom to pour it in the toilet bowl. I then realized that the drawer leaked and all the floor was full of disgusting spills. Cleaning the floor round 2.

  21. Good lessons =)

    Robin´s last post…On The Other Side

  22. Beware of what clothes you are wearing when using cleaners with bleach in them. I inadvertently ruined no fewer than 3 pairs of my favorite maternity pants last week cleaning up various messes that required my Clorox Clean-up.
    Of course I could also chalk it up to pregnancy brain and clumsiness.

    Holly´s last post…On a Lighter Note…Parties!!

  23. I decided to make toast, but left the loaf of bread too close to the toaster oven, and the bag melted to the side…so the side of my toaster oven now faintly says “Sara Lee”…

  24. Be sure to let the burner cool before setting your potholder on it. Mine have lovely swirls burnt into them (Equally applicable to plastic bowls and hands…)

    Evenshine´s last post…Don’t cry for me, Argentina

  25. Oh, let me count them. My worst mishap over the past couple weeks was failing to check my pant pockets before throwing them in the washer. No, it’s not the pain-in-the-butt tissue issue (that happens to me all the time!) It was the oops, I left my NEW cell phone in my jeans! Doh!

  26. With shrunken/felted sweaters, here is a way to re-use them in a cute way. You can give them as gifts or keep one for yourself.

  27. I am DELIGHTED to see the return of Rachel sketches. That was one of my favorite things about Small Notebook: The Early Days. ;)

    Housekeeping tip from me: Shredded cheese does not come out of the carpet easily once it has been stepped on.

    Can’t wait to go back and read the rest of the tips.

    thanks for the giggles today, Rachel!

    Megan at Simple Kids´s last post…Winterize Within, Part Four: Books

  28. I learned that you should only vacuum Cumin if you REALLY like the smell…

    Sharon´s last post…just for the JOY of it

  29. YES! Google Felted Wool crafts and you will find so many ideas to do with that now “felted” wool. ;)

  30. What fun! I can relate – especially to washing machine and stove mishaps.
    I once washed a favorite wristwatch – miraculously, the thing still works.
    But my worst is probably when I turned on the wrong burner about the time I set a finished casserole on top of the stove watiting to go in the oven. I noticed the burner right away, but not soon enough to keep heat from rising up and warming the handle of the casserole pan. When I went to put it in the oven, I grabbed it without potholders (since it hadn’t been cooked yet) and burned 3 fingers on my left hand. OUCH!

  31. Crayons, lipstick & laundry… don’t mix! I once left my favorite tube of red, MAC lipstick in a pair of my khakis. Then I washed a load of lights… and ruined every one of my husband’s dress shirts! I felt like the worst wife ever. He wore a suit to work every day, so I had to go out and buy him a whole new wardrobe of shirts, which I was dreading. But when I got to Dillards, instead of $30-$50 each, there was a sale and I got a stack for only $17 each. God was so gracious!!! It took a while to get the lipstick out of the dryer though (and the crayons are another story!). Blessings!

    Terri´s last post…Free Digital Designs!

  32. 1. Never wash dog towels with people towels

    2. Too many shortcuts end up costing you more time. Example- I tired to shortcut my way through cleaning the bathroom all at once. I sprayed the tub down with Scrubbing Bubble, the toilet with Lysol Cling, the mirrows with windex and the countertop with 409. My though was that the tub cleaner wuill start working, while I “prep” the rest of the bathroom. Oh did I mention that I have asthma?? What should have been a 15-20 minute cleanup job took almost 2 hours because I inhaled too many fumes and spent 20 minutes on my nebulizer (breathing machine) and had to keep stoping every few minuts to get fresh air.

    • OMG Dog Towels!!!! SO true : )

      juliet´s last post…A Different Drummer

    • When I was younger we moved in an apartment with tile on the shower wall and the grout was filthy. So I sprinkled Comet (heavy) in the tub, then noticed the grout and sprayed bleach on each groove and proceeded to scrub. I was so engrossed in getting the grout clean, I didnt notice I had the bleach running into the comet. My neighbor smelled the chemical reaction in HER apartment and came over and pulled me out of the bathroom and outside. I was sick for about three days. Even now, almost thirty years later, the smell of bleach still bothers me. Be careful with the cleaners!

  33. If you keep the kitchen floor swept the rest of the house stays so much cleaner! Since I’ve been making a point to sweep after meals the kids’ sheets stay nice longer, the carpet in other parts of the house is cleaner, and the kitchen doesn’t require as much mopping! I’m a sweeping fanatic now.

    Becca´s last post…I’m too excited to wait another SECOND

  34. When cleaning up after cooking in the kitchen, I temporarily placed the plastic tupperware lid on the stove that was off but, still hot. I didn’t notice until there was a nice pool of plastic on the burner.

    Stephanie´s last post…Opening a Store!

    • Oh I forgot, I totally did that too once! I was in a Christmas baking cookie frenzy and was using every square inch of surface space in my kitchen…including some that were still a little warm. :)

  35. Oh, definitely #3.

    And don’t vacuum until all meals are completely finished.

  36. Don’t spray bleach solution on the countertops and then lean waaaay over to wipe them, if you’re wearing a new black tshirt.

  37. I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one making these silly mistakes! I’ll add one to the list of washing machine mishaps… somehow a diaper ended up in a recent load of baby laundry. I washed and dried the whole load before noticing the little white pills everywhere.

    Another recent lesson…Make sure that the stopper is plugged in before attempting to fill the baby bath.

    Lindsey´s last post…Boldly Going…

  38. My oven is self cleaning right now, and I just freaked out a little bit after reading Lucy’s comment! But no…thank goodness there’s nothing in there because leaving something in there sounds exactly like something I’d do.

    I CONSTANTLY wash scraps of paper in the laundry. Oh, and not to mention tissues. Which of course shred themselves into teeny tiny bits and get all over everything. I suppose the lint dryer takes care of most of the problem, but you’d think I’d learn to check pockets more often. Then again, who has time to check the pockets of 20 pairs of pants???

    And yes, I agree with the comments up above — you can make lots of things out of that felted sweater. Maybe some fingerless gloves! Cute!

    Shannon @ AnchorMommy´s last post…Getting pushy on the playground

  39. Kitty litter should not go in the toilet… ever! It says this on the bag but why would I bother reading instructions when I could spend my time fishing cat litter out of the toilet?!

    SJ´s last post…A Hint of Fall Festivity

  40. Ah, another stove caution: when wiping up a cooking spill, do not use paper towels when the gas burner is still on. Plus, do not throw flour on the resulting inferno; it’s supposed to be baking soda to put out fires. Flour burns well but doesn’t smell so good.

  41. More of a cooking lesson learned early on:

    1/3 c melted shortening does not mean melt a bunch of shortening and pour the hot liquid into a 1/3c plastic measuring cup.

  42. If I immediately start to pick up the house when I get home from work instead of sitting down first, a lot more gets done. This weekend, I am looking forward to three loads of laundry and not seven.

    Bobbie´s last post…The Best Beef Stew

  43. I got one from this Monday. Don’t fully clean your bathroom on the weekend and then install a new ceiling exhaust fan that requires cutting through the ceiling with a power tool that kicks mounds of drywall dust all over your formerly cleaned bathroom.

    The new fan works and looks great though.

    Condo Blues´s last post…Decorate Your Pumpkins with Stencils!

  44. I love the hand-drawn illustrations! They are perfect! Let’s see: homemaking lessons: If you tuck something away in a safe spot: it will be safe from even you.

    Jena (Organizing Mommy)´s last post…Blitz-It Friday # 29

    • Wow. THAT is the TRUTH! I always lose what I’ve put someplace safe – So much so, that it’s a regular joke at my house! And it’s not just me, either – both my Mom and Dad are the same way! I can’t even begin to count the number of times one or the other of us has said ‘well, at least it’s safe, wherever it is!’ We’ve found things YEARS after they were stashed! I’m glad to know it’s not just us. :-D

      And, I have to add, I love the illustrations, too!

  45. Hmmm…oh, I know! Be sure to dust *before* you vacuum. Especially if you haven’t dusted in a loooooong time.

    Andrea´s last post…Little Boy’s First Halloween

  46. Ah! I just did that last weekend with a little brown cover-up/sweater I use for the office. I had gotten it at a thrift store and didn’t realize it was dry clean only rayon. Luckily, it only shrunk a little and actually it now fits me better than before… but it was a freaky experience to pull it out of the washer and feel like steel wool.

    Definitely need to check those labels from now on, hehe.

    Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas´s last post…Dia de los Muertos, Las Vegas

  47. So glad I’m not the only one! I have a wool sweater that now only fits a Cabbage Patch doll. :(

    mrs. e´s last post…Happy Halloween

  48. I learned that Children’s (and I am sure adult’s as well) Crocs can be washed but NOT dried. They shared the same fate as the wool sweater.

  49. always always velcro your bibs pre washing, otherwise they will stick to stuff and make it rough.

  50. if you have kids, clean up after bedtime, otherwise you will clean up AGAIN after bedtime.

    nicola´s last post…inspired internet :: october

  51. When you live in a second-floor condo, be sure you check below your railing before shaking out your rugs…your grumpy downstairs neighbor might be enjoying his morning coffee there. Whoops!

    Anna M´s last post…When you want something new, and can’t find anything to buy….

  52. found by my grandmother in my mother’s trouser pockets – thankfully PRE wash….

    ….frog spawn.

  53. If it says “wear gloves before applying” follow the directions!

    Juice´s last post…I Could Never Have Predicted This

  54. When your husband offers to help with the laundry – take him up on it.

    However, make sure there are no new, yet to be washed for the first time red towels in the laundry. Ones that you would have known to wash separately. Everything came out pink.

    Katy´s last post…Tomatoes and Soy – who knew?

  55. I just had to post because I’m literally laughing about the wool sweater illustration. I laugh because just this past week my husband came out of the closet wearing a sweater that looked like it belonged to a 12-year-old. I’d had a wool sweater of his lying in a pile with 2 of my silk shirts to take to the dry cleaner. Thinking he would be helpful, he washed and dried his sweater. Now it fits me and not him, LOL

    Jill´s last post…Happy Tanksgiving Back!

  56. katherine jenson says:

    Years ago, as a new wife…my husband bought a used top loading dishwasher…yes, top loading…never used one before.
    I was anxious to use it and loaded it up put in the dish soap and pushed buttons….
    My toddler was in the playpen, I was making a bed in the bedroom when I heard him giggling and know..the kind of giggle that says “trouble”.
    Went out to see what was so funny and I had about 2 feet of soap bubbles which filled my entire kitchen, it was small, and the mass of bubbles were heading out to the hardwood floors where the baby was in the play pen.
    It felt like something out of “I Love Lucy”. I learned that day about something called dishwasher soap!

  57. Do NOT put a newly filled plastic gallon pitcher of tea on the stove burner still hot from making said tea!!