For the Love of…Mud!

Thanks to the snowmelt and the arrival of spring showers, the grass and dirt outside have morphed into mud. You might be tempted to steer clear of it or stay inside, but you don’t have to. On the contrary, you can have a great time getting down and dirty with your kids—without worrying about ruining clothes, car mats, sneakers, and more. Here are four ways to embrace the muck and have some fun.

Become mud artists. Head outside and create castles and sculptures with your kids, using mud instead of sand or clay. Or grab some sturdy sticks and draw pictures in the mud. Ready for a new canvas? Simply smooth over the muddy surface with your hands or feet and draw again. Another option: Make whimsical mud prints on butcher paper with your hands and feet.

Become an explorer. Go to a local park or trail and search the mud for insects (or worms and snails) that emerge when the ground turns wet. Bring a magnifying glass and a measuring tape so you can study worms closely and check to see how long they are. You could even have a contest to see who can find the longest worm.

Make mud pies. Remember doing this as a kid? Here’s your chance to walk down memory lane with your young ones. Take small plastic containers outside and use them to make cakes, pies, and cookies with the mud. Find pretty stones, leaves, berries, and other treasures from nature that you can use to decorate them; display your creations in a mud-pie buffet.

Make clean-up a cinch. When you come inside, throw dirty clothes and muddy sneakers in the washer and let a tough stain fighter do the heavy lifting on stains. (Sensitive to dyes or perfumes? Use a booster that is fragrance- and color-free.) To remove muddy footprints from car mats or hall carpets, use a multi-purpose stain remover. This way, you’ll be able to savor your fun-in-the-mud memories without visual reminders of your dirt-filled day.

Embrace the Big Chill

The temps have dipped below freezing, and suddenly staying indoors seems way more inviting than going for a run or suiting up the family for a day of sledding. But don’t duck out on your plans just because the thermometer dropped. Follow these guidelines so you can brave the chill without turning into a Popsicle.

Layer up for outdoor exercise. Three layers on your upper body is the magic number. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, which draws sweat away from your skin and helps regulate your body temperature. (There are many synthetic fabrics that offer this, including some wool-containing sports fabrics—look for wicking claims on hangtags when you shop.) Add a warm mid-layer (wool or synthetic fleece) for insulation, and then, especially if it’s raining or snowing, a windproof top layer (a waterproof shell), which will keep you dry and allow excess heat to escape.

Don’t forget your head, hands, and feet. In cold temps, your blood flow is concentrated to your body’s core, leaving your hands and feet vulnerable to chills. Invest in gloves and socks made from a wicking fabric, which will keep hands and feet dry and hold in heat. Buy a pair of wind blocking mittens for especially frigid days, and top it all off with a hat that covers your ears.

Be sure snow gear is waterproof. This is especially true for kids, who’ll spend most of their day in direct contact with the cold, wet stuff. A fill like down will get soaked when wet and when that happens, you get cold. Helpful: Buy coats and snow pants with waterproof shells and do the same with gloves or mittens.

Launder appropriately. Winter weather gear—especially waterproof fabric—doesn’t need to be washed after every wear, unless it gets really dirty (or your little one didn’t make it to the potty in time). When you do launder them, use a specialized detergent that will remove dirt and sweat. Dry according to the fabric label.

Don’t forget year-round rules. You may not feel as thirsty during the winter months as you do in warmer temperatures, but whether you’re jogging 10 miles solo or taking the kids sledding, make sure to imbibe regularly to avoid dehydration. Stick to room temperature H2O and carry an insulated water bottle. And don’t pass up on sunscreen—snow reflects the sun’s rays, making you susceptible to burns even if you feel cold.

Rainy-Day Activities for the Whole Family

The good times don’t have to end just because of a little rain. These activities make it easy to enjoy fun and games—regardless of the weather. 

Great skates! Who says you need actual skates to go skating? Just place an empty shoebox on each foot, then glide around the room to some upbeat songs. Your kids will have a blast, and you won’t believe how much exercise you’re getting. Crank up some Top 40 tunes to feel like you’re really at a skating rink.

Pitch a tent. So what if your cozy campsite just happens to be in the family room. Spread blankets across chairs, side tables, and couches. Then equip your pretend tent with games, flashlights, and a snack or a picnic lunch. 

Bag of tricks. Go to your bedrooms, kitchen, family room, or basement, and place five things in a paper bag. Then use the items in the bag as the inspiration for a play or story. The challenge: making sure each and every one of the items is included in the plot.

Water play. When all else fails, make going outdoors the game.  Get out your most serious rain gear—including rain jackets, waterproof pants, and rubber boots—and go puddle jumping or frog hunting with your kids. See how long you can stay out there without wanting to run back inside. 

Off to the races!  Use a couple of rolls of masking tape to create a giant play racetrack for your kids’ toy cars, boats, trucks, and airplanes. Have the kids place the toys at a starting line on the track, and delight as they race them to the finish time and time again.


Caring for Baseball Caps

Whether it’s a Little League topper or your cherished Cubbies cap, baseball hats are notorious collectors of summertime sweat, dirt, and grime. Don’t worry—we’ve got the clean-up bases covered. Try these techniques to keep your team lids and stadium souvenirs in top condition.

Assess the fabric. Today’s baseball hats are typically made out of sturdy, colorfast fabrics like cotton twill, a cotton-polyester blend, or a jersey mesh—all of which are safe to wash by machine or hand. (It’s even okay to throw them in a load of clothes with similar colors.) Wool baseball caps should be hand-washed, since the fabric fibers could take a beating inside a washer’s drum. Look for a manufacturer’s label on the hat’s interior for specific instructions.

Size up the brim. Newer hats may come with a plastic form in the brim to maintain the shape. So long as this form isn’t made of cardboard, it can survive a laundering.

Check for colorfastness. If you’re nervous that a new hat’s color will run, test for colorfastness by applying a few drops of detergent to a wet washcloth and rub a spot on the inside of the headband. Rinse and let it air dry, then check back. No fading? You’re good to go.

Pre-treat trouble spots. To remove particularly egregious streaks, spots and sweat, have a go at them before the standard wash cycle. To erase tough stains like blood or grass, pre-soak the hat in a solution of cold water and liquid detergent with a bleach-alternative for up to 30 minutes. To get rid of salty sweat residue, pour the detergent directly on the stain and let it sit for 20 minutes.

The rules of the wash. You may have heard people say that they wash hats on the top shelf of the dishwasher, but this is not advised, as bleach from dishwashing detergent could cause spots. Also, you’ll want to be sure to wash your hat in cold water to avoid shrinking the material.

Air-dry for the win. After washing your hat, leave it out in the open to dry. Place it on something roughly noggin-shaped—a ball or a coffee canister, for example—to keep the form.

Tackle Kids' Sports Stains


Got Mud?


On rainy days, get ready for dirt on top of dirt! To get it out: Brush excess mud off fabric and rinse in cold water. In a plastic bucket, create a soak solution using about 2 tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent per gallon of cold water. Allow the garment to soak for up to 30 minutes, then wash in warm water. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.



Hey Grassy Pants!


Nothing says spring sports like green knees and butts. To get grass stains out: Brush any excess grass off the fabric. Pour liquid laundry detergent on the stain and let it sit for 20 minutes, then wash in warm water. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.




Sideline Sweat and Dirt


Want bright uniforms like these? To get sweat and dirt out: 1. Using a plastic bucket, create a soak solution with approximately 2 tablespoons of  liquid laundry detergent per gallon of warm water. Soak garment for up to 30 minutes, then wash on warm with a bleach alternative. If stain remains, pour liquid laundry detergent directly on the stain and let sit for 20 minutes, then rewash.



Blood Marks the Spot!


Scrapes happen, and whether they’re from turf burn or sliding into home plate, these messy badges of honor make for some really tough stains. To get 'em out: Wet a cloth with cold water and blot the mark, then rinse in cold water to dilute the stain. Create a soak solution in a plastic bucket with about 2 tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent per gallon of cold water and submerge the garment for about 30 minutes. Wash with a detergent designed for cold water. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.



Sports Drink Cleanup


Kids + fast hydration breaks = major splashes and spills. To get it out: Blot any excess stain off the surface of the fabric, then rinse in water to dilute the stain. Pour liquid laundry detergent directly on the stain and let sit for 20 minutes. Wash on warm water. If stain remains, repeat steps before drying.



Before You Start


Always refer to the instructions on the garment’s care label. And test the solution on a hidden area first. If treating washable silk or wool, follow basic instructions, but hand wash whenever you aren't sure.