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A carer's home at winter

There's no place like home, unless you're a carer. As much as we may love our homes, for many of us, keeping on top of the household chores can fall to the bottom of a crammed to-do list. We may also be so exhausted from numerous day-to-day tasks, that cleaning is the last thing we want to do.

Illustration of a couple cleaning

As carers, we’re likely to experience more daily household chores than a typical household. Clothes and bedding might need washing more frequently, and carpets might suffer from paid carers coming in and out - plus, more types of stains than we care to admit!

Many of us may also be doing double. If we don’t live with the person we care for, there will be two households to keep in order, each with its own to-do list. All of this can be made worse in winter. With muddy shoes on the floor and bad weather making clothes get wet more quickly, forcing us to spend more time in our homes. Not to mention the need to dry clothes and laundry indoors, which can lead to dampness or mould. Or washing machines getting smelly from the increase in loads.

From drying clothes, to carpets and cleaning, we share some tips from our carer community:

How to prevent mould on walls during winter

Avoiding damp clothes, or damp walls, when we can’t dry our laundry outside AND the house is colder, is no easy feat. Using a tumble dryer helps, but this can be expensive. Especially with the number of laundry loads we need to do day to day.

Illustration of cleaning mould.

We could invest in a new machine, which tends to be more cost-efficient and run bigger loads. But for many of us, this isn’t financially an option. For those of us who are in the market for a new washing machine, Mumsnet has a useful article on choosing the best washer-dryer for your needs and budget. Members of our online community have shared some tips that have worked for them. Including how to help clothes or bedding to dry fully, and prevent dampness when drying clothes indoors.

1. Dehumidifiers are our friends

A suggestion that comes up again and again is purchasing a dehumidifier. They can be a cost-effective option for preventing dampness from becoming an issue in the room where our laundry dries, or any room prone to damp or mould.

See just how happy Captain D

Humidifier makes Mobi...

“Definitely get a dehumidifier. It’s cheaper than using the tumble dryer. I suggest using it in your smallest room, with the door shut.”
“We have a dehumidifier and it works really well. It's even got a clothes drying button and is easy to empty.”

Which? and B&Q have created helpful dehumidifier buying guides to compare the features and functionality of different models.

2. Good ventilation

When it’s not raining, opening a window can help to prevent damp air lingering. For those of us who own our homes and have the money, installing trickle vents can keep the air flowing. Trying not to keep the door closed to the room where clothes are drying can also help with air flow.

3. Invest in an electric clothes horse

A tumble dryer can cost us a lot to run during winter. So it might be worth considering alternatives, such as an electric clothes horse. Electric clothes airers can be more energy efficient, while still making sure our clothes dry quickly, reducing the likelihood of damp.

“I have an electric clothes horse that heats up from below and dries the clothes.”

We can purchase a heated clothes horse from most homeware stores, such as Argos, Robert Dyas, or Dunelm.

4. Location, location, location

Finding the best room in our house for drying clothes and bedding can make a big difference. We want an area that stays warm, and has good ventilation.

5. Home makeover

While having the time or bandwidth to paint our homes can feel unmanageable, mould -resistant paint can really help to reduce the risk of mould forming from drying laundry indoors.

“Mould-resistant paint was a lifesaver for us.”

This can be purchased from most homeware stores such as B&Q, Homebase, or Amazon.

6. Timing is everything

To save money over winter many of us only turn our heating on during certain times of the day. Aiming to time drying our laundry with when the heating has been on for a while and isn’t about to turn off, can help. Our clothes and bedding should dry faster, and there will be less risk of mould forming from damp, as this is when our home will be at its warmest.

Cleaning a smelly washing machine

Illustration of a washing machine.

No one likes a smelly washing machine. And with the increase in laundry many of us face over winter, now can be prime time for the unpleasant smell to start building. Especially with the things many of us have to put our washing machines through!

There are some great YouTube tutorials out there on how to clean your washing machine. It’s not a fun job, but it can make all the difference.

Getting stains out of carpets

Tough carpet stains can be tricky to remove, especially in the colder months. From dripping clothes, to muddy boots or filthy wheelchair wheels, our carpets get an extra beating over winter.

We asked our carer community what works for them and the tips that came up again and again for cleaning carpets and removing smells are using white vinegar or bicarbonate of soda. Then leave them a little while to soak.

“Clean up first with a little white vinegar in warm soapy water and towel dry. Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over the smelly area and let it sit overnight to fully absorb the odour before vacuuming it up.”

Moral Fibres has some great articles on where we can bulk buy Bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar to keep the cost down.

“Bicarbonate of soda is my best friend.”

Other suggestions include using lemon-scented cleaning products, Febreeze, or lavender oil to help cover up any lingering smells. We explore other ways to keep our homes clean, and our spirits high (or at least off the floor) after the person we care for has an accident, in our carers’ guide to cleaning up bodily fluids.

Another helpful option to protect our floors and carpets is to invest in some machine-washable rugs or door mats. Such as a turtle mat, for high-traffic or at-risk areas of our homes. These can be much easier to clean regularly, and prevent grime and smells from building up.

Lastly, we could try popping a bucket or large plant pot by the front door for wet umbrellas to go in, to prevent them from trailing rainwater all over our floors and carpets.

Illustration of dishes.

Saving time on washing up

Batch cooking is our friend, and what’s better in winter than a soup or stew to warm us up, especially if it’s one we made earlier? Not only does batch cooking free up more time for getting on with other chores (or rest!), but it also means a chunk of the washing up can be done in one go.

Investing in energy-efficient appliances such as slow cookers or soup makers could not only save us money on bills but perfectly lend themselves to batch cooking. One for our Christmas lists? Read more tips on meal planning for busy carers.

Switching to frozen, pre-chopped garlic, vegetables, or meat can also help. While it is a little more expensive, any time back in our busy lives can be a life-saver, and no chopping means no knives or chopping boards to wash up. We can find more tips on navigating mealtime challenges in our carer’s kitchen guide.

“We batch cook our daughter’s meals and do a 50:50 split with fresh and frozen veg. Feels like a great compromise and saves us time”

Lastly, while it might not feel like a job we want to get stuck into during winter, de-icing our freezers can make a big difference. Not only is it more energy efficient, but a build-up of ice can impact our freezer’s ability to maintain the temperature needed, and food won’t last as long.

Less ice also means more room for freezing batch cooked meals ready for later, or those pre-chopped goodies. Mr Appliance shares some tips on the best way to defrost our freezers.

Even with these tips, trying to fit everything in between our other carer tasks can feel overwhelming. If we have the money, investing in a cleaner for a couple of hours a week to tick one thing off the list, such as doing a few laundry loads, or cleaning the bathroom, could make a huge difference to our time and energy. (Hint - some people use Attendance Allowance to pay for a cleaner).

But, for those who don’t have the money, we can ask a family member or friend if they can step in to support us with caring for an hour or so. So we have some dedicated time for household chores or cleaning.

As we have explored, winter can make things worse for us practically in terms of the number of chores on the to-do lists, but it can also have an impact on us financially. Things like using the tumble dryer regularly or cranking up the heaters to keep those we care for warm enough can all add up.

Find over 20 handy tips carers have suggested to help manage spiralling living costs, and 15 winter specific cost-saving suggestions.

What next?

Taking care of someone else, ourselves AND our homes can feel like an impossible challenge. But there are tips out there to make home upkeep feel more achievable, no matter our budget.

Most of these suggestions have come from our Mobilise Community of carers just like us. If you have any household cleaning challenges we’ve not covered or top tips you think we’ve missed, jump over to the community and get a new conversation going. Together we can help caring feel more achievable.

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