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Woman with clothespin on her nose looking in a trash can

How to Clean Gross Things Without Gagging

We all have those places in the house we forget about until they reach “seriously gross” status, such as behind the toilet or in a hidden corner of the shower. Spoiled food and clogged drains also come to mind. And cleaning up the bodily fluids that come with having kids and pets can make you want to gag, too. Here are our tips for handling those gross cleanup jobs with dignity and grace. 

  • Suit up: Wear rubber gloves, cover your nose and mouth with a face mask or bandana, and don eye protection to physically separate yourself from the mess. Avoiding the need to touch the gross item can help you control your gag reflex.
  • Scent up: Put some strong-smelling lotion under your nose and in the crook of your elbow and hide your face in your arm whenever you need to escape from the stench. Just be aware that smelling this fragrance again in the future could remind you of the nasty smell it covered up, so don’t use your favorite perfume.
  • Plug your nose: There’s a reason why cartoon characters sport clothespins on their noses when handling something smelly. While you shouldn’t use actual clothespins to plug your nose (ouch!), try to breathe out of your mouth when scrubbing up a mess. Stuffing a bit of facial tissue up your nose should do the trick.
  • Open a window: If the weather is nice, it’s helpful to bring in some fresh air to dull the stench. You can also create ventilation by running the kitchen or bathroom exhaust fan if the mess is located there.
  • Look away: If possible, don’t look at whatever you’re cleaning. A sideways, unfocused glance should be enough to get the job done. Scrutinizing the mess is likely to make you gag.
  • Give yourself a pep talk: Repeat a soothing mantra to yourself. “I can do this. I’m strong. I’ve got this. It’ll be over soon!” Whatever you do, don’t make “eww” sounds or tell yourself you’re going to vomit, because thinking this might make you actually do it.
  • Imagine a calm, nice-smelling scene: It can be helpful to think about something pleasant to keep you from gagging while you work.
  • Soften it with water: If the mess you’re cleaning is hard, such as dried throw-up, soak it or spray it with water to soften it. This should make it easier to wipe up instead of having to scrape it.
  • Pour it down the drain: Dealing with rotten food? Put the leftover container in the sink and turn the faucet on full blast. The water will carry much of the nasty stuff down the drain. Chase it with a handful of ice cubes and lemon peels to remove residue from the garbage disposal blades and leave a citrus scent behind. (If other smelly parts of the house have you feeling down, use these tips for getting rid of lingering odors from Rainbow International.)
  • Pay someone else to do it: If you simply can’t control your gag reflex long enough to clean up the mess, recruit help from someone who can. The Molly Maid team is comprised of consummate professionals who can help you tackle the worst messes without batting an eye. Let us handle a single deep-cleaning, or call on us more often for occasional assistance or routine help around the house. Whatever your cleaning needs, we have you covered.

Contact your local Molly Maid or call us at (800) 654-9647 to request a free in-home estimate for professional house cleaning services near you.

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