17 November 2010

Speed up after-meal cleanup with wipe-down placemats

Placemat In a previous post, I listed delegation as one of my three essential tools for clearing mental clutter. Turns out our cloth placemats are a stumbling block in the process of delegating the task of after-dinner table clearing to my kids. Inevitably the questions would grind the process to a halt: Where do they go? Do we fold them or roll them? Do they need to be washed? What if they just have crumbs on them, but no stains?

Getting rid of the placemats would go a long way toward simplifying table clearing and would reduce our laundry load as well. My solution: placemats you can wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Vinyl-placematMost plastic, kiddie-themed placemats made my dining table look like a preschool snack setup. But I've since discovered some wipe-down placemats that come in grown-up designs.

Some woven plastic placemats look like natural grass or bamboo, but are actually easy-care plastic. Others look like woven cotton, but are actually vinyl. Both are quick to shake clean in the sink, or clean up with a damp cloth or a swipe of all-purpose cleaner (more jobs that can be delegated).

Great choice if you're looking to freshen up your table without adding to the fussiness of cleaning up.

An exception: I love these Painless Learning placemats! Because of these placemats, we all now have a better grasp of US and world geography, the periodic table, the solar system, and the US presidents. We often use these for family dinners just to change things up and get conversation flowing.

Related: Toddler chore ideas? Talk amongst yourselves.

Your comments

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I don't really *get* placemats -- is it not simpler to just wipe the table after the fact?

I agree with Holly! No cloth on our table at all, unless we're using cloth napkins or put on a tablecloth for a special occasion.

Sigh. Our wood dining room table doesn't take kindly to frequent wet cleaning. Perhaps a better parent hack is not to buy such a table in the first place!

I got some cute, modern, grownup, uncolorful plastic placemats at Target. Much more attractive and more practical than the colorful silicone placemats they replaced, and they save my cheap wooden table from wet cleaning.

I'm going to have to investigate some of these. The machine-washable placemats I've bought rarely seem to hold up in the washer -- they shrink and pucker. Thanks for pointing the way to a different option!

Oddly enough, I choose cloth placemats over the wipe-down ones for the same reasons - I find it MUCH easier to toss them in the laundry than to find the counter space to wipe them down & dry them.

IKEA has cute seasonal themed plastic placemats. I also like to get holiday ones (christmas, valentine, easter, etc) usually at Target or Fred Meyer. Same boat - wooden table needs some coverage. And I like how they look. Use lots of cloth ones too. Kid piles them up with the cloth napkins and I decide if they go in the wash.

I use the entirely unstainable and unsoakable microfiber tableclothes sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond. They come in several weave patterns and many colors. Nothing gets through them and they wash with towels or shirts or anything - super easy and low maintenance. Plus, they are beautiful and excellent for company. I bought them to use for Thanksgiving and ended up using them for our everyday dinner table.

Ever since the "Sharpie incident" our table stays covered with a pad and a table cloth. Some day I'll find a way to remove the ink, but until then these tablecloths are excellent.

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