Welcome to Beach Week, a celebration of the best place on earth.
The beach is a wonderful escape from the doldrums of daily life. It is vacation at its most relaxing, and it lends the sense that one is indeed on vacation, even if one is merely a short drive from home. While lying on the beach, to-dos and calendar invites and Slack notifications drift and disappear into the crashing waves; wine surreptitiously transported in a Gatorade container tastes like you imagine it does in photos of people on vacation in Positano; and you get the sense that, even with all of life’s hardships, it may actually be beautiful. Then you have to leave.
The good vibes fade almost immediately upon leaving the beach, replaced instead with the distinct rage of finding that everything you own is now covered in one-hundred-million pieces of sand, sand that has since turned into an impossible-to-remove arenaceous glue-like substance. It covers your feet and your legs, it’s on your neck and in your hair, it’s on your phone and your keys and your bag and your magazine, it’s all over your car, it’s in your kitchen and your breakfast cereal somehow; it’s most certainly in your bathroom, and now your feet are re-sanded after every subsequent shower. “I’m never going back to the beach,” you tell yourself. “I HATE THE BEACH!”
Well, there’s no need to hate the beach. The beach is your friend. And you may add to your list of friends both myself and Ann Russell, author of How to Clean Everything, because we’re here to help you get the sand out of your house, so you can live the sand-free lifestyle you deserve.
Begin de-sanding operations while still at the beach
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case that means in order to keep your home sand-free, you must begin at the source. “Start at the beach,” Russell told me. Really, start before you even leave for the beach; bring along with you a few garbage bags and a soft, clean hand brush. When you’re ready to head back to your car after your beach day, shake out your towels and any bathing suits that aren’t currently being worn. If you’re doing this in the parking lot, take care, Russell says, to do it “while the car is closed up, to avoid sand blowing into the car.” Then place those items in the garbage bag before bringing them into your car (or back into your bag, if traveling by bike or public transportation).
“Then brush everyone,” Russell says, making use of the hand brush you packed. “Brush hair too.” Brush off as much sand as possible, and don’t forget the nooks and crannies: behind the knees, the back of your neck, under your arms, unmentionable areas, etc. Then slide your butt into your car seat, and brush your feet off before they enter the car’s perimeter. (“Don’t forget between toes either,” Russell says; a good point.) What can help here is a generous sprinkling of baby powder, which will dry up the foot and ankle area and make stubborn, wet sand easier to remove. It’s also helpful to wear sandals rather than closed-toe shoes; closed-toe shoes, as you likely know, tend to bring the beach home with them no matter what you do. And don’t forget to brush the sand off of the bottom of your shoes, no matter what kind you’re wearing.
Depending on your dedication to the sand-free cause, Russel also recommends pre-lining your car’s seats and footwells with clean towels, to catch anything you missed.
Make use of the beach shower
If your beach offers a full beach shower, or even just a foot shower—use it! These are enormously helpful in removing sand, particularly the caked-on wet sand that tends to cause the most aggravation. (Make sure you do a thorough job, though—you don’t want to run the risk of simply turning dry sand into caked-on wet sand.)
If your kids are sticky and sandy and there’s no beach shower available, Russell says to send them back into the water to rinse off, “then let them get dry before the journey home.” Once you’re at home, you can set up an outdoor rinse-off station making use of either a hose, to rinse your whole body, or a bucket, just for your feet.
Keep damp sandy things separate from dry sandy things
“Sand is best dealt with dry,” Russell says, “it shakes off far more easily—so always shake rather than rinse.” To keep your wet sand from infiltrating your dry sand, make use of the bags you brought and designate one of them to be specifically for the wet stuff. “Damp sandy things are safest kept separate from dry sandy things” until they are dry themselves, Russell says. Lay them flat outside of your home, or hang them on a line, and let them air-dry before giving them a good shake and bringing them in. For non-cloth beach gear, give it a rinse outside and let it air dry, too.
Re-shake before entering the house
When you get home from the beach, “leave the bags of beach gear outside for now, shake out car towels, and brush everyone again just in case.” Hang the towels and bathing suits you’ve stowed away in your bags on a line, if possible; if not, just shake the hell out of them. Do this on the grass, rather than in the path from the car to the door, to keep people from getting the sand on their feet and taking it with them inside.
“Once you’re fairly sure as much sand has come free as will come free, then you can sneak them into the washing machine if they need washing,” Russell says, though she added that her family tends to just fold up dry towels for next time, kept in a beach bag. And remember to take off all shoes and leave them outside before entering your home, if you can, or on a mat in the entryway.
Use a vacuum for dry sand—not a Wet Wipe
So you’ve done everything we’ve asked and you still tracked sand into your house? Well, fine. Once again we’re going to remind you that sand is easiest to clean up when it’s dry. “Damp sand is sticky and horrible, so avoid using anything wet—wipes won’t help,” Russell says. Instead of taking a wet wipe or something like a Swiffer WetJet to the affected area, instead, for hard surfaces, use a brush to get sand out of little crevices, then use your vacuum or dustbuster to suck it up. For cars and carpets, ditch the brush (it won’t do anything) and just stick to the dustbuster or vacuum. Russell recommends a vacuum with a bag for sand removal rather than one without, as it better helps to contain the mess.
Only use your own shower as a last resort
I have to discourage entering your bathroom while sandy in the strongest of terms. Please do not do this. Your bathroom will be sandy for the rest of the summer, I guarantee you. You will not be able to get it out of your grout. You will not be able to get it out of your bath mat. It will haunt you until you are convinced you are not responsible enough to have your own home or apartment—and you will be right.
“But if you do track sand into your bathroom,”—you think that’s where I’m going? That’s not where I’m going. Just don’t do it.
But Ann Russell is a bit more lenient on the subject, and she has something she wants to add. “Don’t forget if you rinse sand down the sink or shower it has a tendency to sink into the U-bend,” (your pipe drainage system), “and risks a slow flowing drain,” she says. “Use the sink [or shower] only as an absolute last resort.”
Wait, but also it’s in my phone?
Oh, now you’re talking directly to me? I didn’t think that was allowed. But okay, if it’s also in your phone, the best way to remove it is with compressed air. If you don’t have that at your disposal, you can try sticky tape or your vacuum’s crevice tool, if it has one. The best way to deal with a sandy phone, though, is to prevent it from getting sandy in the first place. I like to keep my phone, along with my wallet and keys, in a ziplock bag while I’m at the beach. Obviously this only works if you can exercise enough self control to not look at your phone, or take pictures with it, but I believe in you. Remember, I’m your friend. (And so is Ann Russell.)
Top photo by El Ojo Torpe/Getty
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