Jump Into Spring!

By Beth Roulston 2020-06-08 12:41:13

How to Reboot Family Life in Shanghai Post-Virus

One of the things I love most about spring is how rejuvenating it can feel after so many months of harsh, cold winter. And, for many of us, this winter has felt that much longer thanks to the unprecedented force of COVID-19.

Now that the dark clouds that rested over our city have finally begun to move on, it’s about time we shrug off the post-quarantine dust, pull up our blinds, open our windows, and give ourselves a reboot.

Cleansing the Indoors
One of the best ways to welcome Spring into your home is by giving it a good ol’ fashioned spring-clean, and no matter how “clean” we think our homes are there’s always dust bunnies and grime hiding in the corners.

Before we begin, remember to start from the top down. No point in vacuuming first if you’re then going to clear debris from your ceilings/ bookshelves which will end up on the floor anyway. For extra elbow grease, get the kids involved, and take this opportunity to educate them on the benefits of a clean and tidy home.

Cupboards and Drawers
Go through all your cupboards and drawers and empty everything out. Throw away anything you’re not going to use or is seriously out of date. Take a damp cloth and wipe away any debris. For food deposits that are caught in the crevices, grab the vacuum cleaner and use a thin nozzle to remove. This will help prevent our favourite mini housemates from gathering for the free food buffet - yes, I’m referring to cockroaches.

Unlike your student days, your microwave is likely to be clean but there may be a few stubborn stains. To get rid of these, place a microwave-safe bowl with 240ml/ 1 cup of water, a chopped-up lemon, and a tablespoon of white vinegar inside. Then turn your microwave on for several minutes or until the solution boils and the window is steamy. Leave it to cool for 15 minutes before opening the door and wiping the inside and outside with a sponge.


Take a close look at the doors on your cabinets, you may notice a layer of sticky kitchen grime. This is a combination of dust and grease that has built up over time. Best way to prevent grease from setting it to switch your exhaust hood on every time you cook. To remove the grease, use a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and warm water and spray this before wiping away with a cloth; for stubborn grease add a few drops of washing up liquid to the mix.

Cutting Boards
If you’re anything like me, cutting boards will drive you mad. Fear not, those nasty marks are not permanent. Slice a lemon in half and run this over your boards to remove tough food stains and smells. My favourite hack? Sprinkle a bit of baking soda on it first. Sorted!

This was and still is my mum’s favourite Saturday morning chore. My best advice is to take everything out and remove all your shelves and door trays at the same time. Take a damp cloth and run this over the back, sides and base of your fridge. Then dunk these shelves and trays into hand-hot soapy water. Dry them before you put them back into the fridge. You now have a fridge free of stains, crumbs, and wet veggie smells.

Stainless Steel Stove/Hob
To remove finger marks and streaks off of stainless steel, mix a teaspoon of washing up liquid together with one litre of hot water, Rub this solution into the marks with a microfibre cloth, making sure to go with the grain. Rinse with clean hot water and dry the area immediately with a clean cloth.

Living Room / Play Area
We’re all guilty of ignoring this, but, it’s important to keep on top of dust that may be settling underneath the furniture. Once the underside of your couch is clear, remove all the cushions and vacuum up those crumbs – you may even find some buried treasures or lost items. Give the cushions a good pat to keep them firm and disturb any dust that may have settled before putting back.

For those of us who actually have shelves, take a few minutes to go around the house collecting all the books that have been left on tables and bedroom floors and pile them all up. To declutter, sit with the kids and decide which should go to a new home and which you want to keep. Then give your shelves a good dust with a microfibre cloth. Arrange your books back on the shelves in either size, colour, or alphabetical order.
NOTE: Don’t forget to vacuum and mop the floors before moving onto the next room.

Unlike your countertops, bedding and dishes, the kids’ toys likely don’t get washed all that often - with the exception of the odd dribble of course. Gather together all the plastic toys (kids’ and pets’), keeping any with parts to one side, and empty them into a sink/ bath. Soak the toys in warm, soapy water to help get rid of any bacteria or food remains like yoghurt, porridge etc. Don’t overlook the convenience of your dishwasher (if you have one of course)! Just remember to choose the quick cycle and skip the heated dry. For stuffed animals, check the tag first to see whether they are machine wash or hand wash only. Pop the machine-friendly items in a mesh bag or pillowcase and put them on a gentle cycle. Avoid machine drying, opt for wrapping them in a towel and giving them a gentle squeeze instead. Sit them on an airing rack to dry out naturally.

A Happy Home Deserves Shiny Windows

Start on the shady side, as direct sun can lead to streaks. If you’re not a fan of glass cleaner, mix equal parts white vinegar to water in a spray bottle and wipe away with a microfibre cloth/ paper towel. This will help lift marks and grime. For particularly dirty windows, prewash with soapy water.

Ceilings (all rooms)
Take a broom and pop a microfibre cloth on top, then carefully run this cloth over light fittings – remembering turn the lights off first - air conditioners and the corners of the room to remove spider webs and dust.

Shower Curtain
Over time, grime and pink mould can build up on your shower curtain; but there’s an easy solution. Mix a tablespoon of baking powder together with 200ml of warm water and dab this onto problem areas. Next, throw your plastic or vinyl curtain into your washing machine. Make sure to put it on the gentle cycle with a small-cap of detergent; add a couple of bath towels to the drum for extra cleaning power! Then hang them to dry. To keep your curtain cleaner for longer, spritz it a few times each month with either a bleach-containing, all-purpose cleaner or equal parts white vinegar and water. Just remember to rinse it with the showerhead before you hop in!


When you think about all the water that goes through our drains it is no wonder they begin to smell. To freshen them up (not unclog them) combine 64g / 1⁄2 cup baking soda with 32g/ 1⁄4 cup table salt. Pour this mixture down the drain, followed by 1 cup of heated white vinegar. It will foam and bubble but don’t worry. Let it stand for 15 minutes (FYI any longer than this will not improve the result). Then allow the hot water to run for at least 15 to 30 seconds. This is especially good for the bathrooms you rarely use.

Cosmetics/ Beauty Accessories
Despite how much that secret hoarder in you cries, bin all your expired makeup, skincare, shampoo and hair products. Not all products have an expiration date, but they will say how many months the product will last after opening. Make sure to regularly degunk your makeup and hairbrushes. For hairbrushes, gently snip through the hair so as not to pull out any of the bristles. Then, run a few drops of shampoo into your brush before rinsing under a warm tap; pat excess water out onto a towel. For makeup brushes, squeeze a few drops of shampoo into your palm and rub the bristle tips into the soap, gently working the suds through them. To rinse, hold the brush (bristles down) under warm, running water until the water runs clear. Gently shake over the sink to remove excess water, then lay the brush down on a paper towel to finish drying.

Time to tackle the pieces you generally avoid, like pillows and duvets. Fortunately, this only needs to be done two or three times a year. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s label before tossing them into your washing machine. Experience would suggest laying your bedding out flat on a drying rack; avoid machine drying at all costs as your pillows won’t forgive you.

Now is the ideal time to pay attention to your mattress. Remove all the sheets and bedding and then press firmly with your vacuum’s small, flat attachment/ narrow crevice tools to remove dust and dirt from the top and sides. Next, spray fabric sanitiser (Clorox is a good one!) sparingly onto your mattress and wipe away using a hot, slightly damp cloth. If you can be bothered, put a sheet onto your mattress and iron over it on a steam setting – this will help kill dust mites near the surface. Vacuum once more and leave to settle.


Go through all your clothes and shoes from the season that’s just ended and remove anything stained, in need of repair, worn out, or ones that no longer fit (I am of course talking about your kids’ closets ). Fold away the items you’re no longer wearing and pop these away for next winter. Before hanging up your spring/summer clothes, perform the same check you just did for your winter clothes. Unsure if you still like something? Try it on and, in the words of Marie Kondo, see if it “brings you joy”. If it doesn’t, thank it and say goodbye!

Washing Machine
It is important to give your washing machine a good rinse once a month so it continues to do its job well. Select the rinse cycle then pop a few tablespoons of white vinegar and a teaspoon of baking soda to the drum. Once the cycle has finished, leave the door open for it to air dry - this also helps prevent mould. Don’t forget to remove the drawer located at either the bottom or side of your machine and remove the clothing residue/ fluff that has collected there.

Phones and Electronic Items
According to research, your phone probably harbours more germs than a toilet seat. Yep, gross! On that note, give your phone, TV remotes, computer mouse and keyboard a once over weekly with an alcohol/ antibacterial wipe.

Purses and Backpack
Take everything out, throw away the rubbish and organise leftover items by category. Sort smaller items like pens into little pouches or organisers before you pop them back inside. With your kids' backpacks, give those pencil cases a shake to remove the rubber and pencil shavings etc. that often get left inside. Finally, wipe down the interior and exterior with a disinfectant wipe.

Cleaning Materials
Not to sound like Monica from US TV show ‘Friends’, but yes you really should clean your cleaning apparatus. You wouldn’t wash your face with dirty water, would you? So, empty or replace your vacuum’s bag, clean the attachments, and replace or wash the filters. Snip away those threads snarled in the brush heads and put them in the bin. The other cleaning accessories that will need some TLC include your household broom, brush and dustpan, and mop. Clear away those dust bunnies stuck on your broom and brush bristles by swishing the head around in warm, soapy water. Dunk your mop head into hot water before giving it a good twist. Wipe your dustpan down with a clean cloth.

Phew! You’re done. Trust me, once you give your home a thorough spruce, the whole family is going to feel so much better.

Venturing Outdoors
Now that the indoors is happy, it is time to get your family reacquainted with the outdoors. Go pack a picnic and a ball and head over to one of the following parks.

Dongping National Forest Park
A short one-hour drive from the centre of Shanghai is Chongming Island - an area rich with parks, wetlands, fields and more. Argu- ably, the most well-known and therefore most glamorous choice for a family excursion is the island’s Dongping National Forest Park. The first thing to note is it is huge – and this is by no means an exaggeration. One could spend hours merely wandering around the park before even discovering its range of weird but wonderful attractions - by this I mean all the activities you would do on a first date in high school like bumper cars, horse rides, pedalos, go-karts, grass- skiing and fairground-type rides. For those with spirited, outdoor-loving little ones there’s even a little grassy play area with wooden, obstacle-course style equipment. Be sure to bring your own picnic, snacks and blankets as you will struggle to find food or benches in the park.

Find it: Nanmen Harbour, Chongming, Shanghai; 崇明岛的中北部

Binhai Forest Park

For active families looking for a fun day out, Binhai Forest Park is a great place to start. Here you can hire four or two-person cycle- cars (you will need to pay a deposit, so be sure to keep your receipt), ride pedal-boats or even go horse riding; depending on how far and how long you want to ride the cost will vary. As this area is rather rural, the attractions are a little outdated, but what the park lacks in updates and renovations it more than makes up for in charm.

Find it: 118 Dongda Highway, near North Hongxiang Road; 东大公路118号, 近宏祥北路
Price: Adult ticket 30 RMB; child ticket 15 RMB (over 1.8m); free for kids under a certain height - enquire through online booking for more details.
Website: www.shbinhaipark.com
Note: tickets must be booked one day in advance.

Dongtan Wetland Park

Another of Chongming Island’s parks is Dongtan Wetland park - a wetland-themed ecological area, roughly an hour’s drive (two with traffic and on a public holiday, who knows!) from Shanghai city centre. What was once a muddy estuary has been carefully transformed into a scenic natural conserve, designed to preserve the natural landscape and promote ecological tourism. At first glance, it may not live up to your dream weekend day-out, but it does provide a quiet place surrounded by nature for the whole family to breathe some fresh air. For the avid twitchers in the family, this area also offers prime bird-watching time thanks to being a key stopping place for more than 150 different species of migrating birds.

Find it: Lane 799, Lan Hai Road, Chenjia Town, Chongming County, Shanghai; 上海 崇明县陈家镇揽海路799弄

Shanghai Wild Animal Park

Covering an area of more than 200 hectares (494 acres), Shanghai’s state-run park is home to over 200 species of animals including giraffes, elephants, lions and more. Keeping you rather than the “locals” in a cage, visitors here can see tigers, lions and bears from the safety of a caged bus. There are also walking tours for close-up meets and greets with the park’s more docile, gentle animals. Kids can ride horses, camels and donkeys, while the monkey and lemur shows will charm even the grumpiest daddy bears. Depending on your stance of potential animal-welfare concerns, a day out here offers a wild, thrilling education adventure for all.

Find it: 178 Nanliu Highway, near Xiayan Highway; 南六公路178号, 近下盐公路
Price: Adult ticket 130 RMB; child ticket 65 RMB (over 1.8m); free for kids under six years/ 1.3m with a paying adult
Website: www.shwzoo.com

Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Gardens

Despite the mafan it will take to get here it’s well worth the effort. Visiting the Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Gardens feels a little bit like strolling into Jurassic Park, thanks to some intriguing egg-shaped enclosures (Tropical Flower and Fruit Hall) and its gorgeous landscape architecture. Let your children run free and enjoy the wide varieties of plants and flowers the area has to offer in its lush attractions: the Botanical Museum, the Pirate Ship and the Mine Garden. One particular highlight not to miss is the gar- den’s converted quarry – a stunning testament to China’s dedication on returning used land back to its people and nature. It also provides a great place to sit and enjoy a picnic. For families that enjoy hiking, be sure to trek to the highest viewing point to enjoy a grand view of this spectacular 516- acre stretch of land.

Find it: 3888 Chenhua Road, Qingpu Songji- ang; 上海松江区辰花路3888号
Price: Adult Ticket: 60 RMB; Child Ticket (6-18 years) 30 RMB; free for under 6 years and over 65
Website: http://en.csnbgsh.cn