Sticky fingers, smeared crayons, spattered orange juice—with a small child around, your house is bound to receive plenty of colorful wear and tear. Some wall- and floor-covering materials are more durable and easier to clean than others. More important, certain materials are simply safer.
While it may not be practical or affordable to launch into even a minor remodel of your home, there are some relatively simple things you can do to make it a gentler environment
If wall coverings are durable and easy to clean, they’ll continue to look as good below the 3-foot level as they do above it.
Paints. Nontoxic, water-based acrylic paint offers a low-luster finish, washability, and chip resistance.
For trim and areas that receive considerable wear and tear, choose a nontoxic, water-based, semigloss enamel. Glossy finishes are easier to clean, but every nick or bump will be highlighted by the paint’s sheen. Buy high-quality paints and choose neutral rather than primary colors since they will show smudges the least.
Wallpapers. As children discover crayons and paint, sometimes they can’t resist a little scribbling or dabbling on the wall. One of the easiest-to-wash wall coverings is fabric-backed vinyl. Other relatively durable choices include solid vinyl and vinyl-coated wallpaper.
Woven-fabric plastic coverings are also excellent choices for durability. All sponge off easily. Random or free-flowing patterns help hide dirt and damage.
Other wall materials. Some children’s room designers opt for industrial carpeting on one or more walls. It’s rugged and easy to clean (just vacuum); it also cuts down on noise and provides a padded, soft surface.
When choosing new flooring with children in mind, decide whether the room or area will need a hard floor covering or soft carpeting, depending on its use..
Carpeting. This is the friendliest choice for nursery, family room, living room, hallway, and stairs—wherever comfort, safety, and sound absorption are important. Because it can be damaged by moisture and spills, carpeting is less practical in kitchens, bathrooms, and dining areas.
Because of its wearability and commercial grade, 100 percent nylon carpeting is a good choice for kids. Nylon carpets tend to be more stain resistant than wool ones, as well as less expensive to buy and keep clean. If treated with a stain repellent, spills will be even easier to wipe up. Most nylon carpets have a built-in static guard. By law, all carpets are fire retardant.
Pick low cut-pile or short-loop, dense-weave carpets. Don’t choose deep shags, which can conceal dangerous small objects. Choose a mid-range color—neither too dark nor too light. A variegated texture or pattern will camouflage stains.
Carpet tiles are another good option for floors, though somewhat expensive. You can install them yourself; if one section gets stained or damaged, you can replace just that piece.
Resilient flooring. Vinyl, rubber, or linoleum flooring is relatively soft underfoot, yet firm, durable, and easy to clean. A textured surface guards against slipping.