Q&A With Babs Costello

The Internet's Grandma Spills Some Of Her Favorite School-Year Cleaning & Clutter Hacks

Plus, the expert advice-giver reveals the best advice she’s ever gotten.

Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images, Viva

If you’ve been on TikTok (like, ever), odds are good that you’ve watched at least one video where Barbara “Babs” Costello — aka @BrunchWithBabs — doles out some simple but ingenious life hack that changes your world just a little. Such is the magic of the 74-year-old retired teacher, who has famously become “the internet’s grandma.”

Just a few short years ago, in 2020, Costello took her daughter Liz’s suggestion to start sharing her wisdom with the world… and, well, the world responded. Today, Costello has nearly four million followers and 51 million likes on TikTok alone, has written a cookbook, and even had her picture put on a Pop-Tarts box.

Part of the unexpected social media star’s continued success? She sticks to what she knows. And, as a person who spent the better part of four decades in a classroom, Costello knows how hectic (and messy!) every new school semester can be.

The influencer grandma, who recently partnered with Viva, sat down with Scary Mommy to share her top tips for keeping ahead of the chaos this year.

Scary Mommy: You were a teacher for 40+ years. What’s the best advice you can give parents to get ahead of the inevitable whirlwind of school supplies, clothes, sporting goods, etc., all over the house?

Babs Costello: I would say just take it slowly. I think the kids have some anxiety about [being] back. Make it fun for them. Lay out their outfits, have them make their choices, and have it all ready in the morning, so you can have a really smooth sendoff.

I think the less anxiety and rush and pressure, the better for everybody in the family. Just make it as fun as you can, and have the kids make as many choices as they can within limits

SM: I have a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, and they have just been at each other's throats lately. With your classroom experience, you’re probably incredible with conflict mitigation. Do you have any advice for getting kids through bickering?

BC: First of all, you know what? That's really normal, especially for siblings.

I would say go on dates with them … just take the child out one-on-one and give them that attention. Maybe it's a standing date night with one of the kids, but just one child with one parent. Try that.

Sibling rivaling is part of life; you're going to go through this. But to alleviate it, you could put this special kind of date night on the calendar, and then you could talk one-on-one with them. “It’s so nice that you guys are getting along” and “Don’t you love a peaceful house?”

I think that's a good idea, especially before they enter the teen years.

SM: You are the Queen of Clean. What’s a cleaning trick you swear by but you feel like not a lot of people know?

BC: Being able to make your own cleaning supplies without having to go to the aisle in the grocery store that's filled with all of the heavy-duty chemical cleaners. You can make anything. You can make stainless steel cleaner. You can make window cleaner. You can make an all-purpose cleaner with just a few ingredients. White vinegar, which is the queen of cleaning ingredients, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, distilled water, baking soda — any of those. Now, you're not going to mix all those together, obviously; it's not a science experiment.

But you'll also save money, and you won't have chemicals in your home. I mean, we can't avoid all, but at least it'll keep some at bay.

SM: When kids are little, everything is their canvas: the walls, desks, the floor. What do you recommend for getting marker off of surfaces?

BC: This probably won't work with a permanent marker, but if you take some distilled water, a dish detergent, and white vinegar, shake that up, spray that right on, and then use a Viva Multi-Surface cloth, it comes right off.

SM: It’s been a pretty incredible journey for you to become the internet’s favorite grandma. What’s one thing the world may not know about you?

BC: I'm just a normal person. I'm just Mom and Grandma, and my life is probably like most grandmas' lives. I would hope so, anyway. I think that people were just gravitating towards normalcy, like, "Oh, she's like a regular lady. I could relate to her." When I run into people when I'm out and about, sometimes they'll be like, "Oh my gosh, Babs, it's you." I'm like the friend down the block. The grandma who likes to hang out and play Clue with her grandkids. I am the wife that'll sometimes drive my husband crazy.

I'm a regular, everyday person, but there's something special in all of that — in all our everyday normal lives. There's something very attractive and special that people would feel this connection.

SM: You’re always doling out the best advice, but what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

BC: I would say don't take yourself so seriously. This too shall pass, have faith.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.