Here’s how to undo kids’ messes and stains

Spills, other mishaps are in­evitable, but they needn’t ruin your home, clothes or day

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By El­iz­a­beth May­hew

Ly­dia Fenet does it all. She works full time at Christie’s auction house, just wrote her first book and has three kids un­der the age of 6. She grace­fully moves from the board­room to the play­room, solv­ing prob­lems and clean­ing up messes with a calm, can-do at­ti­tude.

So when she re­cently found her 2-year-old daugh­ter pour­ing a bot­tle of green nail pol­ish onto a cream-col­ored car­pet, she did not yell, but did what most peo­ple do: She fran­ti­cally chan­neled her en­ergy into rub­bing it with stain re­mover.

When the stain did not come out, she flipped the car­pet around, hid­ing the dam­aged por­tion un­der her daugh­ter’s bed. On an­other oc­ca­sion, her son’s con­tainer of sparkly purple slime cracked open and sat overnight, dry­ing on her liv­ing room rug.

“I am ter­ri­ble in th­ese sit­u­a­tions be­cause even though I know what I am do­ing is wrong, I do it any­way,” she said. “In the case of purple slime, I im­me­di­ately dumped a ton of wa­ter on it, which, I learned after call­ing a pro­fes­sional rug cleaner, is ex­actly what you don’t want to do.”

I wish I had met Fenet be­fore th­ese in­ci­dents. As a long­time mag­a­zine edi­tor and mother of two, I’ve learned a lot about clean­ing. Here are some of my best so­lu­tions for clothes, fab­rics, walls and car­pets — the spots where kids tend to make the big­gest messes.

Treat stains as soon as pos­si­ble. Don’t fol­low your kid around with a Clorox pen, but the sooner you pre­treat a stain with a stain re­mover such as Shout or Ox­iClean, the bet­ter chance you have of re­mov­ing it.

Never rub a stain. Blot or dab it us­ing clean white towels or pa­per towels. Rub­bing a stain will work it deeper into the fibers. When dab­bing, ro­tate to a clean side of the towel as you blot so you don’t spread the stain.

Al­ways wash a stained item in the hottest wa­ter the fab­ric will al­low. Hot wa­ter will loosen and re­move dirt.

Check to see if a stain has dis­ap­peared be­fore you put it in the dryer. Dry heat will “bake” the stain into the fibers. If you have a stub­born stain that doesn’t come out after one wash, treat it again with a stain re­mover and re­wash.

When us­ing harsh chem­i­cals such as nail pol­ish re­mover or hair spray to re­move a stain, try it on a hid­den area first; it may dam­age the color of the fibers. Pro­tein-based stains: For­mula, milk, di­a­per ac­ci­dents, blood — all of th­ese are pro­tein-based stains, so the first thing you want to do is soak the item in cold wa­ter for about 20 min­utes to loosen the stain (if you soak in hot wa­ter, you risk bak­ing in the stain). Re­move the item from the wa­ter and treat the stain with a dab of an en­zyme-based detergent such as

Biz, Era Plus, Wisk or Ax­ion, and let it sit for 30 min­utes. If the stain per­sists, dab it with some di­luted white vine­gar or di­luted am­mo­nia to lighten the stain. Ma­chine wash.

Urine: For cloth­ing, rinse in cold wa­ter, then wash in a nor­mal cy­cle. For mat­tresses, first blot the area with towels. In a spray bot­tle, com­bine one part white vine­gar to two parts wa­ter. Spray the mix­ture over the af­fected area, then blot with towels. Cover the area in bak­ing soda and let it sit for eight to 10 hours. Vac­uum the bak­ing soda, then al­low it to dry com­pletely.

Col­or­ful foods: Sweet pota­toes, berries, juice, ketchup and mus­tard — you can re­move most of th­ese stains by pre­treat­ing them with a stain re­mover, then wash­ing with detergent in hot wa­ter (if the item can with­stand the heat). After wash­ing, if the stain per­sists, dab it with some di­luted white vine­gar or di­luted am­mo­nia to lighten the stain. Ma­chine wash.

Crayon: For stains on cloth­ing, place the item stain-side down on a clean white cloth or pa­per towels. Spray with WD-40 or Goo Gone and let sit for sev­eral min­utes. Turn it over and ap­ply WD-40 to the other side of the stain and let sit for sev­eral more min­utes. Dab the stain on both sides with dish­wash­ing detergent and wash in hot wa­ter. Re­move crayon from painted or wall­pa­pered walls with a dry sponge or a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Acrylic or wa­ter-based paint: Dab off as much as you can with a pa­per towel. Sponge on a so­lu­tion of liq­uid laun­dry detergent and warm wa­ter to soften the paint. Scrape off as much paint as you can with a dull knife. Rinse and re­peat. If the stain per­sists, ap­ply hair spray, rub­bing al­co­hol or nail pol­ish re­mover to the spot, and al­low it to sit for 15 min­utes. Blot with dry cloths. Re­peat un­til the stain is gone. For cloth­ing, ma­chine wash. For car­pets, run a steam vac­uum over the spot, or flush it with cold wa­ter and blot un­til most of the mois­ture is re­moved.

Play-Doh: Do not use hot wa­ter or clean­ing so­lu­tions. Al­low PlayDoh to dry com­pletely, loosen it with a stiff brush, then vac­uum it up. If nec­es­sary, dab with a gen­tle soap and cold wa­ter.

Slime: To re­move slime, first re­move as much as you can with your hands. Mix two parts white vine­gar with one part wa­ter in a spray bot­tle. Spray the mix­ture on the slime and al­low it to soak, then blot with pa­per towels or a clean white cloth. Keep spray­ing and blot­ting un­til the slime is gone.

Nail pol­ish: Use pa­per towels or a clean towel to dab up as much of the wet nail pol­ish as pos­si­ble. Then spray a small amount of non-ace­tone nail pol­ish re­mover on the stain (you can use an ace­tone va­ri­ety, but test it on a hid­den area be­cause it can dam­age your rug). Dab the area with pa­per towels un­til the stain is lifted. Rinse with cold wa­ter and mild soap.

El­iz­a­beth May­hew is a free­lance writer.


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