Cleaning Tips for Common Kid-Spills

As a former teacher, and the parent of three kids, I've had lots of experience cleaning up messy spills. It's not always as easy as it looks, and, done incorrectly, it's possible to turn a spill into an even bigger mess by using the wrong tools or technique.

Never fear. With a little bit of know-how, clean up's a snap. Here's how to handle some of the most common kid-related spills.

Milk and Ice Cream: If you don't clean dairy spills right away, you may end up smelling sour milk in your car or living room for days (and anyone with kids can tell you how much fun that isn't). Keep a supply of clean, disposable rags or paper towels handy, just in case.

Soak up any liquid by blotting gently and, by all means, do not rub it into your upholstery or rugs. Don't pour water on the spill, even if you're tempted, or you'll end up with a bigger mess and water stains. Avoid the use of hot water or a steam cleaner; instead, use a wet-vac to get up the remainder of the spill, and allow it to air dry if possible.

If the milk has dried, lightly moisten it with a spray bottle of water mixed with a small amount of dish detergent. Keep blotting with dry towels until the surface stains are removed.

Ice cream adds a whole new dimension to dairy spills. Additives like chocolate, berries and food coloring might require the use of special laundry stain removers and results will vary.

Paint: Tempera paint, while generally washable, is commonly used in school projects. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to clean. Try to avoid painting directly from the paint bottle. Instead, pour a small amount of paint into a washable or disposable container and wipe the drips off with a paper towel so you don't leave rings everywhere. Prepare a work surface of paper towels or old newspaper and you'll catch the worst of spills as they happen.

In case tempera paint ends up on a rug or carpet, do not rub it with a cloth - dab it with a dry paper towel. Repeat with clean paper towels until most of the paint has been picked up. Next, apply white vinegar to a clean rag or paper towel and continue to blot. Any remaining color should transfer to the cloth. For lingering stains, first check to see if it's safe to use a carpet cleaner or commercial rug cleaning solution, and then follow the manufacturer instructions.

Use a similar technique to remove tempera paint from clothing. Blot it with a dry paper towel, then, working over a sink or bucket, work small amounts of vinegar over the stain and blot with a clean rag. Cover the area with a stain remover and let it soak; run clean water over it and gently rub until the spot treatment is removed and the water runs clear.

Juice: Juice spills can be tricky. The longer they sit, the more likely they are to stain. Again, the trick is to blot with a dry cloth or towel - don't rub the juice in. After the moisture is wicked out of the fabric, treat any stains left behind. Grape juice spills can be especially stubborn and may require extra effort to clean.

If the surface is detergent-safe, dilute fabric detergent with cold water and lightly spray it on the stain. Do not saturate it, as you may cause spills or stains to bleed. Layer clean, dry towels over it, weighing them down so they keep contact with the spot. Keep doing this until the stain is gone and the fabric is dry.

For stubborn juice spots, you may be able to use a light mist of diluted hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice to lighten any remaining stains from the spill. Be sure you check with the manufacturer as some textiles (like wool rugs and carpets), require special cleaning techniques.

My advice: Keep a cool head, keep some basic cleaning supplies close at hand, and even the scariest kid mess can be handled with ease. You'll save time needed for other important things -- like removing crayon stains from your dryer. Just wait.

Content by Kimberly Morgan.