Oops! Clever Ways to Clean Bad Stains and Messes

8 solutions for common household cleaning problems.

boy looking over his shoulder

Penicillin, car seats, DVDs. We have much to be grateful for when it comes to modern day parenting.

But perhaps the single greatest breakthrough when it comes to ushering small people into adulthood is Google. Specifically, the "how do you..." search. As in "How do you get permanent marker off of wood floors?" or "How do you get Desitin out of wall-to-wall carpeting?" What did people do before the Internet?

Below are eight simple tried-and-true ways to fix the parts of your house that your little darlings have ruined.

  1. Ballpoint Pen on Your Microfiber Sofa
    No problem. Try some hairspray. (White Rain does a fantastic job.) Spray from 6 inches away; then blot with a wet washcloth. Afterwards, compliment your budding Picasso and offer him/her a pile of scrap paper.

  2. Permanent Marker on the Wood Floor
    Believe it or not, toothpaste will save you. Not gel, but the white paste kind. Rub it on, then wipe off with a wet paper towel. Your floors will be minty fresh. (You can also fix scratched DVDs this way.)

  3. Pee Soaked into a Mattress
    Some say most accidents happen within a mile or two of home. I say it's when you forget to put the waterproof mattress pad on your kid's bed.Thankfully vinegar will take care of things nicely. Just soak the area with the white distilled vinegar from your pantry. Let sit for a while; then blot with a wet towel. Your child may smell like a potato chip, but there are worse offenses.

  4. Desitin Rubbed Into the Carpet
    Do you have a child who mistakes tushy cream for sunscreen (both are made with zinc oxide) and feels compelled to protect his or her rug from the harmful rays of the sun? Fear not. Just wipe up as much as you can with a baby wipe; then generously sprinkle baking soda over the stained surface. Let it sit for several hours. Then take a wet washcloth with some mild dish soap, get down on your hands and knees, and curse your child under your breath as you think of all the other things you could be doing rather than rubbing furiously at the carpet.

  5. Gum in the Rug
    And while we're on the subject of sticky stuff in flooring fibers, peanut butter works like magic. It seems like adding fuel to the fire, but the oils in peanut butter release the "stick" in the gum. Rub some creamy peanut butter into the carpet fibers; then use a clean cloth to wipe it up. Of course, you'll then need to clean up the peanut butter -- but a wet cloth with some mild dish soap will do the trick. Peanut butter also works for getting gum out of hair.

  6. Sap on the Windshield
    Peanut butter to the rescue again! Rub on, rub off. Peanut butter will also take sap off your hands.

  7. Oil Stains on Clothing
    The same stuff that takes the shine off your nose will remove the dripped olive oil from your pants or shirt. Simply sprinkle some cosmetic face powder onto the stain and rub gently. Wait a few hours and then "flick" the powder (which has absorbed the oil) away. You may need to repeat this. Then put some detergent on the spot and throw the clothing in the wash.

  8. Temporary Tattoos
    That adorable picture of a dinosaur on a skateboard your 4-year-old pressed onto the back of your hand? Not so adorable on a job interview. Baby oil will get it right off. Just don't do this in front of your child.

Do you have any additional tricks readers may benefit from? Share your wisdom by leaving a comment. And then stock up on those essentials: toothpaste, vinegar, hairspray, peanut butter, etc.

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Comments (30)
Photo of Susan S.
Susan S.
Does anyone have any suggestions on how to remove paint splatters from a cement patio floor? Or does it have to be ground out?
Posted: July 05, 2014 at 3:51 AM
Photo of Susan S.
Susan S.
The first tip here frm Marie Z reminded me that an eraser (the white kind) cleans silver. I tried it on a pair of silver salt & pepper shakers. Takes off all the black tarnish and leaves a shine like you wouldn't believe! Vinegar removes rust and if mixed with water, makes a good, non-toxic bird cage/poop cleaner. For the garden rose bush that has mildew, spray your leftover beer (or buy it cheap at the .99 Cent Store) on the leaves in hot, bright sun. Removes the mildew and leaves a shine on the leaves (you have to keep at it though until the mildew fungus is gone from you garden). Hydrogen Peroxide removes blood from clothes if you let them soak in it overnight.
Posted: July 05, 2014 at 3:49 AM
Photo of Marie Z.
Marie Z.
My mother told me that using a eraser sponge to clean windows is great. I did use one when cleaning windows for a client and it worked great at removing tree sap. She also told me that the rubber mats you keep under area rugs tend to lose their slip resistance to where the rug starts sliding. Just put the rubber mat in the washer, and hang them up to dry. They should not slide at all after washing them. Maybe in a few months you may need to wash them again.
It sure beats having to buy a new slip free mat to go under the rug.

Marie Z
Posted: April 18, 2014 at 8:15 PM
Photo of Lucia C.
Lucia C.
For the ones who like to use magic eraser from Mr. Clean on bathtubes to take off thr brown dirt spots of grease do not expend your money buying anymore just use a mildly wet microfiber towel and dawn dish soap (blue original one works thr best) and wash the the jacuzzi, bathtub or sinks and you'll see that without hard scrub all dirt comes off easily.
Posted: March 24, 2014 at 10:49 AM
Photo of Sandi C.
Sandi C.
i prefer wintergreen rubbing alcohol for my main cleaning product. 1/2 wintergreen rubbing alcohol, 1/2 water and one drop of dawn dish soap,. shake and spray and wipe. just don't use on wood it will dry it out. helps keep fingerprints off glass more than anything i have ever used.
Posted: February 26, 2014 at 2:42 AM
Cyndee W.
Well the miracle cleaner for me are these Stain Erasers, they are amazing! The lighter you press the better they clean, you can even buy the generic ones, they aren't expensive at all, and seriously try these, it will clean everything from water marks on your faucets to grease stains on your walls by your stove. Even the stainless steel things under your burners on an electric oven! I hope maids on this site read this because it will make their life so much easier. If you use them a lot use gloves when you clean, but other than that I use them for everything. Makes everything shiny to. :)
Posted: January 14, 2014 at 7:10 PM
Leah H.
1/2 cup of alcohol mixed with water in a spray bottle is a PERFECT way to clean and disinfect mirrors, windows, countertops, and stainless steel appliances. Use a lent free rag to wipe it off, and it sparkles and leaves no streaks. To clean faucets, shower heads, silver toilet handles, door knobs, cabinet handles (anything silver or stainless steel)use an already used dryer sheet to wipe off the spots, then use a lent free rag to wipe the dryer sheet residue off. It will shine like new!! I also use dryer sheets on baseboards and ceiling fans. Its a great way to dust, and smells wonderful. Coffee filters work like magic on flat screen TV's to remove smudges, and cause no harm. To mop any floor I use the "shark", and use a bit of the alcohol and hot water. To remove that soap or calcium build up on glass shower doors I use the alcohol/water, scrub with brush, rinse with water. If some residue is still there I use the dryer sheet, then rinse. Those are some really simple household items to clean with, and are eco-friendly...not to mention, CHEAP if you don't already have these items in your home!! It's pretty much all I use for my cleaning business, because it cant harm children or animals. I know my post is long, BUT I had to share these things. Hope it helps, and makes it simple =)
Posted: October 30, 2013 at 3:12 AM
Wonderful! I can finally get the sap off my windshield. I had never heard of that one before.
Posted: October 04, 2013 at 7:37 AM
Claudia D.
Here is one I didn't see mentioned. Water stains on wood furniture........spread mayonnaise all over the stain,leave on as long as possible (over night for old deep ones)when you wipe it off the ring will be gone! Claudia from Sarasota Fla
Posted: September 11, 2013 at 9:32 AM
Photo of Debra U.
Debra U.
For the ring around the toilet (where the water line is) Lower the water where the handle in on the bottom of the toilet on the back so the water is below the stain. Then use a magic eraser and scrub till it fades away. Also, Mr. Clean has a shower magic eraser this works to get the rust stain off caused by the bottom of shaving crean cans.
Posted: August 19, 2013 at 9:27 PM
Photo of Marie Z.
Marie Z.
For those of us who get eaten up by mosquitoes when we are outside with our
pets and kids, use pure vanilla flavoring on a cotton ball.Rip the cotton
ball in half,and stick a piece behind each ear.I take it even further by
dabbing some on my neck,face,behind my knee caps,and the inner part of the
fold of my inner arm area.Amazingly, it works,better than any expensive
bug repellent I ever purchased.It has to be pure vanilla with the
alcohol in it,or it won't work if it's imitation vanilla.Just don't get
it on your clothes. I am not sure if it would stain,but it may.

Marie Z
Posted: July 13, 2013 at 10:44 AM
Jean R.
Baking soda can be use for more than baking, It can be use to take away odors from the refrigerator, and for cleaning the carpet, just sprinkle it on wait 20 minutes and vacuum it up carpet looks as if it has been shampoo.
Posted: April 21, 2013 at 6:36 PM
Warren L.
A good trick I learned very quickly on with housecleaning. Use well "seasoned" rags or wash cloths. Freshly laundered cleaning rags, are more absorbent, and will leave less fuzzies left on your surfaces.
Just wash in warm water with a bit of detergent & bleach. Don't use fabric softners with your rags and towels in the wash, or dryer sheets in the dryer (it makes your cleaning rags, towels, and mop heads less absorbent and they will streak or cloud your mirrors, and shiny surfaces when it comes time to wipe those spills up.
Posted: April 15, 2013 at 7:53 PM
Tracy S.
My twins thought it would a great idea to put silly putty in their beds and clothes. I would love some suggestions to get it out of the clothes and sheets. Thanks!
Posted: February 25, 2013 at 3:28 PM
Photo of Alexandra N.
Alexandra N.
lemon oil will clean off leftover adhesive from stickers and will clean off non washable crayon!
Posted: January 05, 2013 at 10:53 PM
With the help of white sand you can remove rust very easily from rusty objects...I think it's a natural way to clean rust easily...jus try it then you will no...
Posted: December 18, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Photo of Nancy H.
Nancy H.
Someone here has mentioned Sol-U-Mel (by Melaleuca). I swear by it, too. :) Melaleuca products are great because they're non-toxic, eco-friendly, and they have great cleaning power for less amount and less $$$. Another great thing is that the products have multiple uses (even for non-cleaning purposes), eliminating the need to buy a whole bunch of products.
Posted: October 31, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Photo of Lorie Q.
Lorie Q.
Talena - To get red fruit punch koolaide rubbed ever so permanently into your beige carpet - OxiClean. But you will have to finesse it back to it's original color -and carefully. The carpet fibers are each twisted, so excessive rubbing will leave a spot of untwisted fibers that will be noticable. Dilute the oxiclean into a liquid and squirt onto the stain just like you see in the commercial. Then instead of rubbing, leave the oxiclean on the area several minutes and then blot the water with a towel until dry. If it doesn't disappear, repeat every few days. Be careful, the oxiclean has done too well of a job and can leave this area cleaner than the rest of your carpeting. In which case, the solution may be to clean the whole room, but hey it's better than red on beige!
Posted: August 14, 2012 at 9:22 PM
Photo of Tourashema T.
Tourashema T.
great suggestions guys very helpful!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: July 03, 2012 at 1:26 AM
One way to get gum out of you or someone elses hair is peanut butter. It sounds weird but it works.
Posted: June 29, 2012 at 1:46 PM
Photo of Gaylynn C.
Gaylynn C.
I need advice on how to clean an interior cement fireplace. Any suggestions would be nice.
Posted: June 28, 2012 at 4:26 PM
Photo of Carol W.
Carol W.
You know the old Murphys oil soap would leave a flim on hardwood floors. Great news they have a new Murphys oil soap thin not thick like the old one I can only find it at Home Depot LOVE LOVE IT no more flim on hardwood floors looks great. Also another suggestion is when you clean a hardwood floor under the kicthen talble use the new Murphys oil soap then after it dries use the Pledge hardwood clean its great no wax in it use it and floors like like brand new
Posted: June 28, 2012 at 3:13 PM
Photo of Carol W.
Carol W.
Another trick to make your disposal to smell clean is use dish soap works great.
Posted: June 26, 2012 at 4:29 PM
Talena F.
My kids took a red fruit punch koolaide packet and dropped on carpent and tried to clean up mess with water and wash cloth now I have a huge red sticky mess on my beige carpet! Suggestions please!!
Posted: May 12, 2012 at 9:28 PM
Renee Y.
If you have a garbage disposal, cut up a lemon and put it down the disposal. It cleans it and makes it smell good :) Also, for stinky pipes use baking soda and vinegar.
Posted: May 04, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Rachna V.
Glass cleaner is my answer to pen marks on the sofa and even dirt and stain on my carpet. I spray some on the high traffic area and vacuum over it! It's cheap and work like a miracle.
Posted: April 24, 2012 at 1:12 AM
Becki C.
A good enzyme spray will "eat up" many of the common stains on your carpet. You'll be surprised how many stains are organic and removed by enzymes. It's also safe for kids and pets!
Posted: January 11, 2012 at 1:40 PM
Jb O.
Great stain remover is SoluMel which has tea tree oil. Gets out perma markers, paint etc out of carpet, off of wall and even out of clothes. I call it my miracle cleaner.
Posted: November 28, 2011 at 11:17 AM
Michal J.
Dawn dish soap is a one-time needed oil/grease spot treatment for your clothes. Just smear the spot with the soap and toss it in the wash. Voila! Stain removed!
Posted: November 09, 2011 at 2:57 PM
Photo of Natasha M.
Natasha M.
Alcohol takes out ink stains from just about anything, but especially clothes and furniture. Just let it soak for awhile and then wash. It's great for kids who like to write on everything, including their pants and shirts!
Posted: May 25, 2011 at 7:20 PM
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