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3 Quick From-Your-Pantry Fixes For Emergency Kid Messes

You don't have to freak out and run for the toxic chemicals. There are great stain-fighting solutions right in your pantry and fridge.

Ah, children. They fill our homes with love and laughter. They also fill the non-garbage-disposal side of the sink with mushy cereal and the carpet fibers with various stain-creating substances.

But the next time your kids make a big boo-boo, don’t waste time yelling and throwing a mom-sized tantrum. Chances are good you’ve got the solution right in your cupboard. Quick, try one of these natural and non-toxic fixes that have saved my rear (and my carpet…and my sofa) dozens of times over:

The Mess: Your teenage son walked out of the shower and tossed his wet towel on your grandmother’s heirloom mahogany buffet table. Now there are big white spots on the wood.

The Solution: Mayonnaise – it’s good for more than just sandwiches! Get to the wood as fast as you can after it has a run-in with a wet towel, spill, or sweaty cup – the sooner you get the mayo on the better chance it will have to work. Rub mayo into the white spot and surrounding areas well with a paper towel or cloth. Press the towel onto the white spot and leave it for 15 minutes, then check. Every time I’ve done this on a fresh water mark it’s disappeared completely the first time. Sometimes it works to fade older stains – not quite as effective, but worth a try.

The Mess: Your four-year-old decided to use his shirt…and the tablecloth…and his brother’s shirt to wipe the fried chicken grease off his hands and face.

The Solution: Vinegar. Toss the whole oily mess in the sink, and saturate the greasy areas with white vinegar. Later, toss it in the washing machine on the hottest setting the fabric will allow. (Oil-based stains come out better with warmer water, as opposed to protein-based stains like blood and poop, which can be “cooked” into the fabric if washed in hot water.)

The Mess: Soda or punch on the carpet. Who knows how it happened? Nobody will ‘fess up because they all know they’re not supposed to have drinks in the living room.

The Solution: Salt. Again, speed is key here – if the liquid has had time to really soak in or dry it might not work, but if the spill is fresh, reach for the economy-sized canister of Morton’s. (A salt shaker isn’t going to do the trick here.) Pour a layer of salt over the spill and watch the stain get soaked right up out of the carpet. Repeat until the salt doesn’t seem to be drawing liquid out of the carpet fibers anymore, then vacuum it up. You’ll be left with a much more manageable stain to deal with.

There are about a million recommended methods out there for getting the rest of the stain up, but I mix about one part salt with two parts white vinegar or water, saturate the stain, and then blot using a towel twisted tightly over my knuckle, pressing my knuckle into the stain and “rocking” it, and repeating until the stain is gone. This entire process can also work for upholstery.

What are your favorite tips for taking care of kid messes and stains?

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