Getting Play-Doh Out Of Carpet (And Other Hacks To Clean Up After Your Kids)

Before something truly messy happens, read these tried and true tips from moms who've been there and done that.

October 30, 2017
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I have been known to try and vacuum messes right off the kids. They don’t appreciate it, but oh well.

When I was six years old, my parents built a house. My dad was a design engineer with a penchant for architecture, and between my mom’s dreams and his skills, they designed the whole thing from scratch. It was perfect for our family, and my two sisters and I especially loved it—mostly because there was a giant loft playroom.

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We spent many of our younger days up there, and even though it was carpeted, my mom let us get creative with Play-Doh on occasion. While I don’t recall any mishaps, I do vividly remember a large dried patch of neon orange Play-Doh crusted into the carpet right near the stairs—the mishaps must have happened.

Childhood messes are often like that—an eternal memory, marked into our cars or homes or clothing for the rest time. I’ve experienced it myself with my own children—in our case, it was permanent marker meets Daddy’s desk.

My daughter is not a troublesome child. I was surprised and a little horrified, then, when I found her wildly scribbling all over her Daddy’s desk one day. Her dad had been letting her climb onto his lap and use highlighters to draw pictures, so I can only assume that she thought the Sharpie was up for grabs, too.

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When it comes to cleaning up, a marker is a much different beast than a highlighter. Good news is, we found a way to clean it up—that desk is as good as new! Not a mark in sight!

Have you run into kid messes like Play-Doh in the carpet or Sharpie where it doesn’t belong? Are you ready to hear some cleaning hacks that really work?

I know a few that I’m excited to pass on, and a handful of wise moms are spilling their best hacks, too. Thank goodness we have a way to collaborate, learn, and clean up the unavoidable kid messes! It takes a village!

Get Play-Doh out of Your Carpet

Laura, a mom of four, has a hack that’s seems counterintuitive when it comes to a Play-Doh mess. She said that if Play-Doh makes its way into the carpet, “get the Play-Doh wet again. Then, it comes out easily.”

Opt for hot water and let it sit for a while. Then take a fresh piece of Play-Doh from the tub and use a small ball of that to press onto the mess. It adheres to the wet Play-Dog and grabs it out of the carpet.

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If the Play-Doh stained the carpet, Leah, a mom of two, recommended making an OxyClean paste (a big scoop of OxyClean and a few tablespoons of water) and letting it sit overnight.

“Just make sure the kids and pets stay away while the paste soaks in. You don’t want to add a call to poison control on top of cleaning Play-Doh,” she says.

Remove Permanent Marker From Hard Surfaces

Before attempting to remove Sharpie, it’s important know what kind of surface you’re dealing with: some methods can strip paint or remove the finish. In our case, we had a dark wood melamine desk, and a quick scrub with acetone did the trick.

Leila, a mom of two, got a bit more creative.

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“I’ve used aerosol hairspray on a doll to get Sharpie off, and also the kitchen counter,” she says. “Just spray it on and let it soak for a minute before wiping with a damp cloth. I also used Mentadent toothpaste to get Sharpie off of my coffee table! It didn’t damage the finish or anything!”

Even though I’ve had luck with acetone, I much prefer to less abrasive option of hairspray and toothpaste. A middle school janitor also recommended the product Graffiti Off for Sharpie stains.

Clean up Glitter

Naomi, a mom of one, says that a lint roller works magic when it comes to glitter spills. Perhaps the biggest tip when it comes to glitter, though, is what happens before the mess.

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When starting a glitter project, make sure the crafting happens on a flat surface—a cookie sheet, a large piece of newspaper, or at least a table without grooves. That way, if a spill happens, you can more easily scoop the glitter up.

De-Sand the Car

The beach trip is always a blast. The clean up, not so much. Sand, sand, everywhere!

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Evie, mom of three, said that, “Sand cleans up with baby powder.” Just sprinkle baby powder, let it sit for a minute or two, and then vacuum it all up!

Make Poo Stains Disappear

Multiple moms who use cloth diapers swear by the power of the sun when it comes to poo stains. And they would know—they deal with the stuff a

If you have a pesky poo stain that just won’t come out in the wash, wait for the next sunny day, wet the item, and allow it to sit in the sunlight until the stain is gone.

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Lorna, a mom of one, also shared that “a bar of Lava soap [works greats] for underwear stains … It’s an old fashioned thing my Grandma taught me! Lava soap has finely ground pumice stone mixed in, and it really works! Although, it can wear out the fabric depending on how often the item needs scrubbing.”

Soak Away the Blood Stains

Two words: hydrogen peroxide.

“I gave birth to a 9 pound baby … in the bed of a rental. Hydrogen peroxide got rid of all the evidence,” she says. “Cleaning deposit fully refunded.”

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I, too, have had amazing results with hydrogen peroxide when it comes to blood stains. Place the stained item in a plugged sink and pour 25 to 50 percent of a bottle of hydrogen peroxide onto the stain. Let it sit, and then wash like normal in your next load of laundry. Cross my heart, the blood will disappear!

Save Clothing From Berry Stains

The key to dealing with stains is often prevention. Jeanette, a mom of one, says her son “wears a nylon, long-sleeved art smock instead of a bib during meal time. It keeps laundry stains to a minimum.”

My own mom was a big fan of saying “shirts off!” when she served something extra messy or potentially stain-inducing. Berries, spaghetti sauce, juicy watermelon, cherries, you name it, “shirts off!” Sometimes, it was easier for her to plan a post-meal bath rather than to with difficult stains.

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If you do get a berry stain, consider following one of Kitchn’s berry stain removal method: boil water in a tea kettle, turn the stained garment inside out and pull it taut over a large bowl, and affix it to the bowl with a rubber band. Place that bowl in the sink, hold the tea kettle as high as possible, and “flush the stain with a constant stream of boiling water.”

Get Dry Erase Markers Off Of Clothes

Erika, a mom of three, says dry erase markers have become popular at her kid’s school. Those markers, when paired with laminated practice sheets make for a great learning opportunity. What they’re not great for is kids who don’t always keep their markers on the intended surface.

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“Murphy’s oil soap worked like a champ, with very little effort, and ended up saving lots of clothes,” Erika says. “Especially my daughter’s tutus!”

Remove Fruit Snacks From The Carpet

Tasha, a mom of two, has had the lovely task of getting stuck fruit snacks out of her carpet.

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“I used a super hot rag and placed it on the fruit snack for a minute. It came right out,” she says.

Simple enough. Thanks, Tara.

Solve the After Dinner Rice Mess

Did you serve rice to the toddler for dinner and not think of the messy implications? Well, Traci, mom of three, has a quick fix for you.

“If you have rice on the floor after dinner, sprinkle some cornmeal over it,” she says. “Wait 30 seconds and then it sweeps up nicely.”

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The cornmeal binds to the sticky rice, making clean up similar to how you would sweep up dry cereal from the floor. Man, feeding toddlers is quite the exercise in housekeeping!

For Everything Else

Sarah, a mom of two, offered some wise advice in regards to cleaning up after kids.

“I am no stain pro, but I do hang a bottle of Shout next to every hamper. So, before clothes go in, they get sprayed for spots. It has helped prevent many of tougher stains later,” she says.

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“Also,” she continues, “I am a lover of my vacuum. I bought a cheaper, lightweight vacuum with a hose. I literally suck everything up: Glitter, play dough, rice, crackers…I have been known to try and vacuum messes right off the kids. They don’t appreciate it, but oh well.”

The little kid years (and sometimes the big kid years, too) are full of messes.

But don’t let it get you down. For every mess, there’s a tried and true cleaning hack floating around the mommy-verse.

Are you dealing with a particularly tragic mess? Do you have a secret cleaning hack? Don’t keep your wildest messes or best fixes to yourself—we want to know!

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