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Stain Removal 101

How to remove the toughest kids’ messes

New York’s most famous dry cleaner, Madame Paulette, has a rep for taking care of the fashion industry’s precious duds. As it turns out, owner John Mahdessian also knows a thing or two about kids’ messes. “The best action is a quick reaction,” says Mahdessian, who encourages people to treat stains as soon as they happen. Specifically, here’s what Mahdessian has to say about some of the most notoriously stubborn stains.

Play-Doh in the carpet: Remove as much of the Play-Doh as you can, then use a clear, dye-free nail polish remover (not the pink or purple kind) to blot out whatever’s left. 

Grass stains on denim: Pre-treat the grass stain with warm water and vinegar or water and rubbing alcohol. Rub the mixture directly into the stain, then wash it as you normally would.

Spaghetti sauce, chocolate, or grease from pizza or chicken fingers: Place a white absorbent cloth under the stain. Create a solution with: 2 TBSP CLEAR DISHWASHING LIQUID (like Palmolive) + 1TBSP WHITE VINEGAR. Dab the stain lightly to break down and pass through to cloth, and then flush with luke-warm water.

Stickers on glass, plastic, or metal: Apply an alcohol-based product such as nail polish remover or 91-percent rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth and saturate the sticker; allow it to sit for a minute or so then peel the sticker from the surface. Oil-based products such as cooking oil, mineral oil, and baby oil can also be used.  

Stickers on wooden furniture: Saturate the sticker with furniture polish and let stand one to two minutes; wipe away.

Crayon on walls: Apply baking soda to a wet cloth and rub stain away. (Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is also good in this case, but be careful on matte walls.)

Gum in hair: Apply creamy peanut butter over the area with a toothbrush, as it is quicker and less messy than using fingers. Use the toothbrush to work the peanut butter in using long, downward strokes. If necessary, use a spoon behind the affected hair to act as a firm base against which to brush the peanut butter. Use a dry towel to pull on the peanut butter, which will slide out with the gum. The less dried-out the gum, the easier to remove. Wash out the peanut butter with shampoo.

Shoe scuffs on walls: Apply white toothpaste with a wet sponge to rub out the scuffs.  (Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is also good in this case, but be careful on matte walls.)

Blood or sweat: Place a white towel or cloth under the garment. Soak the stain with ICE COLD water using a Q-tip or small rag, depending on the size of the stain. (Never use hot or warm water on these types of stains) Create a solution with: 4 PARTS WATER (5 oz) + 1 PART AMMONIA (1 oz) + 1 PART PEROXIDE (1 oz ) + 1 PART COLOR-SAFE DETERGENT (like Ivory Liquid) (1 oz). Then, use the Q-tip or rag to lightly tap on the stain, which will push it through to the cloth underneath, rotating the absorbent cloth as the stain comes out. 

Ink and markers on fabric: Depending on the material and type of ink (oil-based, water-based, glue-based), these types of stains can be very difficult to remove at home. Mahdessian suggests using the Madame Paulette Stain Kit, or bringing the garment to your local professional.