15 Natural Solutions for Kid Messes

Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.

Do you have kids or pets?” the carpet cleaners always ask. That seems to be the universal measuring stick for how clean your carpets and walls are going to be (or not be).

Kids are notoriously messy, and I do believe they’ve earned the reputation justly.

From a variety of bodily fluids on the carpet to crayon on the walls and crumbs mortaring the cracks in the table, moms have lots to say about the messes kids make. When I asked on Facebook about kid mess examples, I got lots of fodder for this post. Here are the highlights:

When Things Hit Your Carpet

Photo by Andrew Eick

Blood: Hydrogen peroxide diluted with water; soak a rag and press lightly. (Always spot test in a corner, but on light carpet this is generally effective and safe.)

Mud: Vinegar and water; hopefully you have a spray bottle of this anyway, diluted about 1:10 or so. Squirt and SCRUB! The sooner you get to this stain, the better your chances. A caution: make sure you don’t use vinegar on stains that might be ink or color based, as it could set them in permanently.

Poop: Biokleen Bac-Out is a good first line of defense, but that awful yellow breastmilk poop sometimes offers a tougher challenge. I got stains out recently by mixing up a solution of hot water and oxygen bleach (let it cool so it doesn’t set the stain with hot water), soak a rag and let it sit on the spot. The problem? Now the spots are cleaner than the rest of the carpet, so you kind of need a room-sized rag to really do it right!

Urine: Water, soak it up, water, soak it up, then sprinkle with baking soda. Allow to dry and vacuum. More miraculous uses for baking soda HERE with some great ideas for kid messes from other moms in the comments.

Vomit: Um. Yeah. Not my favorite thing to clean up. Try any or all of the above???

Steam vacuuming: I recommend just hot water, but there are a bunch of possible ideas for a natural carpet cleaner for a steam vac over at Kitchen Stewardship.

Two different readers had dried banana in their carpet. Yuck. I’d soak it up then try oxygen bleach. That stuff is nasty!

Crafts Gone Wrong


Photo by IngaMun

Crayon on tables, walls, counters, chairs, etc. (hard surfaces): A little baking soda and water does the trick.

Markers on hard surfaces: Baking soda works, too. I even tested this on a wooden chair just for you guys – you should have seen my 3-year-old’s face when I grabbed a marker and colored on the chair! “You are not supposed to do that, Mama!”

Markers/Pen on fabrics: Rubbing alcohol blotted on with a cloth, and patience. Just keep doing it over and over, and it should work like a charm. I’d stay far away from vinegar spray for markers as there’s a good chance it will set the stain.

Stickers where they shouldn’t be: This one’s for the peanut gallery – what do you use to get stickers off (since I’m guessing my Goo Gone in the basement is not so “natural”)?

Clothing Stains

Spray stain treater: Biokleen Bac-Out diluted 1:1 with water in a spray bottle; right away, rub it in, put in hamper.

Soak for persistent stains: Oxygen bleach in hot water; soak for 1-24 hours, especially handy for baby poop.

Grease stains: undiluted dishwasher soap or concentrated soap. I ran some tests on various options with grease spots, (my nemesis!) and have enough to report for a whole post. Coming at a later date!

When You Wish Bleach Was Natural…

What do you use to sanitize after a poopy accident (on floor, in tub, carpet, etc.)?

I’ve written here before about how to naturally clean the house after illness, but basically:

Hard surface sanitizing: I rely on my bottles of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide water, sprayed one after the other. A dash of tea tree oil in a spray bottle of water is a disinfectant, too.

Carpet and upholstery: I described what I’d do to get the yuck out above, and I guess I cross my fingers, use vinegar, then baking soda and hope that the germs are gone after someone pukes on the couch. Blech.

I have to admit, the last time I used bleach, it was when the toilet – full of number two – overflowed and poured into the basement laundry room, which was also where I stored extra food. I just couldn’t fathom anything but bleach for the job.

I recently gave away my last bottle of bleach, and the only thing I think I’d ever use it for again would be to sanitize water in an emergency situation, and then I’d filter it right back out with my Berkey.

What are your natural solutions to the messiness of childhood?

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52 Comments

  1. Rachel

    I would try a hair dryer for the stickers. Blast hot air at it for a minute to warm/loosen the adhesive then carefully peel off.

    • Bernice @ The Stressed Mom

      You could soften with the heat and then use a razor blade to scrape.

      This isn’t exactly natural, but toothpaste can get crayon or pencil off many surfaces.

    • Casey

      I have used the hair dryer, scrape off as much as you can, and then used witch hazel to get off the rest of the gunk.

  2. Anna@The DIY Mom

    I love vinegar diluted in water and use it for cleaning so many things around the house.

  3. Amy S

    rubbing alcohol will loosen stickers/adhesives

    • Katie Kimball

      Amy,
      I wondered about rubbing alcohol – good to know!
      Thanks, Katie

      • Amy S

        Of course, as always, spot test to make sure you won’t remove paint or varnish! 🙂

  4. Megan

    I’m looking forward to the results of your grease stain test! My toddler’s shirts seem to constantly have little grease stains – you’d think he ate nothing but deep-fried foods. I seriously don’t know how he does it, but would love suggestions on dealing with them!!

  5. Kathleen K

    What about Mr. Clean magic eraser? I have no idea how “natural” it is, but oh my, I LOVE THE THING! Painted walls and cabinets come clean, usually without removing the paint.

    And you’ve just outlined the reasons I hate carpet in any room where food/crafts happen. Actually, I don’t like carpet in any room but the budget isn’t allowing changes right now. (Hey, we live in the South, we don’t need the insulation of carpet!)

    • Katie Kimball

      Kathleen,
      I’m really not sure – I got nervous after reading about all the facial burns on kids when they foolishly rubbed their faces, but a reader recently told me that there aren’t chemicals in it, just a super abrasive surface. I haven’t found it to do any better than baking soda though – you should do a head-to-head test and let us know! 😉 Katie

      • Cory

        Don’t know how available this is, but I love Buncha Farmer’s stain removal stick. Just a couple soaps, borax, and some essential oils. So far it’s removed black raspberry stains from the carpet, bike grease from pants, ink from some shorts, and mysterious waxy red spots that got transferred from my iron to my husband’s pants…

    • Nicole

      I’m pretty sure the magic eraser is bleach-based, which is why I personally stay away from it. I agree about carpet. We live in a house that is all tile now, and while I wish we had carpet in the bedrooms for coziness, I sure don’t miss carpet in our eating area!

      • Holly

        The original Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is just melamine foam. It is often used for sound-proofing music studios and as an insulation. It works the same way as sandpaper or baking soda, as a mild abrasive. It will wear down and flake apart like a pencil eraser, and just like a pencil eraser I wouldn’t recommend snorting or consuming it.

        I love baking soda for most everything, but there’s nothing like a magic eraser for some jobs! I like being able to hand one to my 3 year old and have him clean up his own messes without creating another one. I figure the melamine foam is no more appetizing than baking soda, and since he’s being supervised and lectured the whole time he’s scrubbing, I think there is pretty minimal risk.

        • Nicole

          Thanks for the info, Holly. That’s what I get for assuming!

  6. Sarah

    For stickers, you can use rubbing alcolhol. I don’t know if that would be considered natural, either, but it usually works.

  7. RaisingZ

    What a great post!! This is being bookmarked for sure 🙂 Thanks Katie

  8. Julia

    For stickers and adhesive residue, I would scrape off as much as you can, and then smear on some coconut oil (I had a jar that went rancid that I keep around for this purpose) and let it sit for a while. Then sprinkle on some baking soda and rub off with a dry cloth. Works like a charm, especially on all the gummy residue the day care labels leave on our baby bottles.

  9. Katieliz

    Thanks for all these tips! Anyone have a brilliant solution for getting stubborn bandaids off of stuffed animals…?? Just the sticky parts are left 🙂

    • Amy S

      I know that shampoo can help loosen a bandaid from skin to ease its removal from hairy arms; maybe try that on the stuffed animal?

  10. Shalene

    Great article Katie! You’re my go-to girl for so many things of this nature. About Magic Eraser, it is melamine foam and contains formaldehyde. I’d be cautious with it. We don’t use it at all now that I know about the formaldehyde. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melamine_foam

    • Casey

      Thank you so much for the information. I remember searching for what they were made of when they came out, but couldn’t find anything. My son reacts to formaldehyde, so I am now going to toss that box!

  11. Jennifer

    I’ve always used olive oil for stickers. Coconut oil is a good idea too 🙂

  12. Jessica

    We had just moved into this house when my little ones got into a box I was unpacking and ended up putting many of those craft foam stickers all over the laminate wood flooring in my entryway! They were so stuck, bits of the foam would tear off when i tried different things but there were these huge globs of white foam everywhere, and one day (they were there for a few weeks!) a friend said I should try PEANUT BUTTER! And I was ecstatic to see it work. I spread a thin layer over each spot to set overnight, then used hot water and a cloth to wipe it clean and scrub. I did it twice and every tiny bit came off. So amazing!
    (Might work for those stickers on the stuffed animal?)

  13. Myrnie

    I can’t imagine potty training without Folex or Kids N Pets….I have no idea what’s in it, I think it’s enzymes. Do you know? I think it’s natural and harmless, but can’t find much information. It seems to simply eat body fluids, it’s kind of magic 🙂 Also takes care of grease, chocolate, etc.

  14. Emily @ Live Renewed

    The best sticker, or anything sticky, remover that I’ve found is citrus essential oil – like lemon or sweet orange. Just a drop or two and the stickiness rubs right off! Better than Goo Be Gone! Great post, love all these tips!

    • Krissa

      I was going to suggest the same thing! Lemon essential oil works great for getting sticker gunk off. I love using it to get labels off of jars too.

      • Tamara

        Oooh, good idea, on getting labels off food jars! 🙂

      • rosebriars

        Ditto on the citrus oils, I reuse all my glass bottles and it always does the trick to get the label sticky off.

  15. Kristina Carlet

    Cooking oil works for sticker removal. Of course you may not want to put oil on all surfaces (walls!), but it’s great for hard surfaces like glass or wood!

  16. susan

    Fels Naptha Soap is amazing at removing grease stains – it is my new laundry stain remover. It’s cheap, been around for over 100 years and is wonderful. My daughter had ground in dirt on a pair of cotton pants, the Fels Naptha Soap removed the dirt so well that it revealed another stain that happened a few months earlier that you couldn’t see anymore.

  17. Heather S.

    It’s not the greenest of options, but kitty litter is great for cleaning up vomit on harder surfaces. It absorbs the nastiness, then you can just sweep it up and disinfect as usual. Not sure how much good this would be on carpet, upholstery, etc. but it might help!

  18. Megan

    Is the aluminum in baking soda a non-issue when used for cleaning?

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Megan,
      Baking powder has the aluminum issue, not baking soda, so it’s all good! 🙂 Katie

      • Heidi

        This information is more for baking and not cleaning, but I recently wondered about baking powder with aluminum in it. So I set off to look for other options and actually found some without it. It is called Argo double acting baking powder and I found it at Marc’s Discount store (near Cleveland, OH).

        Thanks for all your posts, Katie!

  19. Cheryl

    I used Simple Green (hearing that it is Not So Green) to get the melted crayons off the rug. Not a spot of color was left after using that! Lesson learned: don’t nap in the sun on the carpet while your toddler colors next to you. 🙂

  20. Clara

    I love using a combo of baking soda and coconut oil (mixed together to make a paste!) instead of Goo Gone for stickers, etc. It works like a CHARM and doesn’t damage the surface (like rubbing alcohol sometimes can).

  21. Charise Cole

    I was an elementary school teacher for several years and all the teachers kept a small bag of kitty litter in our classrooms specifically intended for vomit. It absorbs the liquid quickly, hides the odor, and all that needs to be done is to vacuum it up with a vacuum that has a hose attachment. Afterwards follow up with a vinegar and water solution.

  22. Marilee

    I know this isn’t natural, but we have a white board in our house (I know I’m not the only one!), and my son accidentally colored all over it with permanent marker. My daughter discovered that if you color over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker, then erase, it takes it right out! You have to do this a few times, but our white board has never looked so good!
    As far as natural cleaning goes, my staples are baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. 🙂

    • Heather

      An easier, less time-consuming way is to simply wipe the board with rubbing alcohol. It’ll wipe right off, no problems. We did this on plasticized maps during canoe trips – our route wouldn’t wipe off in the rain, but we could clean off the map when we got home. 🙂

  23. Nan Balfour

    Ever since I read that bleach is considered a pesticide, I vowed to never again allow it in my home. As a busy mom, volunteer and part-time employee, I just don’t have the time or energy to mix and measure natural products. I am blessed to have found Melalauca, The Wellness Company. They are a manufacturer whose priority is safe, healthy products for the home, body and environment. They are the real deal! Detergents made with enzymes instead of ammonia, germ-fighters made with thyme and lemon instead of bleach. Awesome stuff! All customers are referral based and I am happy to refer anyone wanting to know more. nanbalfour@yahoo.com

  24. Cindy

    For stickers on mirrors you can use newspaper to rub over them. I didn’t believe this until my daughters friend removed the stickers that covered her dresser mirror.

    I’ve read rubbing a grease stain with a piece of chalk will remove the stain.

    There are a lot of good ideas here. I especially like the post about Lemon EO to remove labels off jars. I have soaked them in hot water, scraped what I could with my thumbnail and then used a scrub sponge to remove the rest of the adhesive. I’ll try Lemon EO next time and give my thumbnails a break!

  25. Lizi

    for grease, my grandma told me to crush up a small piece of chalk and rub it in, let it sit for awhile, and then wash it. works every time! not sure how natural all chalk is- i have sort of let many grease stains just go nowadays….but maybe something like bentonite clay would do the trick? well if you have some white chalk laying around, it will work. just do it before you wash.
    PS- Katie, i have been using soap nuts since your last post. and, ahem, it just don’t do much for stains, does it? okay it doesn’t do anything for stains!! do you pretreat with bac-out or what’s your protocol? frankly, as much as i wanted to love, love, love these soap nuts, i have been underwhelmed. and i soak them in hot water like a “tea”, agitate twice as long, as never overfill the washer. i even use more than recommended- if i don’t my laundry does not smell clean. if you have any ideas, i would appreciate it. anybody? 🙂

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Lizi,
      I guess I’ve always been proactive about stains, finding that no laundry soap really gets them out anyway. ?? I use Bac-Out as a pretreat and soak many with oxygen bleach and hot water. I did think the soap nuts knocked out odors, so maybe we have some different water going on… I’m bummed that you’re underwhelmed…I hope you didn’t buy a humongous batch! Selestial Soaps, a local Michigan company, is my next favorite…although I don’t know what it does on stains, either, as I try not to let stains get through. 🙂 Katie

      • Lizi

        you are right, certainly not all detergents get all stains- i of course pretreat the biggies- tomato sauce, blueberry smoothy, dirt, blood, etc. but i have noticed even very minor stains came right through- faint washable watercolors and minor dirt or food seemed untouched. also some campfire clothes came through reeeeeeking of smoke as if they had not been washed at all, and my cloth dipes were still a bit stinky. but since i upped my soap nuts to 7 instead of 5, that helped a LOT. maybe i should wash in warm instead of cold? i still like them and will use them for sure. frankly, i know it sounds lazy, but the whole steeping a hot “tea” and remembering to set back the agitate function to get them to work is a small pain at times so i want to experiment grinding them up and steeping a batch once a week and just use that liquid. i did buy 4 lbs so i am committed!! but i want to def get the bac-out, for the real toughies. thanx KS 🙂

        • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

          Lizi,
          I tend to just run hot water for a wee bit while I’m sorting, let the bag soak right in the washer, and then turn it to cold as I add clothes. I’m the queen of lazy! I have no idea what the agitate function is all about though – maybe I’m missing a step, or maybe you can skip that one! I always just run a normal load… ??? Katie

  26. Jenn @ Dishrag Diaries

    Stickers where they shouldn’t be? Lemon essential oil!!! (I’ve only used doTerra, but it works great! Helps with laundry stains, too!)

  27. Sasha

    I’ve recently found that putting poopy newborn clothes out in the sun to dry
    and then washing afterward gets the stains right out! If there is still a small stain after washing I put them out in the sun again and it does the trick! 🙂 the poop turns green (changing from mustard yellow) and that’s when its ready to be washed.

  28. sara

    I love the pet enzyme products. I think they just contain enzymes, alcohol and natural scent. They work for most bodily fluid messes, human or pet. Doesn’t always work on stains from food dyes but I like knowing it will take care of any odor.

  29. alyssa

    any suggestions on how to remove washable marker off of walls

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