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Halloween Messes, From Blood To Vomit, Cleaned

SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

It is my personal belief—and I am absolutely not wrong about this—that November 1 is the worst day of the year, and here’s why: It means there’s a whole year until next Halloween. And all sane people know that Halloween is the best day of the year!

On the bright side, for me at least, there are a whole lot of fun messes that need to be cleaned up come November 1. These are some of the most common ones, and what you should do about them.

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Halloween is, like many holidays, actually kind of dangerous! If you end up bruised and bloodied for whatever reason I’m not asking (okay yes I’m asking!), there are actually a lot of products that work well on real bloodstains, but the most versatile solution is to use an enzymatic stain pretreatment product like Zout.

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Fake blood is made with a combination of corn syrup and dyeit’s the dye that causes most of the problem, though the stickiness of the corn syrup is also a mess. Fortunately, The Thing for dye and pigment stains (and you’ll see this come up over and over again in this column) is rubbing alcoholwhich will also help to cut through the stickiness of the corn syrup. Rubbing alcohol is also The Thing for removing makeup, regardless of whether it’s the regular stuff or the greasepaint-type makeup often used on Halloween, from clothes and sheets.

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If the fake blood is on a hard surface, spray the rubbing alcohol directly on it and allow it a minute or two to break down the stickiness before wiping away with damp paper towels, a sponge, or rag. Then wipe the area with dry paper towels. If the fake blood is on clothing or sheets, apply the rubbing alcohol to the stains and launder as usual.

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For makeup that’s rubbed off on clothing and sheets, spray rubbing alcohol directly on the stains and rub the fabric against itself. Then, hold it taut under the cold running water for a second or two, and rub again while under the stream of water.

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Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

Shout is The Thing for removing chocolate stains out of fabric, so if you wild out on Halloween candy, fear not: You can get it out of clothes, sheets, couches, etc. with pretty much no problem.

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For clothing and sheets, spray a small amount of it directly on the stain and rub the fabric against itselfthe chocolate should come right out. For furniture, spray the Shout on a damp rag and gently scrub at the stain. When the stain is gone, wipe away any residue with a clean, damp sponge, or rag.

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If colored hairspray gets all over something that’s machine washable, like pillowcases, sheets, clothing or towels, start by flushing the stain with cold running water. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get colored hairspray out. But usually not! Enter: our pal rubbing alcohol.

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If, after flushing the stain, it’s still there, spray rubbing alcohol directly on it and rub the fabric against itself. Then, hold it taut under the cold running water for a second or two, and rub again while under the stream of water. If the colored hairspray has gotten on furniture or carpet, use a cotton ball or a rag to apply the rubbing alcohol to the stain and repeat as needed until it is no longer visible.

To remove colored hairspray from hard surfaces like bathtubs, showers, sinks or walls, use Soft Scrub, which contains a small amount of bleach, and a damp sponge to scrub the stains away.

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A Magic Eraser is also a good choice, especially for stained walls.

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Wigs, fursuits, and other furry costume elements like ears, tails, boots, etc. can be washed much like hair, with shampoo and cool water, though there are some differences in technique. You can use your regular shampoo, but for the best results, opt for something gentle and clear, like baby shampoo.

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When washing a wig, it’s important to wash with the grain of the hair to avoid tangling. After rinsing, shake the wig out but do not towel it dry (again, with the tangling). Fursuits, however, can be dried by rolling them up in a towel. Both wigs and fursuits can be blow dried using the cool setting onlyheat can cause the glue holding the hair/fur in place to melt.

A slicker brush can be used to comb out matted sections or tangles.

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Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez
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It’s too late to tell you now that you should put a plate or some other easily washable layer of protection between your pumpkin and your dining room table/wooden front porch/slate steps/etc. But now you know that for next year!

If your pumpkin has gone oozy and left behind a whole bunch of ooze on a hard surface, a little spray of WD-40 will allow you to wipe the ooze away, no problem.

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We opened with blood, and we’re closing with vomit, which should more than illustrate why Halloween is the best holiday of them all! Okay so look, cleaning up barf is no fun, so let’s just get through this quickly so we can get back to mainlining Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

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Start by picking up any solids (sorry) using paper towels. Then, use more paper towels to absorb as much liquid (sorry) as possible. Next, treat stains on fabric with an enzymatic cleaner like Zout.

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And, maybe some saltines for that upset stomach?


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About the author

Jolie Kerr

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person