Cleanup: Out, darn spot

Some household cleaning problems have simple, low-cost solutions. Here are a few examples:

  • Mineral spirits, such as soda water, for scuff marks on vinyl floors.
  • A pencil eraser for heel scuff marks on floors.
  • Lemon halves dipped in salt and rubbed on stained copper pot bottoms
  • Worcestershire sauce or ketchup for tarnish.
  • Knitting yarn rubbed on Formica counter tops for crayon marks
  • Cat litter absorbs fresh stains on driveways, garage floors or walks 
  • Art gum erasers for fingermarks, smudges and pencil marks on wallpaper

Avoid these remedies
On the other hand, some common remedies should be avoided, according to the Family and Consumer Sciences Department at the University of Ohio. These remedies include one of the most well known:

  • Ironing candle or crayon wax with brown paper or blotting paper. This process is not recommended as it may drive the wax deeper into the fabric or carpet and set the crayon or candle dye more permanently.

Other remedies to avoid:

  • Dishwasher detergent-sometimes suggested for food stainsBut they are highly alkaline and can irritate your skin as well as fading colours or damaging wool, silk, or nylon fibres. Dishwasher soap is meant for the closed environment of a dishwasher with hot, hot water.
  • Hair spray on ballpoint ink-the alcohol in the spray may remove the oily part of the ink stain. But you might also wind up with a gummy residue and perfume on top of the ink stain. Hair spray may also discolour some fabrics.
  • White vinegar for stains or removing creases-may cause a colour change on some fabrics. Vinegar is acetic acid and may also weaken fibres. Test a little on a hidden seam allowance. It’s not effective on creases in synthetic or permanent press fabrics.

Take immediate action
With stains and spots, the most effective thing you can do is to take immediate action. For staining liquids, blot up as much as possible, using a soft, white absorbent material such as a towel or napkin.

With solid stains, scrape away whatever you can with a spatula or spoon. Don’t use a knife, as the sharp edges can damage the upholstery or carpet fibres. Vacuum up as much of the remaining solid stain as you can. 

Pretest any spot removal agent on an inconspicuous area. If it doesn’t lift the colour, then it’s okay to begin applying a small amount to the edges of the stain. Work into the center, so the stain isn’t spreading as you remove it. Continue adding a little more remover and rubbing gently as long as the stain is coming off.

Then, rinse off the area with water and blot dry. If you’re treating a carpet, don’t over wet it or you may damage the carpet fibres.

With files by Writer/Editor Marilyn Smith.