How To Clean Every Mess Your Kid Will Absolutely Make This Summer

Summer is here! It’s the season of freedom for kids — time to enjoy hours at the pool, ice cream from the neighborhood truck, and juicy watermelon and peaches on hot days. There’s so much to look forward to!

…Unless you’re the person responsible for cleaning up after those kids. If you read that sentence about summer fun and thought, ‘Ugh, sunscreen stains, ice cream stains, fruit stains…,’ then this article is for you. Summer may be messy, but those messes don’t have to be permanent — as long as you read ahead and get prepared.

How To Clean Sunscreen Stains

Tired of feeling like you have to choose between protecting your skin and protecting your clothes? Prevention is your friend here. Sunscreen stains are caused by the chemical avobenzone, which, while great at protecting us from UV rays, can leave whitish smears and faded spots on dark clothing. Fortunately, there are plenty of UV-blocking sunscreens that don’t contain avobenzone, but will still keep you and your family protected.

mineral sunscreen

If you’re interested in protecting not just your skin and your clothes but also the environment, you can use a mineral-based sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens are physical blockers of UV rays, which means they use thick zinc oxide to create a barrier between your skin and the sun. Unlike chemical sunscreens, they don’t release reef-harming ingredients into water.

The trade-off is that mineral sunscreens are not quite as effective at blocking the sun; most mineral sunscreens max out at 30 SPF. If you scour your local stores, you might be able to find one that goes up to 50 SPF. Not sure that the lower-SPF mineral sunscreens will provide the protection you need? Save the minerals for the beach, and use chemical sunscreens for chlorine pools and other outdoor activities.

How To Get Crayon Off Wall

Being away from school means that arts & crafts time is happening in your home — likely on your walls and your tabletops! It can be even harder to keep the mess contained if you’re working while your little Picasso lets their creativity loose. Crayon on walls is the bane of many parents’ existence, but thankfully, there are ways to clean it before you resort to a fresh coat of paint.

Dish soap and an old toothbrush often does the trick, which is great because they are items you already have in your house. The same ingredients that help dish soap break down oil in greasy pans also loosen the wax of crayons.

If your little ones have a habit of painting your walls à la Pollock, you might want to be prepared with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge. They’ve protected my walls from: Dog scratches, smashed mosquitoes, my niece’s crayons, and poster adhesive, and that’s just off the top of my head. If your house gets as busy as mine, these will quickly become a staple on your grocery list.

mr. clean magic eraser

How To Get Ice Cream Out Of Clothing

The tinny chime of the ice cream truck should trigger fond memories of a soothing cold sugar rush on a hot day. But if your kids are messy eaters, the approaching song is as foreboding as O Fortuna. Yikes!

The good news is that ice cream is mostly a protein stain, which has a tried and true method for removal.

  1. Get the fabric in cold water ASAP — heat will set the stain, which makes the summer temperatures your enemy!

  2. After a 5-10 minutes soak in cold water, gently rub a dab of laundry detergent into the stain until it lathers. Check the stain and gently rub the detergent every 5 minutes for the next 30 minutes. At this point, it’s okay if the water has become room temperature.

  3. Rinse off detergent and apply a stain remover. By now you should have removed most of the protein, and the stain remover takes care of any bits of coloring left behind.

Keeping the stain damp and cool is key — once it dries, you’ll have a much tougher time breaking down the proteins.

How To Clean Fruit Juice Stains

The go-to summer fruit of my childhood memories was nectarines – sweet, juicy, dripping-down-your-chin nectarines…and dripping down your shirt, down your shorts and on the tablecloth! It’s a wonder that my saint of a mother kept buying them for me. Thanks to her, I learned how to enjoy nectarines and their fuzzier peach cousins without permanently staining my clothes.

Getting rid of juice stains can be summarized in a quick list of Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Don’t wait until your next load of laundry. Get the affected fabric off your kid ASAP!

  • Do turn the fabric inside out and rinse under cold water.

  • Don’t rub the stain. If there is a lot of liquid, blot with a paper towel or white cloth to remove excess, being careful not to smear the juice any further.

  • Do treat with a solvent-based stain remover — I prefer a thick gel that gets between the fabric threads like OxiClean Max Force or Shout! Gel.

How To Get Gum Out Of Carpet

It honestly amazes me how education has changed so much in terms of technology and teaching styles in the years since I’ve been out of school, but one thing seems to have stayed the same: chewing gum is still the de facto currency of playgrounds and cafeterias.

Perhaps, even more so now — who wants to smell their own mask breath all day? If your kids are shrewd negotiators, they’ll be coming home for summer break with a backpack chock full of gum. Instead of chewed gum meeting its fate under desks and on bathroom mirrors, it will be in your carpet. Oh, the joys of school break!

I saved this item for last because it is, unfortunately, the most involved stain-removing process. First, gather your necessary tools:

  • Thin cardboard or posterboard, with a hole cut to match the shape of the stuck gum

  • Ice cubes or freezer packs inside a water-tight plastic bag

  • Dull butter knife or silicone scraper

  • Adhesive remover (Goo Gone is the staple in my house)

goo gone to get gum out of carpet

Place your cardboard over the stuck gum with the hole lined up to protect the surrounding carpet area. Next, hold the ice or freezer packs over the gum. Once the sticky substance is sufficiently frozen, it will be easier to remove.

When the gum has hardened, you can move on to using your knife or scraper to remove the largest frozen chunk. Dab, removing threads of gum with the adhesive remover (you may want to check for color fastness on a different area of your carpet). Follow up with your preferred carpet cleaner to handle any remaining stains. 

The freezing and scraping may be a lot of work, but ultimately less work than pulling up and laying down new carpet!


What are your most dreaded summer messes? Do you have any of your own cleaning hacks for getting gum out of carpet or crayon off walls? Share them with us in the comments below!

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