Tomorrow Will Be a Mess. Here's Your Post-Halloween Cleanup Primer.


Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. This week she’s here to help us navigate our Halloween messes. Are you dirty? Email her.

Halloween, like any great holiday, is filled with merrymaking, candy, festively carved spheres, costumery, and magic. Which is why it’s the best day of the year! It’s also why, if you’re me, All Saints’ Day is one of the busiest days of the year. Halloween, it turns out, makes a huge damned mess.

This year, I’m taking a preemptive approach and attempting to anticipate your messes before you even make them. (I had a little help from Twitter.) With that, let’s get to the things you’ll want to know how to clean up come November 1.


It’s good that I like shiny things as much as I do, because if I didn’t the existence of glitter would be far too much for my heart to handle. As it is, the existence of glitter gives me tiny heart palpitations because ooooooh noooooooo glitter everyyyyyyyyyyywhere alwayssssssssssss.

Do you feel me? I bet you feel me.

There are, blessedly, several approaches you can take to cleaning up glitter. You’ll probaby have to use all of them because ooooooh noooooooo glitter everyyyyyyyyyyywhere alwayssssssssssss.

Sticky Things: Think lint rollers, Fed-Ex pouches, masking tape, painter’s tape. The trick here is to find something tacky that’s not overly sticky, as something like duct tape can leave behind some of its stickum. Also Martha Stewart makes something called a Glitter Cleanup Cloth because that bitch thinks of everything. (MARTHA. I TEASE BECAUSE I LOVE. REMOVE THE HEX, LADY.)

Children’s Things: Baby wipes and/or Play-Doh also work well to lift glitter up from places where you’d rather there be no glitter. If you go the Play-Doh route, just know that you’ll wind up with glittered Play-Doh. Which sounds awesome to me, but YMMV.

Sucky Things: A handheld vacuum, or regular old vacuum is a great tool for glitter pick-up. Just be sure that when you empty the bag, you place it deep inside the garbage can or bag so the glitter doesn’t go flying everywhere.

Also, remember all of this come Christmastime, if that’s your bag, because the same advice applies to cleaning up pine needles.

Greasepaint/Costume Make-up

This one is actually a pretty easy one! Apply rubbing alcohol to the stains with a cotton ball or pad. The make-up should lift right off.


Styling: You can style your wig with anything you use for your real hair EXCEPT for any heat-based tools. Those will cause the wig to melt. But you know that already, because you’re smart gals. You can wash a wig more or less the same way you’d wash your hair, but because the fibers are synthetic, you’ll want use cool water. The sink is a good place to do this, so: fill up the basin with cool water, add a small amount of shampoo and allow the wig soak for five or so minutes; then rinse well. To dry, shake off excess water before hanging or laying flat on a towel. Avoid rubbing the fibers, which can cause tangles.

Storage: Styrofoam heads are the best way to store a wig, and sort of eccentric and glamorous I think! Sadly, though, storing wigs on styrofoam heads, which take up space, isn’t always practical. Ho hum. As an alternative to the use of a head, you can store a straight-haired wig in the bag it came in. Curly-haired wigs can go into a plastic grocery bag, which is ideal because it provides more space for the wig to spread out and make itself comfortable.

Gorilla Suits

Via Facebook a friend asked, “How do you get Jaeger and Red Bull out of gorilla fur? Just, um, curious.” Because of course.

Actually, it’s not too hard to clean fur suits! You’re basically going to wash its hair, so: toss the suit in your tub, and give it a shampooing using a small amount of mild shampoo (baby shampoo works really well for this purpose) and warm water. Rinse it thoroughly then, using your hands, press down to expel as much water as you can. Once your pressed out as much water as possible, roll the suit up in a large towel to squeeze more water out. Allow it to air dry for an hour or two, until it’s more damp then wet, and then give it a good blow drying to fluff the fur back up. Any matted spots can be brushed out using a slicker brush.

Colored Hairspray

Not to worry, you’re not alone.

To remove colored hairspray from upholstery, you’ll first want to wipe up as much of the stain as you can using a small amount of dish soap and a sponge or rag. Then treat the area with a stain remover like Resolve or OxiClean.

To remove colored hairspray from launderable materials, first flush the stain with cold running water—run the water through the back of the material so that it pushes the stain away from the fabric rather than back through it. Then apply a laundry stain pretreatment and wash as usual, using cold water and checking that the stain is gone before drying it.

Rubbing alcohol will also help to remove colored hairspray stains; just apply a small amount to the stain using a cotton ball or soft cloth.

If you’ve stained your bathroom, a bleach-based cleansing cream like Soft Scrub combined with a bristled scrub brush will help you tackle those stains.

Pumpkin (smells)

Setting out a small bowl of white vinegar will help to eliminate lingering pumpkin smells in the home. If there’s pumpkin residue, you can clean it up with hot, soapy water or …

Pumpkin (leakage)

The same tip applies to pumpkin that have leaked and dried onto floors, porches, small children, etc. Spray a lil’ WD-40 on the spot, wipe away with a clean rag, then wash the area with hot, soapy water to remove the WD-40 residue.

Chocolate (on upholstery)

Dish soap is my go-to for any kind of stains on upholstery; the trick is to apply a small amount to a wet sponge (or rag), and then wring the sponge out well so that (1) the suds are activated and (2) the sponge is left damp, rather than wet.

Using a damp sponge will allow you to clean the stain without saturating the upholstery. In terms of technique, you’ll want to tamp at the stain rather than rubbing hard at it, which can cause the chocolate (or whatever!) to be ground further into the fabric.

If there are any lingering stains, a bit of spray stain remover (OxiClean, Resolve, that sort) can be applied, left to work its magic (’tis the season, after all!) for 10-15 minutes, and then wiped away with a clean, damp sponge or cloth.

Chocolate (on sheets)

If you can get to the stains immediately, the dish soap technique will work to remove chocolate from sheets and clothing as well. If you fell asleep with a half eaten fun sized Snickers bar, apply an laundry stain pretreatment product to the stains and launder the sheets using cold water and your regular detergent. Just be sure to check that the stains have been fully removed before you put the sheets into the dryer, as heat will set the stain in.

Chocolate (in floorboards)

Use a nail brush dipped in a small amount of warm, soapy water to clean debris that’s collected in gaps between floorboards.

Candy corn (in floorboards, rugs)

Good grief, what are you people doing to your poor floors?!? Two related questions from tumblr:

Candy corn ground into floors/rugs/upholstery.
How best to get candy corn that has gotten ground into the carpet out?

Follow the same instructions for removing chocolate from floorboards and/or upholstery; once the candy and any staining is up, give the carpet a good vacuuming to restore the nap.

Jello Shots

If you’re able, scrape as much of the dried Jell-O off of the garment as possible using a butter knife. Then dab some liquid laundry detergent on the stain, or hit it with a laundry pretreatment product, and soak it in cold water for 15-30 minutes before laundering as usual, being sure to use the cold water setting. Check that the stain is gone before putting the item into the dryer.

Blood (real)

This post will tell you everything you need to know about blood stain removal. Briefly: hydrogen peroxide, enzymatic cleaners like Nature’s Miracle and OxiClean, salt (including saline solution), saliva, and meat tenderizer are all things that work great on blood stains.

Blood (fake)

Fake blood is generally made up of food coloring combined with corn syrup and water to thin it out. Sometimes there are other coloring elements (chocolate syrup or cocoa powder are common additions), but in essence what you’re trying to remove is food coloring stains. For those, rubbing alcohol is the trick. This will work for stains on fabric, as well as for stains on hard surfaces. Bleach, and bleach-containing products like Soft Scrub, are also an option for fake blood that’s dried onto places like bathroom countertops.


I actually can’t believe no one asked about cleaning up post-Halloween vomit. Anyway, just in case, the answer is generally OxiClean. A Tylenol and some seltzer water wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Feel better!

Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha (Plume, February 25, 2014); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.

Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks.

Image via Fer Gregory/Shutterstock.

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