Tips for Tackling the Post-Halloween Clean-Up

This weekend scores of witches, ghouls, ghosts and Snookies will rush to your front porch, ring the doorbell and, in unison, yell, “trick or treat.” And some of them mean it. Fill their loot bags with the good stuff and you’ll get the smiles and thanks you hope for. Give out crummy candy and you can almost count on being the target of their mischievous ways.

Most of the pranks that will be performed during this annual ritual are, for the most part, easy to clean up if you do it right away. But silly string, eggs and even shaving cream can stain or even ruin the surfaces they are stuck on if left to dry.

The best approach is to make sure that you have the proper cleaning supplies on hand, including a scrub brush. A stiff bristle brush is best, preferably one that can be attached to an extension pole. If you are hit with a half dozen eggs, it is nice to have the added reach instead of dragging the ladder around. Plus, you won’t have to get on your hands and knees when scrubbing driveways and walkways. Next, invest in a good non-abrasive sponge. Old kitchen sponges won’t do, especially those yellow sponges with the green scrubby side. If you scrub with too hard you can end up leaving green scuff marks. And, grab a five gallon bucket. These are great to have around for any kind of clean up job.

You’ll also want to be sure that you have a long enough garden hose to reach all areas of your home’s exterior, and a good nozzle - the type you can spin the head to get different spray patterns – is a must. If you’re lucky enough to own a power washer, fire it up and make sure it’s ready to go. If not, and you can’t bribe a neighbor with your left over candy to use theirs, consider buying a water jet attachment for your hose, which should cost about twenty dollars. Some clean-ups call for a high pressure wash.

The cleaners you will need will depend on the type of prank you are cleaning up.

You can buy solutions made specifically for vinyl siding, concrete, fencing, and so on, but these are not formulated to tackle eggs and shaving cream. Instead, they are designed for the usual build-up found in on these surfaces, such as mold and mildew. There is really no need to spend the extra money. Oftentimes standard Dawn dish detergent, vinegar, and the all-purpose cleaner Simple Green is all you need.

If you choose to use bleach, be careful. Dilute it with water, and never use it straight. It can ruin the color or finish of many materials.

Here is a list of the most common Halloween cleanups and how to tackle them:

Eggs - The most common item in the prankster’s arsenal, and one that can leave your car and house a scrambled mess. Eggs can cause a great deal of damage if left to bake in the sun because they can corrode paint surfaces within hours. A power washing is one of the best ways to remove the egg. If it’s already a dried stuck-on mess, or on a painted surface, use one part warm water, one part vinegar, and a little Dawn dish detergent as your cleaning solution. Pick out the shells first so they don’t leave scratches, and hold a wet sponge or rag against the egg for a few minutes to loosen the egg before you gently scrub it away.

Silly String – It’s not that funny when it is sprayed all over your property. This stuff can damage paint on cars, and it will adhere to painted surfaces. Hose off as much of it as possible before it dries. Be very careful if you try to scrape it off of painted materials, including your car, because it can pull the paint off with it. Try dish detergent and water as a cleaning solution first.

Toilet Paper - This one may seem like a no brainer when it comes to clean up… that is, when you can reach it. Also, if you don’t get it out of the trees before it rains you could end up with clumps stuck in the branches. If you do beat Mother Nature to the punch, you can use a rake or expandable painter’s pole to reach the toilet paper and pull it down. Or, you can try wrapping duct tape around the pole (glue side out) to stick and retrieve the paper.

Shaving Cream - It may be harmless to your skin, but this stuff can leave permanent marks on cars, asphalt, and painted surfaces if it is not cleaned off before it dries. The easiest way to remove it is with the power washer, or to simply wash it away with the non-abrasive sponge and some Simple Green.

Smashed Pumpkins - Even though pumpkin guts cause little or no damage, it’s awful to see your jack-o-lantern demolished. Remove this slippery mess by spraying it with the garden hose or power washer. If it is dry, wet it down and use the scrub brush to loosen it up first.

Paint, Markers, Etc. - These are the most difficult pranks to erase. You may be inclined to grab the paint thinner, but give either mineral spirits or a product called Goof-Off a try first. The spirits are similar to paint thinner but it is odorless, and the Goof-Off is like magic in a bottle, it can take just about anything off of just about anything. No kidding.

Don’t forget that a good defense sometimes is the best offense. Move all your pumpkins inside for the weekend, or put them out back, and store any lawn ornaments, planters, and furniture in the yard, shed or garage. The more you leave out in plain sight, the more tempting of a target your house becomes.

And, give good candy to those trick-or-treaters. Those treats could save you the clean up of some nasty tricks.