March 21, 2013 at 9:39 AM ET
Admit it, Mama: You've had moments where you exhaled a sigh of relief at the peace and quiet in your house, only to realize that there's too much peace and quiet in the house. Meaning your kids are up to no good. (That table moved to a new spot in the playroom? Yeah, it's covering up a grape juice stain on the rug.) The good news is, whether it's gum in the hair or a toy flushed down the toilet, most kid-created mama emergencies can be fixed with some creative household solutions and a little elbow grease—all while Junior is in a very long time-out. Here's your mom survival guide:
Emergency: A toy got flushed down the toilet
The odds of your child flushing a toy down the toilet at least once are pretty much set at 100 percent. And the odds that you're going to have to go in after that toy? Just as high.
Fast fix: If plunging the toilet failed, get the rubber gloves, because this job will get dirty. Before hiring a plumber, hit the hardware store and buy a closet auger, a plumbing tool used to clear toilet clogs. Place the auger in the toilet and turn the crank. "The auger can shove the blockage forward into the drain system," according to Home Improvement 1-2-3 by Home Depot. "If the auger catches on the object, continue turning the crank as you pull out the cable until you can retrieve the object." Didn't work? Go ahead and call that plumber.
Emergency: A crayon went through the clothes dryer
You almost always check the kids' pockets before tossing them in the wash, but it figures that on the one occasion you forgot, they stuck crayons in there.
Fast fix: Running crayons through the washer isn't a big deal, but once they begin to melt in the heat of dryer? Trust us: A dryer drum covered in crayon is not what you want. To clean it, GE advises that you wash and thoroughly rinse the stained spot or spots using a mild soap and water solution (use a non-abrasive cleaner), dry with a soft towel and then toss in a bunch of wet rags or old towels and tumble dry for 20 to 30 minutes.
As for getting crayon out of clothes, Crayola advises placing the stained surface down on a pad of paper towels and spraying with WD-40®. Let stand a few minutes, turn fabric over and spray the other side. Apply liquid dish soap and work into the stained area, replacing toweling as it absorbs the stain. Wash the garment in hot water with laundry detergent and a color-safe bleach (such as Clorox 2® or OxiClean powder) for 12 minutes; then rinse in warm water.
Emergency: Bubblegum in her hair
That "Who can blow the biggest bubble?" contest your girls had has you wishing you could retroactively institute a "no gum chewing" rule. Now how to get it out of those curls?
Fast fix: First, try to freeze the gum with an ice cube—it'll make it easier to remove. Then head to the kitchen: Cozy Friedman, author of Cozy's Complete Guide to Girls' Hair and owner of Cozy's Cuts for Kids Salons in New York City, recommends using smooth peanut butter to get the gum out. Put a generous amount of peanut butter on the gum and surrounding hair and slowly work the peanut butter into the gum—and then the gum out of the hair. The reason it works: the high oil content helps to dissolve the sticky stuff.
Emergency: A diaper went through the washing machine
When you have a baby, it's inevitable that a disposable diaper will find its way into your laundry basket—and, eventually, into the wash. That gel is messy, but the good news is it's not too hard to clean up.
Fast fix: According to the Pampers web site, you can get rid of most of the gel by simply tossing the load of wet clothes in the dryer. "It may take an extra cycle, but this will dry the gel, and it will fall off clothing," the site advises. "Most will be caught in the lint filter. Some might remain on the clothes, but it can be easily brushed or shaken off." Go back and run your washer a couple of times sans clothing, and wipe out any leftover gel with a damp cloth. Then pray for that potty training to work—soon.
Emergency: Poop or pee on the carpet
We're just gonna say it: Sometimes kids poop or pee … on the carpet. Gagging? Of course you are. But someone's gotta clean it up (please let it be Dad.)
Fast fix: To clean up poop or wet pee using a home remedy, the experts at Bissell say to blot the dirty spot with a clean, dry towel, then blot the area several times applying cold water. Mix ¼ teaspoon liquid detergent into 1 cup of lukewarm water and pour in a spray bottle. Spray the area and work it in with a brush, cloth or sponge—just don't rub it in. Next, spritz the area lightly with plain lukewarm water and blot. Repeat and let it dry. "If the stain still persists, apply a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide to a clean cloth," the company recommends. "Blot the stain using the same light, edge-to-center strokes described above. Repeat as needed and then thoroughly rinse and blot the area. Allow to dry."
Emergency: Your smartphone—dropped in the toilet
Whether or not you let your toddler play with your phone, chances are the little rascal will manage to get her hands on it—and faster than you can say "ker-plop," there goes your brand new iPhone5 right in the ol' toilet. Lovely.
Fast fix: According to Popular Mechanics, this is a DIY moment. The magazine advises you take out the battery (don't attempt to charge it -- you could short out the circuits) and the SIM card. Use a can of compressed air to try to suck out as much moisture as possible and then fill a bowl with uncooked rice. "Just leave the phone (and its disconnected battery) submerged in a bowl of grains overnight," the magazine says. That should dry it out and make it usable again.
Emergency: Your son just gave his little sister bangs
Reaaallly short ones.
Fast fix: You don't necessarily have to resort to a buzz cut or a pixie cut for a self-inflicted hair-do. Try these disaster-disguising tips from Jay Small, Master Stylist at the Angus Mitchell Salon in Beverly Hills:
—For too short bangs: "The best solution would be to create a veil from the longer hair behind the short bangs," Small says. "By pulling more hair forward you can create the illusion of a longer bang. The key is to blow dry the hair toward the face, and apply product such as gels or foams to control the fine nature of children's hair."
—For random pieces cut out of your child's hair: "Product is key," says Small. "For boys, pomade, crèmes or putties can hide lots of imperfections. Apply to dry hair and remember… the messier the better. For girls, try wetting the hair and braiding it in four sections. Upon drying, remove the braids and she'll have texture that will hide all imperfections."
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.