How to Clean up Spilled Milk in Twenty-two Steps

A Public Service Bulletin

When we accidentally spilled nearly an entire gallon of milk in the Suburban earlier this summer, I needed just one website or one person who could say with authority, “Do this. This works.” My frantic google searches produced only suggestions of a tentative nature, “Try this. If that doesn’t work, try this. Or you could sprinkle this on it…” It was as if people only hypothetically spill milk and never have more than theories for cleaning it.

The milk had run from behind and under the driver’s seat along the the edge of the door all the way to the gas pedal. It was… epic… Somehow, by the grace of God and a whole lot of work, I blundered on a process that really did work. Not a trace of sour milk smell wafted around our vehicle even on the hot days, and you can believe that we did a lot of suspicious sniffing.

  1. Whimper pathetically, “Oh. No. No, no, no, nooooo.”
  2. Panic and pour about a half gallon of vinegar on the spill site.
  3. Blot, blot, blot, blot, blot with towels.
  4. Scratch towels. Get ShopVac and start sucking up the milk.
  5. Look at amount of liquid in ShopVac and cry a little when you see that you may have 2 cups out of a gallon.
  6. Pull off all plastic molding pieces around spill site so you can vacuum the padding under the carpet and the floor under the padding.
  7. Notice that the vinegar has turned the milk into cottage cheesy blobs, effectively stopping it in it’s runny tracks. 
  8. Get a bucket of water and a rag and start cleaning up the cottage cheese, one blob at a time. 
  9. Pour a bottle of Peroxide on the spill.
  10. Take a break to clean up the kids for a supper invitation.
  11. Garner lots of sympathy from other people, as well as cautionary tales of carpets replaced, even vehicles replaced due to sour milk stench.
  12. Go home at bedtime, tuck the kids in bed and get out the ShopVac again.
  13. Vacuum that padding until it is frayed.
  14. Sprinkle a box of baking soda on top of the carpet and on both sides of the padding.
  15. Stuff plastic bottles under the carpet to lift it up and allow airflow. 
  16. Pray about the areas under the seat and up the console that couldn’t be reached effectively.
  17. Go to bed and forget your troubles.
  18. Have your dad pick up an oxy-based carpet cleaner at the auto store the next day. Spray it on liberally and scrub it in.
  19. Call it good enough: please, please, please, Lord, don’t let this car stink.
  20. Wait to remove the plastic bottle air spacers until the carpet is dry.
  21. Replace the plastic molding pieces around the door frames.
  22. Buy air fresheners and be astonished that you don’t even need them.

After doing a bit of research, I found that by using enzyme cleaners I neutralized the lactobacilli that would have caused the sour smell. It cost us about 10 dollars, vinegar, peroxide and baking soda included, versus a hundred dollars for detailing. I actually think the oxy carpet cleaner wasn’t necessary, but better safe than sorry. 

May this never happen to you, but if it does, here is hope in 22 steps!

baking-soda-and-vinegar   Unknown

(Remember, these are your friends. Keep them on hand and you are home free! Almost.)

3 thoughts on “How to Clean up Spilled Milk in Twenty-two Steps

  1. This is all so good to know. I’ve been hauling milk every day for a little calf we’re bottle feeding and I keep worrying about the drips on the suburban carpet. I read your last post, too, and remember going to Peights’ store in Belleville, PA, when we’d go to see our Amish grandparents. 🙂 Sorry about the toilet. “The trouble with life is that it’s so daily”, said someone wise.

    1. Oh dear, I am so sorry about the milk bit. I think if it gets into the padding and sours there, one is kind of sunk. Hope the cold weather takes care of it.

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