Accidents will happen, the old quote says. No matter how careful or cautious you are, or how good your sense of balance is, you will have an accident of some sort at some time or other. And you will end up with (at best) a spill of something or (at worst) smashed glass and a hard-to-clean spill all over the place.
What causes spills? The quick answer is a combination of the law of gravity plus a few other laws of physics, such as friction, momentum, surface tension, etc. As it’s hard to pinpoint a cause, it’s hard to say how to prevent them. Obviously, you should use your common sense and not stack things that spill or are breakable (or anything, come to that) very high on top of a narrow base or shelf.
The primary rule for any spill or smash of any type is to act quickly. Whatever it is, it will get worse the longer you leave it. Even if you haven’t got a liquid or something staining to clean up, solid objects can (and will) get kicked, blown or scattered further if you leave it.
Non-staining liquids: Blot up the excess moisture with a paper towel, tea towel or even an ordinary towel. This is usually all you need to do for water, but if the liquid you have got all over the floor will leave a residue that could become unpleasant (nearly everything except water – milk and lemonade are two common examples), then you will need to wash off the excess. Use a damp cloth and soapy water for hard surfaces such as lino, then dry. For carpet cleaning, pour a little warm soapy water onto the place before blotting up excess. This will float the spilled liquid to the top. Then blot as normal and leave to dry.
Staining liquids – Act immediately! Never let the liquid dry or the stain will set. Flood the spill with more liquid – soapy water will do for most spills, but for red wine, it’s best to “flood” this with white wine or else to sprinkle salt over the stain. After flooding the stain to dilute the offender and bring it to the surface, blot it off. If the stain is particularly stubborn, you may need to scrub it lightly, especially on carpets.
Broken crockery or glass: Make sure that you are wearing footwear – never clean up broken glass when your feet are bare. Sweep the broken pieces into a heap, working from the outside towards “ground zero”. It’s amazing how far particles fly when something smashes, so always start your inward sweep from further out than the pieces you can see. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner to pick up large pieces – they are hazardous and can damage vacuum cleaner bags (not to mention you when you empty a vacuum cleaner bag or container). If a piece of crockery or china has broken into large pieces, you may be able to glue it back together again, but don’t try to repair broken glass. Once you have swept the breakage together, use a dustpan and brush to collect them up. Wrap the product in old newspaper before putting the broken glass out into the rubbish – most places I have encountered do not recycle broken glass, unfortunately. Then vacuum the area to catch any slivers of broken glass or china.
The worst spill I have encountered involved a child dropping a glass jar full of jam – broken glass and sticky jam to deal with. In this case, I scooped up the broken glass with several layers of newspaper, as fortunately, the jam had stopped the glass flying everywhere. This mess of jam and glass was wrapped up and binned pronto. Then, once I had made sure I had got rid of the glass, I used a cloth and soapy water to wash all the jam residue off the linoleum before drying it. At least I didn’t have to deal with blood from any cuts as well!