How To Clean Vomit and Stop the Stomach Flu

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These tips on how to clean vomit will remove the stain and smell when someone in your home has been sick. Once the initial mess is taken care of, there are a few more steps to stop the spread of stomach flu, so you don’t just keep passing it around.

How to Clean Vomit

How to Clean Vomit - Man with stomach flu vomiting into bucket

Stomach Bugs Seem to Strike at Night in My Home

Over the winter a stomach bug hit my house, leaving me to find out how to clean vomit while struggling with my own queasy stomach at 2 AM.

See, I’m the type of person who gets sick to their stomach just hearing someone else get sick to theirs. Having to see or smell it sends me right over the edge. But, as the mom, there’s no ignoring it when one of my kids needs help.

It was a miserable night. So were the following two weeks when it seemed like my family just kept passing the illness around. Fortunately, I found a few tricks to deal with the smell and stains. Thanks to our family doctor, I also learned where and how to clean to put an end to that illness.

Overcome the Odor

If, like me, the mere smell of vomit makes you nauseous, try wiping a small amount of Vick’s VapoRub under your nose. Chewing mint-flavored gum is another suggestion.

Get the Mess Up

Put on some rubber gloves before you start cleaning the mess. Then, scrape up as much of the stuff as you can. A paper plate works wonderfully, especially since you can throw it away when you’re done. A dustpan that you can dump into the toilet also works — but be sure to clean and disinfect it immediately.

Soak up the Stain

Sprinkle the remaining mess generously with baking soda. This step soaks up any remaining liquid while also counteracting odor. If you’re out of baking soda, cornstarch or even baby powder will also work, though they don’t have the same deodorizing effect. At this point, you can throw a towel over the spot and go back to bed if it’s the middle of the night if you’re sick, too.

When the baking soda or cornstarch have dried the mess, vacuum or sweep up what’s left. If you use a vacuum cleaner, be sure to empty and wash the canister or change the bag immediately to keep bacteria from growing in your machine. (Here’s more on how to clean a vacuum cleaner.)

How to Clean Vomit - Treat the carpet stain by blotting and sprayingPin

Remove the Stain

In most situations, lightly cleaning the area with soap and water is enough to get rid of the stain. Take care that you don’t saturate carpets while doing this or you risk causing mold in the carpet padding. For tougher stains, try the following spray.

Vomit Stain Spray
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup white vinegar, heated
1/2 tsp. liquid dish detergent
1/4 cup rubbing alcohol (surgical spirits in the UK)


1. Combine the water, vinegar, and dish detergent in a spray bottle.

2. Spray the area until damp then blot using a clean white cloth. Do not rub or you may spread the stain. Rotate the fabric as needed, so you are always working with a fresh area.

3. Repeat until the stain is gone, blotting each time until almost entirely dry. Discard whatever’s left in the spray bottle.

4. Once the stain is gone and the area is thoroughly dry, spray it lightly with the rubbing alcohol to disinfect it. Keep pets and small children away from the spot until it’s dry.

What to Clean To Stop The Stomach Bug

Stomach viruses spread because the virus lingers on surfaces for quite a while. Cleaning these areas using a disinfecting cleanser will reduce the risk of transmission. (Try this homemade disinfectant spray.)

1. Eating utensils, glasses, and plates: If you wash dishes by hand, you’ll want to add one tablespoon of bleach to the rinse water to disinfect them. For those using dishwashers, use the sanitizing rinse setting.

2. Frequently touched surfaces: Clean TV remotes, light switches, computer keyboards, and doorknobs. It’s a good idea to repeat this several times each day while the illness is active in your home.

3. Bedding and towels: Wash these daily if possible, using the hottest and longest setting on your machine. Run them through the dryer on high heat or line dry them in bright sunshine to kill remaining virus cells.

4. Bathrooms: Since the stomach flu spreads through both feces and vomit, it’s essential to clean your toilet after each use while people are sick with the stomach bug in your home. To do this, spray or wipe the handle, seat, basin, and rim with a disinfecting wipe every time the sick person uses it. (See, Homemade Disinfecting Wipes.) Pour some disinfectant into the bowl and scrub then flush it, too.

5. Toothbrushes: While the stomach bug is running its course, clean the sick person’s toothbrush in the dishwasher (which you’re already running on the sanitary rinse setting) or soak it in a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and water. Discard the liquid after each use. Keep the sick person’s toothbrush away from those belonging to other family members, too. Once the illness is over, buy new toothbrushes for the entire family.

Remember: This, too, Shall Pass.

Fortunately, the stomach flu usually runs its course in 1 to 3 days. If you’re diligent about cleaning the mess and treating surfaces to reduce transmission, you and your family should be back on their feet in no time!

More How-Tos:

How to Get Ink Stains out of Clothes
Bathroom Cleaning Checklist
How to Steam Clean Carpeting

Pin How to Clean Vomit

How to clean vomitPin

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  1. This is so helpful given that my eldest came home from school on Friday and developed stomach flu symptoms and her sister got it. I’m just hoping that I’m disinfecting enough to get rid of it and stop my 3 month old from getting it x

    1. Katie Berry says:

      How miserable! I hope the kids feel well soon, and that you and the baby stay well.

  2. Lauren HIghfill says:

    Quarantine! No one seems to understand the importance of this step… this goes for Mom or Dad if they are sick as well! Let the other parent take a sick day and get on your spouse about good hand hygiene! Anyone with ANY symptoms, body aches, tummy aches, diarrhea needs to stay in their room. If you have two bathrooms make one a sick bathroom until the virus has passed or like you mentioned clean the bathroom every time its used. We do 72 hours from our kids last puke. Why so long? Because they want to be unsick as much as the next person and they will not tell you that they were still queasy or having diarrhea even though they haven’t puked for 12 hours. This is the only thing that ever works for us. We use paper plates and food gets dropped at their door, they get a garbage can in their rooms and bottled water and we never cross paths until they are out again. When you have 7 people in a household this is absolutely necessary. Bless their hearts but they have learned to appreciate not spending their winters in non stop states of illness. For other viruses, its 24 hours after last fever or if its a high fever and we are thinking flu its 48 hours after last fever. I based this on actual research of viral life span and spreadability of each virus and it really works. We, of course, let the kids have unlimited laptop/TV/activities in their rooms so it keeps them busy. On preventing illnesses watch those nail bitters and have the kids sanitize every day after school. Also for younger kids, you can’t take their word my 8-year-old will swear up and down she is healthy and turn around and projectile barf or have a fever of 103!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Quarantine is definitely helpful. You’re so right about kids claiming they’re fine when they’re still sick and contagious!