A latex paint spill may seem like a minor catastrophe, but it doesn't have to be. Because latex paint is water-based, it cleans up easily with soap and water while it is still wet.

First Things First

Scoop up as much wet paint as you can right away using whatever you can find -- creased paper plates or even a large plastic spoon, for instance. Deposit the paint into a disposable bowl or into a paint tray to deal with afterward. For a large spill that's spreading outward, contain the paint by surrounding it with kitty litter, sawdust or even rolled up rags. Once you've removed the bulk of the paint, blot up more of it with paper towels or rags. Rinse the rags out in a bucket and reuse them to clean up more of the paint on any surface that can be washed with water, such as a vinyl floor or a countertop. On carpet, use the wet cloth to help dilute the paint and rinse it out of the carpet fibers.

Hard Surface Cleanup

After you've removed as much wet paint as possible, wipe the area again with a sponge or white cloth dipped into a bucket containing warm water and a few squirts of dish soap. Apply more soap onto the damp cloth, if necessary, to clean up stubborn paint that's still a bit wet. Rinse the cloth and wipe the area again to remove soap residue. If some of the paint dries in place, clean the area with a nylon scrub pad, or pick at the paint with your fingernails or a plastic scraper.

Carpet and Upholstery Cleanup

After you've scooped and blotted up as much of the paint as possible, clean the material with a mixture of 1 cup of warm water and one generous squirt of liquid dish soap. Dip a white cloth or a sponge into the solution and wring out much of the water before blotting the paint spill. If the stain doesn't seem to be coming out of upholstery as well as you'd like, mix equal parts water and dish soap, blotting the spot with the soapy mixture, then with another damp white cloth to rinse the upholstery, repeating as many times as needed. Whether treating carpet or upholstery, a rinse -- dabbing with a wet cloth -- always follows a soap treatment. Blot the area afterward with dry cloths to remove excess moisture.