I’m a cleaning expert and very definitely not a beauty expert, but I feel very confident in making this statement: Unless you go in for a hair color much lighter than your natural one, or prefer highlights to a single-process color, home hair coloring is absolutely the way to go. For around $10 and 25 minutes of your time, you can get done what it takes a professional well upwards of $50 and several hours to do to your head.

The biggest downside of doing your own color, other than the risk of missing a swath of hair on the back of your head, is that it can — real talk — make a huge damned mess of your bathroom.

But since I’m both a cleaning expert and a woman who spent many, many years coloring her own hair red red red, I’ve got a system for preventing and/or remediating said messes down pat. And today I’m sharing it with you.

What To Do Before You Even Open That Box of Hair Dye

Before you even open that box of hair coloring, there are a few preparatory measures that you should take to help keep the bathroom from taking on the appearance of a crime scene in your pursuit of vanity.

The first is to put away or set aside any hand towels, bath towels or fabric bath mats that are near the area where you’ll be doing your work, as a precautionary measure to protect those things from getting hit with tiny dye splatters. Next, line the countertop with paper towels. Doing so will allow you to have a space to set down any tools you use while you work, like combs, without worrying that dye will get all over everything. The paper towels will also, sort of obviously, help to protect your bathroom counter from those pesky dye splatters and splotches.

The last thing to do is to have a sponge and a product like Soft Scrub already out and on hand so you can immediately clean up spills as they happen. I recommend Soft Scrub because it’s a cream cleanser, which means it’s gentler on surfaces than powder cleansers like Comet, but it contains some bleach, which is exceedingly helpful when it comes to dye stain removal. If you prefer something that doesn’t contain bleach, Simple Green is a good choice, too.

If you regularly color your hair at home, you may also consider investing in a dark-colored towel or two, or hanging onto an older towel,  that you can designate as your hair dying towels

How To Clean Those Inevitable Splatters From Your Bathroom Surfaces

Even with all that prep, there’s no guarantee that a blob of wet dye will land on your countertop, floor or walls. It’s always, always, always best to tend to those as soon as possible, so try to get in the habit of (as soon as you’ve got the color applied to your head) taking a keen look around your workspace to seek out any stray dye.

If you find that dye has landed on your countertop, wipe up as much as you can with a paper towel, being careful not to smear it, creating a bigger area in need of cleaning. Then apply a small amount of Soft Scrub and give it a good going over with your sponge. If the stain is very stubborn, apply a bit more Soft Scrub and let it sit for about 10 minutes before wiping up.

That Soft Scrub, or any all-purpose spray that contains bleach, can also be used to clean dye stains from tile and grout; Simple Green is a nice alternative for the bleach-averse. Because grout is so porous, use a scrub brush to work the product in for the best results. For very bad or set-in stains, more than one application may be needed — don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come out on the first pass. That’s very normal! Just try again.

For stains on painted walls, grab a Magic Eraser to make very short work of the clean-up. Just be sure, as is always the case when working with those wonderful and weird things, to test on an inconspicuous spot that the Eraser is safe for use.

READ MORE: You’re Doing Your At-Home Hair Color Wrong (But We Can Help!)

How to Clean Hair Dye From Your Towels And Clothes

In much the same vein as the suggestion to have dedicated hair coloring towel, it’s not a bad idea for people who regularly do their own color to invest in a colorist’s smock or dedicate an old button-up shirt to the cause to keep dye from getting on your clothes. If it does happen and you catch it right when it has happened, flush the stained portion of the garment with cold running water from back to front to push the dye out and away from the fabric. There will still be some staining, which should be treated with a stain remover and laundered as soon as you can get to it.

For set-in stains, there’s a sort of weird product called SuperClean that people absolutely swear by for removing older dye stains. It’s one of those “As Seen On TV” dealies, but don’t let that turn you off — for the $4.95 it will run you, it’s well worth putting your skepticism aside to try it. The one you want is the Household Cleaner; to use, spray the product directly on the stain before laundering.

How To Get Hair Dye Off Your Skin

I like to end on a high note, which is why I saved tips for getting dye off of your skin for last: It’s super easy, which is generally not true of dye removal — a cotton ball and some rubbing alcohol is all you need! I colored my hair at home for many years, and always found that no matter how careful I was, I always ended up with dye on my forehead, neck, ears and/or arms. Most of the time it would scrub off easily in the shower with just soap and a washcloth, but if you get staining on your skin, the rubbing alcohol will take it right out. Easy as pie, just like coloring your hair at home!