Tricks Over Treats: How to Deal With the Aftermath of Halloween Pranks

by Lauren Leazenby
large brick house with trees toilet papered in the front lawn

Tricks are as much a part of Halloween as treats. In fact, according to some theories, the treats were added later as an incentive to curtail all the tricks. Pranks and hijinks have long been synonymous with this spooky holiday, especially for the neighborhood teens and tweens. In some communities, the night before Halloween — called Mischief Night, Devil’s Night or Cabbage Night, depending on where you live — is when most of these pranks take place, ranging from the relatively harmless to the downright destructive.

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Part of the point of a Halloween prank is that the mischievous prankster creates a mess that you, the homeowner, have to clean up. Here’s what to do after you’ve been the target of some of the most common pranks.

Toilet Papering

You look out the window in the morning to find long strands of toilet paper hanging from the trees in your front yard, just blowing in the wind. TP-ing is a classic, but that doesn’t mean it’s all that fun to clean up.

Hopefully it hasn’t rained overnight. If the paper's dry, you can just use a rake or a long pole to dislodge it from your trees, gutters and other surfaces. Use a leaf blower to get it off of hard-to-reach areas. Throw the paper directly into the trash bag or garbage can instead of letting it fall onto the ground where it may gather moisture, making it difficult to remove it from your grass.

Whatever you do, you’re going to want to do it quickly. A light rain shower or even the dew on the grass can turn a manageable problem into a sloppy, gooey mess. If you’ve gotten to the cleanup too late and the paper is already wet, you should wait for it to dry, weather permitting. But if you have no choice to clean up the TP while it’s wet, the best advice is to just take your time. Remove it clump by clump and use a hose to spray away any remaining bits when you’re done.

The Davey Tree Expert Company has put out this PSA: Do not attempt to set toilet paper on fire as a means of removal. Why anyone would attempt to do this is a mystery, but the fact that such a warning exists means someone tried it — and you should not.


Forking is a relatively new type of prank, but it’s nothing to be scared of. If someone forks your yard — that is, sticks a bunch of plastic forks in your lawn — you’ve gotten off easy. It’s going to be a pain to pick what might be dozens or hundreds of forks out of the ground, but they aren’t going to leave much damage behind.

The easiest way to remove them is just to pluck them out and throw them away. It gets a little more complicated if the prankster put the forks in tines down. In that case, be careful not to break off any of the small tines while you’re removing the forks.

Silly String

Silly String seems pretty innocuous; it’s just colorful aerosol foam that’s easily sprayed on surfaces or even people. However, even the prankster may not know that Silly String can leave stains, especially on painted surfaces.

Hunker recommends cleaning it up before it dries, if possible. If you find that it has left behind a stain on your hard surfaces like siding, fences or floors, you can attempt to remove the stain with dish soap. Lemon oil may help on wood floors.

On dried Silly String, SFGATE says you can also try a one-to-one mixture of white vinegar and water or a store-bought adhesive remover. If all else fails, you may have to cut your losses, sand off the dried Silly String and repaint the surface.

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Due to the damage it can cause, egging is a pretty nasty prank. While you try to determine who has it out for you, you’re going to need to get that egg off as soon as possible. If you can get to it while it's still wet, you may be able to simply wipe it off and rinse it with water.

More drastic measures are needed for dried-on egg. Popular Mechanics suggests that you first wet the siding below the egg to make sure everything above it slides right off. Then, gently spray the egg off your siding with the garden hose. If that doesn’t work, use a scrub brush, some alkaline-based cleaner, like Formula 409 or Simple Green, and warm water. (Note, that’s warm water, as hot water will basically cook the egg and cause it to stick even more.)

Mailbox Damage

Because the federal government doesn’t view mailbox bashing or smashing as a prank, dealing with the aftermath of this incident is more complicated than a bit of cleanup. According to the United States Postal Inspection Service: “It’s a federal crime to vandalize mailboxes or destroy any mail in them.” The USPIS recommends that you report mailbox vandalism to your postmaster or directly to the Postal Inspection Service.

From there, you’ll have to repair your mailbox yourself. If just the box is damaged but the post is intact, you can remove the battered box and replace it with a new one. The connection point between the box and the post may also be damaged, in which case you can screw a new piece of wood on top of the post and attach the new mounting bracket to that piece of wood instead.

In some cases, you may have no choice but to start all over with a new mailbox — post and all. Here’s our guide to installing one that follows the strict federal guidelines. If this kind of thing happens a lot in your area, you may want to consider supporting the mailbox with concrete.