Holiday guests — or you — making a mess? In almost every case, the number one key to dealing with food and drink stains is to act quickly, and with a method that fits the bill.

With these tips on how to deal with common stains during the holiday season, you won’t need to wait until the end of the night or the next day to manage spills and spots. Here are some quick and easy remedies from a variety of experts.

Splash and lights

Important first steps in holiday stain removal

First, a few suggestions from Consumer Reports:

  1. Act quickly. Blot, don’t scrub, with a white cloth or towel until dry.
  2. Follow all care labels for the garments, linens, or rugs you’re treating.
  3. Test a cleaning solution by applying several drops to an inconspicuous area and holding a wet white cloth on the area for 1 minute.
  4. Check cloth for color transfer and fabric or carpet for color change or damage. If there is none, proceed.
What’s your stain problem?

Apple cider: Launder with detergent in hottest water safe for the fabric. Do not use soap. Removal of old stains may require washing with a fabric-safe bleach.

Butter: Pre-treat Light stains with a spray stain remover, liquid laundry detergent or a detergent booster. Place heavy stains face down on clean paper towels. Apply cleaning liquid to the back of the stain. Replace towels frequently. Air dry; rinse. Launder in hottest water safe for that fabric. Before drying, inspect and — if the stain remains — repeat the treatment and washing.

Candle wax: If the wax is still soft, freeze to harden it, and then scrape off excess wax. Sponge the stain with a dry-cleaning solution. Place stain between clean paper towels and press with a warm iron to transfer the wax to the paper towels. Replace the paper towels frequently to absorb more wax and prevent transferring the stain to other places on the fabric. Pre-treat the stain with a pre-wash stain remover. Launder. If any color remains, rewash using chlorine bleach, if safe for the fabric, or oxygen bleach. Alternative: Pour boiling water through the washable fabric from a height of 12 inches (the height increases the velocity of the water, which helps separate the wax from the fibers). If the fabric can’t be laundered, sandwich it between paper towels and apply a warm iron.

Candy canes: Rinse with warm water. Launder in the warmest water that’s safe for the fabric.

Chocolate: Pretreat or prewash in warm water with a product containing enzymes. Or, treat with a prewash stain remover. NOTE: If stain remains, rewash using a bleach safe for fabric.

Coffee, tea (plain or with sugar sweetener): Flush stain immediately with cool water if possible; or soak 30 minutes in cold water. Rub the stain with detergent and launder with a fabric-safe bleach. Do not use soap.

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Coffee, tea (with cream only): Flush stain and soak as described above. Then sponge stain with a dry-cleaning solvent. Air dry. Rub with detergent, and then launder with a fabric-safe bleach. Do not use soap.

Ice SplashCooking oil: Pre-treat light stains with a spray stain remover, liquid laundry detergent or a detergent booster. Place heavy stains face down on clean paper towels. Apply cleaning liquid to the back of the stain. Replace towels frequently. Let air dry; rinse. Launder in hottest water safe for that fabric. Before drying, inspect and — if stain remains — repeat the treatment and washing.

Cranberries/cranberry sauce on fabric: Launder in hottest water safe for the fabric. Do not use bar soap because it may set the stain (laundry detergent is okay). Removal of old stains may require washing in a fabric-safe bleach.

Egg nog: Pre-treat or soak for at least 30 minutes, using an enzyme laundry product or detergent. If the stain is old, soak for several hours. Launder using an enzyme laundry detergent.

Gravy: Pre-treat the stain with a pre-wash stain remover. Wash the garment, using the warmest water that is safe for the fabric.

Hot chocolate: Treat the stain with a prewash spray or pretreat with a product containing enzymes. Launder. If stain remains, relaunder with bleach that is safe for the fabric.

Lipstick on cloth: Blot with acetone-based nail-polish remover. Then try a store-bought cleaning solvent, such as Afta or Goo Gone. If that doesn’t work, try a detergent solution of 1 teaspoon of a mild clear or white dishwashing liquid — no bleach — in 1 cup of warm water, then rinse.

Pine resin/sap: Sponge the stain with acetone (using caution) and air-dry. Then, soak the garment for at least 30 minutes in a mixture of one cup of liquid laundry detergent and a few drops of ammonia (using caution). Rinse the garment and wash as usual.

Pumpkin pie: Launder in the hottest water safe for the fabric. Do not use soap. Removal of old stains may require washing with a fabric-safe bleach.

Red food coloring: Use a commercial color remover, following the package directions. Wash the garment as you normally would. Or, if chlorine bleach is safe for the fabric, mix a solution of ¼ cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of cool water and soak for 30 minutes. Rinse the garment and wash as normal.

Red wine on the sofa: Gently blot up any liquid. Don’t scrub or rub the spot. As soon as possible after the party, use an upholstery cleaner on the spot. Read and follow the directions before using.

Soda on the carpet: Blot with the detergent solution, then use a vinegar solution of one-third cup of white vinegar with two-thirds cup of water. Rinse with warm water. If a trace remains, dab with 3 percent-strength hydrogen peroxide.

Soot: Pre-treat the stain with a pre-wash stain remover. Wash the garment using the warmest temperature water and bleach that’s safest for the item. If the stain remains, sponge with rubbing alcohol and wash the garment again.

Spots or spills on your outfit: If the garment is washable, as soon as the party’s over, treat the spot with a stain removal stick. This puts the stain “on hold,” and buys some time until you can tackle the laundry. If the garment is dry-clean-only, take it to the dry cleaner as soon as possible and let them know the cause of the stain.

Sweet potatoes: Scrape off excess. Flush under cold running water to loosen the stain. Pre-treat the garment with a pre-wash stain remover. Wash using the warmest temperature water and bleach that is safe for the fabric.

Turkey grease: Pre-treat light stains with a spray stain remover, liquid laundry detergent or a detergent booster. Place heavy stains face down on clean paper towels. Apply cleaning liquid to the back of the stain. Replace towels frequently. Air dry; rinse. Launder in hottest water safe for that fabric. Before drying, inspect and — if stain remains — repeat treatment and washing.

White ring marks on wood: Blot with an absorbent cloth, wipe with a damp cloth to help dissolve the stain, and dry with a soft cloth. If the stain remains, apply a little non-gel toothpaste, or liquid or cream car polish, rubbing with the grain. Wipe with a dry cloth and polish, if needed.

Wine: Soak stain in cool water. Pre-treat with a prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent or a paste of powdered detergent and water. Launder in hottest water safe for the fabric, using a fabric-safe bleach. Do not use soap. Note: Older stains might respond to treatment with an enzyme product, then laundering.


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