The12 Stains of Christmas

Even if your true love made them, you’re not going to want these holiday-season stains. Here’s how to clean them up.

The holidays can bring joyous moments. Those fireplace gatherings also can leave soot behind, decorated trees produce sticky sap, and those bûches de Noël can leave chocolate stains on the tablecloth. But don’t let these things get you down. Here’s how to beat the 12 stains of Christmas.

All Illustrations by Kim Murton

1. Christmas tree sap. 

To remove tree sap from a rug, carpet or fabric, place some dishwashing detergent on your fingertip and rub it into the sap. Continue rubbing until the sap starts to break down. Wipe the area with a wet cloth until all the sap is removed. Then, rinse the entire area with warm water until there’s no sign of the detergent. Allow to air-dry.

2. Candle wax. 

To remove wax on a tablecloth, first rub an ice cube over the wax. Once it has hardened, use a butter knife to scrape off as much as you can. Place a paper bag over the area, and rub a warm iron over it. The wax will liquefy and absorb into the paper. Treat any residue with rubbing alcohol: Let the alcohol sit for 15 minutes; then rub with a bar of soap. Wash the cloth in the washing machine, and air-dry.

3. Soot. 

Whatever you do, don’t try to wipe soot off with a wet cloth or sponge. Soot is very oily, and water and oil just don’t mix. Instead, use a dry sponge to remove as much soot as you can. If you have a few smears that won’t come off, dip a corner of the sponge in rubbing alcohol to remove the remaining soot. You can also purchase an eraser designed to remove soot.

4. Water rings. 

Water from a glass or vase can do damage by leaving noticeable marks on a wood surface. A simple way to remove a water ring is to dip your finger in some regular store-bought mayonnaise and smear it all over the stain. The oil in the mayo will be absorbed into the wood and make the stain disappear. Use a wet cloth to wipe away any remaining mayo on the wood surface.

5. Red wine. 

Some recommend using white wine to remove red wine stains, but why waste good wine on a stain? Instead, sprinkle the stain with table salt to absorb the wine. Then dab the area with a hydrogen peroxide-soaked white rag until the color stops coming off. Then, pour hydrogen peroxide (the standard 3 percent solution found at drugstores) over the area and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour. The stain will disappear over time.

6. Chocolate. 

To remove chocolate from fabric, rub the stain with an ice cube. This will freeze the chocolate so you can scrape off as much chocolate as possible with a butter knife. Then use a spray bottle filled with club soda to soak the area. Place the back side of the fabric under cool running water to flush the stain out. Finally, rub a drop of dish soap into the area until the stain disappears. Rinse the area well with warm water.

7. Ink. 

Have you ever heard the cleaning tip for removing ink is to spray it with hairspray? The secret ingredient in the hairspray is rubbing alcohol. So save the hairspray for your beauty regimen and instead remove the stain by dabbing it with rubbing alcohol or vodka. It might take a while, but be patient and keep on dabbing and eventually the stain should work its way out. As with any stain, the sooner you do something about it, the better.

8. Dairy. 

Start by blotting the area so that you absorb as much of the liquid as you can. Then dilute the stain with cool water. Don’t use hot water, as that will just essentially cook the milk. Continue blotting the diluted stain until you’ve removed as much as possible. Use a drop of dish detergent on the spot, and work it into the fabric. Continue working it into the stain until it disappears. Rinse the area thoroughly with warm water.

9. Turkey grease. 

Removing greasy stains from any fabric is a simple two-step process: Start with rubbing alcohol or vodka, and pour it over the greasy stain. Let it sit for 20 minutes, and then rub a bar of soap onto the stain. Rub it in further with your fingers, and add a few drops of water to create a lather. Place the fabric into the washing machine, and wash on its usual setting. Let it air-dry, and if the stain remains, repeat the process.

10. Coffee. 

A coffee stain can be removed easily with club soda. To simplify applying the club soda, pour some of it into a spray bottle and then lightly spritz the stain. Work the club soda into the stain with your finger or a soft scrub brush and the stain should immediately start to disappear. If the stain is being stubborn, you can add some borax powder to the club soda to give it a boost. Use a dry cloth to soak up any excess liquid.

11. Lipstick. 

You can remove lipstick the same way you remove candle wax. Place the stained fabric in the freezer so the lipstick hardens. Scrape off as much as you can with a butter knife. Then dab the stain with an alcohol-soaked white cloth. Continue dabbing until you no longer see the color. Run the napkin or fabric in the washer, and let it air-dry. If the stain or oily spot remains, repeat the process until the stain is gone.

12. Blood. 

Fingers sometimes can get in the way of carving knives this time of year. The key to cleaning up blood stains is to get to it as soon as possible. Blood will come off most fabrics with a little soap and cold water, but here’s an even better solution: Simply dab it with hydrogen peroxide. You will be surprised how quickly the stain will fade away. Use a dry cleaning cloth to blot away excess liquid.