The holidays — with their indulgent meals and festive parties, even if they are on a smaller scale this year — can wreak havoc on our clothes, table linens, furniture and carpeting. We spoke to experts to determine the best products for cleaning up the most common holiday messes, from cranberry sauce to spilled wax.
Cleaning spilled drinks and sauces
Red wine and cranberry sauce are staples of the holiday season — and they also stain like the dickens. Fortunately, Wine Away, an editor-approved solution, works not only on red wine stains but also on those stubborn cranberry sauce stains.
Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover, 2-Pack ($16.50, originally $18.98; amazon.com)
When it comes to dealing with spills like wine, cola, fruit juices or sauces on carpet or upholstered furniture, Brett Parent, a senior chemist for Bissell, says, “When you first encounter a spilled drink stain, use a cloth to blot as much of the liquid as possible. It is best to use a white towel or cloth for cleaning the stains to make sure you don’t have any dye transferred from a colored cloth.”
Inexpensive bar mops — small, absorbent, quick-drying dishrags — are perfect for the job.
Utopia Cotton Bar Mops, 12-Pack (starting at $13.99; amazon.com)
Parent provided the following instructions for treating stains from spilled drinks:
- Use an oxy-based stain remover and test it in an inconspicuous area to ensure it won’t cause damage
- Spray the stain and the surrounding area until the area is fully saturated
- Gently work the formula into the stain
- Let the formula sit for five minutes before blotting up any remaining liquid
Woolite Instaclean Stain Remover ($9.94; amazon.com)
For bigger spills, or ones that have become set in because you couldn’t get to them when they happened, Parent recommends using the Bissell SpotClean Pro portable carpet cleaner combined with the brand’s Pro Max Clean + Protect Formula.
Bissell SpotClean Pro ($169.99; amazon.com)
Bissell Pro Max Clean + Protect Formula ($21.99, originally $29.99; amazon.com)
Removing stains from greasy foods
Butter, oil and other fats abound at holiday time, inevitably leaving greasy stains on silk blouses or ties, or on table linens and upholstered furniture. Patric Richardson, a laundry expert who runs the website The Laundry Evangelist, says, “The secret to getting out oily stains is to use a little vinegar to lift the oil. Then use soap [on the stains] and launder as normal.”
The same method can be used to remove a stain from furniture, but instead of laundering after treating the stain, Richardson says to “just use warm water on a towel to ‘rinse’ the stain, then blot dry.”
Lucy’s Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 2-Pack ($9.10; amazon.com)
Pinnacle Mercantile Plastic Spray Bottles, 4-Pack ($11.97; amazon.com)
Treating stains from starchy foods
Starchy foods like mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole or glazed carrots become gluelike when they dry; Richardson suggests using a laundry brush to brush as much of the food off the fabric as possible before treating stains and laundering. Absent a laundry brush, use a nail brush, a butter knife or the side of a spoon to help lift dried-on starches from fabrics like clothing, tablecloths or chairs.
Cape Cod Horsehair Detail Brush ($8.03; amazon.com)
Hupos Handle Grip Nail Brush, 4-Pack ($4.99, originally $5.49; amazon.com)
For cotton fabrics or furniture, he echoes Parent’s recommendation to use an oxy-based product but notes that they aren’t recommended for use on silk, and so you should skip them in favor of a mild soap when spot treating clothing and accessories like silk blouses or ties. When it comes to sweet potatoes, yams and carrots that “have that orange color — that’s best removed with Amodex,” Richardson says.
OxiClean Max Force Foam Laundry Pre-Treater ($8.44, originally $9.99; amazon.com)
Amodex Ink and Stain Remover ($11.99, originally $13.99; amazon.com)
Tree needles and sap
If you decorate your home with a live tree, wreaths or garland, you will inevitably end up with fir tree needles everywhere. Because tree needles are sticky from sap, avoid using a traditional brush broom in favor of a rubber one, which the needles will not stick to, when sweeping them up.
Mr. Siga Soft Bristle Rubber Broom and Squeegee ($19.99; amazon.com)
Vacuuming up tree and garland needles is also an option, but you must switch to the hose attachment or use a shop vac, otherwise the needles will become caught in the vacuum’s bristles.
Vacmaster Wet Dry Shop Vac ($69.99; amazon.com)
When it comes to the car, which can end up covered in needles and sap when transporting Christmas trees, garland and wreaths, a product you probably already have in the vehicle can help to remove that sticky stuff. Kristen Lee, senior automotive reporter at Business Insider, says, “You can actually use hand sanitizer on your car because alcohol acts as a solvent and dissolves the sap. Get a small blob of it on the tip of your finger, apply it to the sap and let it sit for a few seconds. You can wipe it away once the sap has been dissolved — I advise doing this with a microfiber towel.”
Lee also points out that specialized bug and tar removers are effective at removing sap from a car’s exterior. If the sap itself gets on your skin, hand sanitizer will remove it quickly, as will cooking oils or even peanut butter. Just wash your hands well afterward to remove oily residue.
Solimo Hand Sanitizer ($11.99; amazon.com)
Armor All Extreme Bug & Tar Remover ($5.98; amazon.com)
Chemical Guys Professional-Grade Microfiber Towels, 12-Pack ($19.95; amazon.com)
A vacuum, fitted with the hose attachment, or a handheld vacuum can make short work of removing tree needles from your car’s interior. Lee also says that a little bit of planning can minimize cleanup time down the line. “Ideally, if you’re transporting something messy, you’d have some kind of tarp or covering, like an interior rubber mat or towel, to catch all the mess.”
Black+Decker Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum ($33.58; amazon.com)
Trimaco SuperTuff Heavyweight Canvas Drop Cloth ($7.93; amazon.com)
If candle wax drips onto the carpet, tablecloth or furniture, a simple trick can remove it: Lay a sheet of brown paper over the wax and place a slightly warm iron on top of the paper. The heat from the iron will melt the wax, and the paper will absorb it.
Sunbeam Steammaster Steam Iron ($29.99; amazon.com)
Kraft Brown Wrapping Paper Roll ($11.75; amazon.com)
To remove wax drips from hard surfaces like countertops, tables or floors, a hair dryer on a low heat setting can be used to similar effect. When the wax becomes pliable, wipe it away with paper towels, then remove remaining waxy residue using a small amount of soap and water.