Party Fouls: How to Clean Up the Most Common Party Messes
I will never forget the time I was invited to a Bunco party at a swanky home on a golf course. As I sat down at a card table draped in a vintage white tablecloth, my knee bumped the table leg and sent a long-stemmed wine glass arcing towards the hostess, who was wearing a white peasant blouse. Mortified, I stammered apologies while the woman, whom I’d only just met, mopped up the spill with a rag. Gulp. I spent the rest of the evening guiltily eyeing the purple blotches and trying to roll the dice without touching the card table.
The holiday season is upon us, and for many that means hosting dinner and cocktail parties, open houses and family gatherings. Spills happen, so here’s how to keep the good times rolling in the event of a party foul.
Let’s start with my faux pas. The gold standard is Wine Away (I used to work at a winery, and we always kept this on hand). Biodegradable and non-toxic, it’s safe for use around kids and pets. Gently soak up excess wine with a cloth—don’t rub—then spray the cleaner, wait several minutes, and blot until lifted. Repeated applications may be necessary. If possible, use hot soapy water to remove any lingering discoloration, and most importantly, treat the stain before it dries! Wine Away also claims it removes coffee, ink, pet stains and blood, in case your party gets really interesting.
Don’t have Wine Away? Dilute the stain with water and blot: I suspect this is why using club soda or white wine on spills is advised—they’re primarily diluting the red liquid. You can also use a mixture of equal parts Dawn dishwashing liquid, widely touted as a gentle but effective stain and oil remover, and hydrogen peroxide. Blot up excess wine, pour on this mixture and let it soak, then wash. Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleaching agent, so be sure to check your item’s care instructions before attempting clean up.
Freeze the wax with an ice cube wrapped in a sandwich bag, then scrape it off. Place the stained area between layers of paper towels, and use your iron on a low setting to transfer the remaining wax onto the towels. For any remaining stain, treat with stain remover and launder as usual. If the wax is on upholstery, carpet, or anything nonwashable, you may have to finish up with a dry cleaning solvent, such as Woolite’s Dry Cleaner’s Secret or Dryel.
If you find lipstick on your napkins, use a squirt of Dawn dishwashing liquid to break up the grease, then launder as usual. Check the napkins before putting them in the dryer to make sure that the stain is gone; if color remains, try soaking in white vinegar. Another stain removal method is to place the napkin on top of a paper towel. Take another towel dampened with rubbing alcohol and press it to the stain. Read the care label first to make sure the fabric is safe for this method. The stain will transfer to the towel beneath. A good tip for party cleanup is to soak all napkins in a mix of Dawn dish detergent and water before laundering.
Gravy and Salad Dressing
Scoop up as much as you can with a spoon or dull knife, and use cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the rest. Vacuum the absorbent after 10 to 15 minutes. From there, pretreat washable items with stain remover; use dry cleaning solvent for nonwashables.
Mustard’s zesty flavor comes in part from turmeric, a yellow spice whose stain is difficult to remove. The key with mustard is—don’t wait! Without alarming your guests, scoop up whatever mustard you can, and dilute the remaining stain with water. If you can, pour the water over the underside of the item, because it will push the stain out the top of the fabric rather than through the layers. Next, apply some laundry or dishwashing soap and rub the fabric under running water, then apply laundry stain remover. Launder in cool water and check the stain before putting it in the dryer. If mustard lands on a dry clean-only item or upholstery, use dry cleaning solvent and blot. If the item is sturdy enough, try tamping the solvent into the fabric lightly with a bristle brush to help loosen the stain.
Ketchup and pasta sauce respond well to lemon juice, as long as your fabric can handle it. Apply the juice with a sponge, and finish with a cloth dampened with cool water, then blot to dry. You can also follow the mustard method by running water through the back of the fabric and gently scrubbing with dish liquid and a bristle brush. If you can still see the stain on a light-colored fabric, try sponging with a mild bleaching agent such as distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Soak in cold water before laundering.
Chipped or Cloudy Crystal
If a crystal glass or bowl gets chipped, it can be repaired. In a pinch, if it’s a very small chip roughening the rim of a glass, you can smooth it with a nail file, though it may still be visible. A better idea is to take the item to a crystal repair service or a quality jeweler, which will file the rim down evenly, but know that it might end up slightly shorter than your other glasses. Small cracks can also be filled with a sealing compound. If the stem breaks off a glass, it may not be able to be properly repaired, as the clear acrylic glue used probably won’t hold long-term. However, a crystal repairer can turn a cherished item such as a goblet into something decorative, like a Christmas ornament or votive holder.
To make cloudy crystal sparkle again, soak it in warm white vinegar, which will remove hard water build-up. You can also wipe crystal with acetone nail polish remover. If these methods don’t help, it may be that the crystal has become etched. Soft water is often the culprit. Unfortunately, this is permanent.
Spots on Silver
Silver will react with various substances, including salt, vinegar, olives, fruit juice, cut flowers, and sulphur-producing foods such as onion and eggs. If these items come into contact with silver, they can produce black spots that polish will not remove, so before putting your items away, make sure you wash gently using your favorite method, avoiding any lemon-scented dish detergents. Never wash silver with stainless steel because, if they touch, an electrolytic reaction will cause spots. Likewise, rubber will corrode silver, so stay away from rubber gloves. Rinse with warm water, dry thoroughly, and buff gently with a soft cloth. Prevent reactions and slow tarnishing by making sure silver is not stored near rubber, newspaper ink (silver was once wrapped in newspaper and rubber bands—a double whammy!) salt, chamois leather, or stainless steel.
Broken Glass or Ornaments
Use dampened paper towels or newspaper to safely lift up small shattered pieces. A piece of soft bread will also work. Dispose of carefully in trash, so pets or children can’t get to it. When sweeping up, sprinkle salt over the area to help catch little pieces and make clean up easier.
EMERGENCY PARTY-FOUL KIT
Keep a bucket or bin stashed in the pantry filled with these useful clean-up items:
– Clean rags and sponges
– Dawn dishwashing liquid
– Laundry stain remover
– Wine Away
– Dry cleaning solvent
– Cornstarch or talcum powder
– White vinegar
– Hydrogen peroxide
– Rubbing alcohol
– Spray bottle with water or all-purpose cleaning solution
– Dustpan and brush