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Seasonal Cleaning

Caring for Your Holiday Tablecloths

During the holidays, most of us break out our good silverware and nicest table linens, which is kind of funny as these tend to be some of the messiest meals of the year. Nonetheless, festive gatherings of family and friends call for well-dressed tables, so those tablecloths are bound to see a stain or two. 

But this year, don’t let spills and drips take the happiness out of your holiday season. Learn some tablecloth stain removal tips, then find out how to store table linens to make unpacking them next year a little easier. 

Removing Cranberry Sauce from a Tablecloth

Cranberry sauce is the perfect companion to that holiday turkey. Unfortunately, this seasonal favorite has a tendency to leave a mark on table linens. You’ll need:
  1. If dinner is still in process, use the knife to gently lift up any cranberry sauce on the tablecloth. Don’t rub or scrape at the spill. This could work the stain deeper into the fabric.
  2. Dip a microfiber cloth in cold water and blot the stain with that.
  3. Once dinner is over and you have a clean sink, mix the vinegar and laundry detergent with 4 cups of cold water.
  4. Soak the stained area of the cloth in this solution for about 15 minutes.
  5. Rinse the cloth with cold water to remove the cranberry stains.
  6. If the stain has not lifted, delicately blot it with a clean microfiber cloth.
  7. Repeat Steps 4, 5 and 6 as needed.
  8. Launder the tablecloth as you normally would and let it air dry.

How to Remove Wax from a Tablecloth

Candles can help set a holiday mood, but you might find yourself regretting them if they drip and leave you to figure out how to remove wax from the tablecloth. You’ll need:
  • A butter knife
  • A plain, unwaxed brown paper bag
  • Scissors
  • An iron
  1. Let the wax dry completely so that it’s hardened.
  2. Use the butter knife to gently scrape away the wax. Make sure you’re being delicate, as you don’t want to work the wax deeper into the fibers of the tablecloth.
  3. Cut the bag into several squares, each large enough to cover the affected area.
  4. Adjust the iron’s heat setting according to the type of fabric your tablecloth is made from.
  5. Lay a square of paper on the wax spill.
  6. Iron the paper bag over the affected area, making sure not to actually iron the tablecloth itself. You’ll want to move the iron back and forth over the paper. As you work, you’ll see the bag darken. This is the oil from the candle transferring to the paper.
  7. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 with fresh squares of paper until you no longer see dark spots appearing on the bag.
  8. Wash the tablecloth according to the care instructions or hand wash it just as you would if you were cleaning delicates. Let it air dry.

Removing Gravy from a Tablecloth

Gravy is one of the best parts of any holiday meal, as it brightens the flavors of everything from dressing to mashed potatoes. What it doesn’t brighten, however, is your tablecloth. You’ll need:
  • A butter knife
  • Club soda (optional)
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • A clean kitchen sink
  • 1/4 teaspoon of gentle dishwashing liquid
  • Microfiber cloths
  1. Gently remove any spilled gravy with the edge of the butter knife. Take care not to scrape or rub, as this will damage the fabric or cause the stain to set further.
  2. Dampen the corner of a clean microfiber cloth with club soda and blot the spill.
  3. Sprinkle a little baking soda over the stained area until you’re finished with your meal.
  4. When dinner is over and the sink is clean, soak the tablecloth in cold water for at least three hours. This will help loosen up the stain.
  5. Rinse the cloth with water. If you’re lucky, the stain will be gone. If not, move on to Step 6.
  6. Mix the dishwashing liquid with 1/2 cup of water.
  7. Dampen a fresh microfiber cloth with this solution and use that to lightly blot the stain.
  8. Rinse the dish soap from the cloth.
  9. Wash your tablecloth by hand or according to the care instructions before letting it air dry.

How to Store Table Linens

Stowing your tablecloths and napkins properly can make them last a lot longer.
  1. Start by making sure they’re clean and free of stains. Believe it or not, those little bits of food spills can attract pests that can destroy your tablecloths.
  2. If your table linens have care instructions, follow those to the letter. Otherwise, hand wash them as you would delicates.
  3. Let linens dry until they’re just slightly damp.
  4. Make sure you have a clean iron soleplate and iron the cloth, using the specifications on the care tag or the settings for the type of fabric you’re working with. (It’s never a bad idea to perform a spot test in a small inconspicuous area.)
  5. Allow the fabric to dry completely before you move on to storage.
  6. There are multiple ways to store table linens, but two that will result in the fewest wrinkles are as follows:
    • Fold the tablecloth into thirds or fourths, depending on how large it is. Fasten it on a hanger with clips, such as the type you’d use for skirts. Place this in your linen closet.
    • Find a large cardboard tube, like those that come with wrapping paper. Place a layer of white, acid-free tissue paper in between the tube and your tablecloth. Roll the tablecloth around the cardboard tube, smoothing out wrinkles as you go.

In search of a few more holiday cleaning tricks to stash up your sleeves? We have plenty in the Seasonal Cleaning section of our blog. Start with A Holiday Clean-Up Countdown to Be Thankful For and then check out 4 Thanksgiving Clean As You Go Tips or learn how to freeze Thanksgiving leftovers

And if you need help cleaning up after a big party or family dinner, specialty services. We’re here to lend a hand so you can make the most of your holiday season.