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How to Clean Up the Worst Holiday Messes!

It's not a party until something is spilled or broken, but that doesn't mean you should be stuck with a stained couch or rug forever. From getting ready for a party to cleaning up its aftermath, here are some of the best holiday clean up tips.

General Party Prep Cleanup

For the most ambitious hosts and hostesses, Better Homes & Gardens suggests a 7-day cleanup plan before household guests arrive. The quick takeaway? Don't leave everything to the last minute. Take a few days to knock down tasks to a manageable amount: catch up on your laundry and launder bedspreads and tablecloths; damp-clean floors and baseboards; wipe down all kitchen appliances and cabinet doors; clear off counter spaces; deep clean the bathrooms (scrub the base of the toilet, an often-forgotten wasteland; refill any soap dispensers and polish mirrors and taps; leave air freshener for guests). Vacuum up spider webs and corners. Clean out the refrigerator so there's enough room for holiday nosh; do a seasonal oven clean with oven spray; hide/ donate/ throw away clutter; make extra room in your coat closet, and don't forget to stow a few extra hangers in there for guests.

Sparkly Glasses and Coffee Mugs

Make wine glasses sparkle by cleaning them with a little dish soap and distilled white vinegar. If your glasses are cloudy from hard water, soak them in diluted vinegar for an hour, rinse, and wipe with a soft dish towel. Scrub off stubborn coffee stains with a bit of salt and water.

Red Wine Spills

According to both Food and Wine and Good Housekeeping editors, the product "Wine Away" fulfills its promise on any kind of fabric or carpet. Bonus: It cleans more than wine—common spills from cranberry sauce, coffee, blood, and even ink don't have a chance. If it's a little stain, treating it with Wine Away and throwing it into a cold wash cycle will work. If it's a huge splash/ spill, spray the spill and rub it into the stain, then let it sit for good few minutes. If you don't have the product on hand, absorb wine with a pile of salt before brushing if away and treat it later. If wine spills on clothing, massage with a bit of dish soap and flush it with a steady stream of cold water. If there's still a bit of discoloration, finish it off with a bit of cold water and oxygenated powder bleach cleaner.

Spilled Wax

Remove as much wax as possible after the tablecloth cools. Place tablecloth stain-side down on a towel. To get the last bit of wax out, heat it up with a hairdryer or press it with a low-heat iron. The wax should be absorbed by the towel. You'll need an oil-removing solvent to lift the stain—the most common household product is rubbing alcohol. Dab with alcohol until the spot disappears.

Greasy Pots and Pans

There are several different philosophies about how to best scrub stubborn grease and caked-on and burned remnants from your pots and pans, but the common denominator across the board is salt. Soak a pan in salt water for a couple of hours and watch the grime lift right off. For extra burned bits, crumple up a bit of aluminum foil after the soak and use that instead of a sponge.

Oily Stains

Corn starch or talcum powder can soak up greasy gravy or oil stains from tablecloths or clothing that can't make it into the wash right away. Just pour a generous mound onto the stain, rub it in gently, and brush away after a day or so. Believe it or not, this works on both fresh and old grease stains. Oxygenated powdered bleach can be used later remove any discoloration. Whatever you do—don't put a grease stain in the dryer! Garments that look clean fresh out of the wash will be a shade or two darker than they'll be when they're dry. Don't risk throwing it into the dryer which will set the stain.

Vintage, Yellowed Linens

To take out the yellowing cast from vintage tablecloths and napkins, use an obscure product called Engleside Restoration. A small company in Pennsylvania, it makes a great product that will brighten delicate and dingy heirloom fabrics so you can dust them off and use them for the holidays.

The Bottom Line

Remember, in the whirlwind of holiday chaos and preparations that friends and family get together for the company, not for white glove service! The holiday spirit will soak up most of the hard-to-tackle messes. Also, don't forget that in a pinch candle light and dimmers can make everything glow!

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