How to Remove 7 Common Holiday Dinner Stains

Thanksgiving Stains
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Whether you look forward to holiday dinner leftovers or try to get rid of them as soon as possible, there are some festive leftovers that everyone hates: STAINS.

Learn how to remove the seven most common holiday dinner stains like gravy, cranberries, and candle wax from table linens, carpets, and clothes.

  • 01 of 07

    Cranberry Sauce

    How to Remove Cranberry Stains from Clothes
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    It really doesn't matter if your cranberry dish is the jellied log straight from the can or a homemade relish, the cranberry stains are tough to remove. The first key to success is to act as quickly as possible when the stain happens.

    If your guests are still enjoying the meal, simply use a dull knife or spoon to lift away any solids. Never rub the stain because that only pushes it deeper into the fabric and makes it harder to remove. Then, blot the stained area (tablecloth, shirt, or carpet) with a white cloth dipped in plain cool water. When the meal is over, you'll need to do a bit more work to remove the stain. 

  • 02 of 07


    gravy stains
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    Most gravies and cream sauces are combination stains of fats and proteins. Fortunately, both of these are pretty simple to remove if you take a bit of extra care. 

    Begin by lifting away as much as possible with a dull knife - no rubbing! When it is time to wash, be sure to pretreat the stain with a stain remover or a bit of heavy duty laundry detergent that contains enough enzymes to break down the stain. Wash in the hottest water recommended for the fabric. 

    Always check the stained area before you toss the item in the dryer because the heat can make the stain nearly impossible to remove, especially from synthetic fabrics like polyester. Retreat before drying, if necessary.

  • 03 of 07

    Pumpkin Pie

    Pumpkin Pie
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    It's not the pumpkin that causes the hard-to-remove stains (or the weight gain), it's what we add to the pumpkin - butter, milk, eggs, or cream cheese. Pumpkin pie is another combination stain that needs some extra attention in the laundry room.

    Lift away solids and blot the stained area with a white cloth dipped in plain cold water. When it is time to wash, treat with an enzyme-based stain remover or bit of liquid detergent. Work it in with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Always allow the product to remain on the stain for at least ten to fifteen minutes before washing to give it time to break down the stain.

  • 04 of 07

    Red Wine

    Red Wine on Tablecloth
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    We all know someone who bans red wine from their home because of the stains it can cause. But there is no need to take such drastic measures. Sure, red wine can cause stains but they won't be permanent if you tackle the stain removal the right way.

    As soon as the stain happens, blot up the excess red wine with a plain white cloth. Don't use a colored cloth because dye might actually transfer to the stained fabric. If you don't have time to do anything more next, at least blot the area with a clean white cloth dipped in plain water to dilute the stain. Then sprinkle the stain with plain table salt to begin absorbing the dye.

    When it's time to really remove the stains, follow these guidelines to remove the red from washable and dry clean only fabrics, as well as, carpet and upholstery.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07


    Patrick Llewelyn-Davis/OJO Images/Getty Images

    What's a holiday dinner without hot rolls or bread spread with butter? How about that buttery, crispy skin from the turkey or the vegetables glistening with a buttery sauce?

    When that butter drips, it can cause some problems. But just stay calm and lift away that dollop of butter on the tablecloth with the edge of your knife (no rubbing!). Until you have time to work on the stain, sprinkle the greasy spot with a bit of cornstarch or baking soda.

    Try to remember the goodness of all those rich dishes when it's time to remove the butter stain with an enzyme-based cleaner and the hottest water suitable for the fabric. The true key to success is to check the stain before you toss the freshly washed item in the dryer. The high heat can set the stain and make it so difficult to remove. Save yourself the angst and treat it again before drying.

  • 06 of 07

    Lipstick and Make-up

    Lipstick on Napkin
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    Everyone knows that Aunt Ida has worn the same fire engine red lipstick since 1952. But that doesn't make it any easier to accept the stains when you find them on your best white linen napkins.

    Make-up stains (Who used your best guest towels to remove mascara?) and lipstick stains are combination stains of dye and oils that need extra treatment beyond just a toss in the washer.

  • 07 of 07

    Candle Wax

    Candle Wax drips
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    Candles are lovely and add a wonderful touch to any holiday table until the wax drips, or is blown, onto your best tablecloth. This is why it's important to snuff candles gently to prevent that scattering of wax droplets.

    The key is to restrain yourself and wait for the wax to harden. Trying to remove warm wax will only make matters worse. If you can't wait for it to harden on its own, place an ice cube in a plastic bag and put it on top of the drip. That way, the ice will harden and the fabric won't get overly wet.