How To Clean Thanksgiving Spills & Stains

Photographed by Danny Kim.
It's hard to be the host. With a large crew of family and friends at your house, someone is bound to spill something — maybe even you.

There's a snail trail of gravy and cranberry sauce between everyone's plates, your brother's new girlfriend spilled good cabernet on your even better white tablecloth, and it looks as if someone tried to mash potatoes by rubbing them into your chintz seat cushion with their butt. Of course, it's up to you-know-who to clean it all up.

If you need a little help, we've rounded up some post-feasting cleaning hacks. Whether your issue is gravy gone amok or pans that take hours to clean, these insider tips will lighten the load. All you need is some water, salt, detergent, and dishwashing liquid, and a very large glass of wine to make the job more bearable.
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Cooking Oil

If you spill on the floor, don't go for your mop. Instead, clean any broken glass first, then cover the spill with an absorbent material. Kitty litter, sand, baking soda, or salt are all good options. Leave it sitting for 10 minutes and then scoop the spill into the garbage.
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Mashed Potatoes

Somehow your favorite carb has gone crusty on the tablecloth, seat cushion, and sweater. We advise using a knife to scrape off what you can. Next, take the fabric, turn it inside out, and run it under cold water. Add a bit of dishwashing soap before rinsing it again, which should help remove grease. Apply laundry detergent directly to the stain and let it soak for 30 minutes in cold water, though especially large stains will require more time. Throw it in the washing machine using the highest setting suitable for the material, and repeat as needed before drying if the stain still appears.
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Red Wine

Pass the salt. No, really. Red wine stains can be treated with cold water and salt, believe it or not. First, carefully blot the stain with a clean, dry cloth to remove excess liquid. Do not rub the fabric, which will cause the stain to deepen. One trick is to place the material over a glass bowl. Run cold water over the stain, then coat it in salt. This helps lift the stain, which will begin to turn pink. Carefully pour boiling water over the stain from a height of a few inches. If that doesn't lift the stain, soak it in a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water, then launder as usual.
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Yeah, yeah, next year you'll buy the disposable ones. Alternatively, plan ahead by lining each pan with a sheet of foil, which you can throw out once you're done eating. Make it easy on yourself.

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Cranberry Sauce

Whoops! You managed to dribble sauce down your new top. It's best to act immediately and take care of the stain before it settles. Use cold water to rinse the area, taking care to not let it spread. Mix up a solution of half a teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent, a tablespoon of white vinegar, and a quart of cool water, letting the stain soak for a good 15 minutes. Next, rinse the stain in more cold water before starting the washing machine on the hottest setting possible.
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Candle Wax

If your wax runneth over, you can remove it from your tablecloth by letting it cool and harden (drop it in the freezer to speed up the process, if necessary). Then scrape away the excess with a dull knife. Get the stain out by ironing with a brown paper bag on top of the wax stain, which will transfer from the fabric to the bag. Then wash and say goodbye to your stain.
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Gravy Stains

It's an unavoidable fact: You live with animals. When there's more gravy on the tablecloth than the turkey, act fast to save the day. Again, use a knife to scrape off any excess gravy, then add liquid dishwashing soap and rinse thoroughly. Use a pre-wash stain remover before tossing it in the washing machine with the hottest setting allowed. If the material is white, a dash of bleach will also do the trick. Continue this process until the stain comes out before turning on the dryer.
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Make the hassle easier by layering your kitchen trash can with three bags. Then, when you're all full up in the top bag, you can peel it off and have another waiting. Also, this will stop any spills resulting from garbage bag tears before they start.