Do’s and Don’ts when Dealing with Dinner Party Stains

Having a group of good friends round for dinner is one of the greatest pleasures for many people but no one enjoys the clean-up that follows afterwards, especially if the “good times” from the dinner party has resulted in a sea of stubborn stains!

By following a few simple rules, however, the dinner party aftermath doesn’t have to turn into a stain disaster. Here are some tips to keep in mind:


  • Do take time to do some emergency stain management – even if it is only just soaking up as much of spilled liquids as possible with some paper towels or sprinkling bicarbonate soda on the stained areas to absorb as much of the stain as possible.
  • Do try to rinse any stain out first with just soda water or clean tap water – in many cases, if the stain is fresh, repeated rinsing and blotting will remove most of the discolouration.
  • Do tackle the darkest stains first – these include things like coffee and tea stains, red wine stains and dark sauces, as well as any brightly coloured fruit juices.
  • Do pour some salt on any red wine stain as a first course of action (eg. just after the spill) – this will often act very effectively to absorb the wine. Cover the whole area and repeat until the salt stops changing colour. Wait until the salt is dry before sweeping it up, to prevent smearing any wine back into the carpet.
  • Do try pouring boiling water through an old stain if it is on a washable fabric that can withstand this treatment (eg. an old wine stain on a tablecloth) – otherwise you will need to resort to a hydrogen peroxide solution mixed with mild detergent to shift the stain.
  • Do try soaking in cool water overnight for stubborn stains – this will often help to shift them.
  • Do pay attention to stains from the juices of citrus fruits – although these may not leave such an obvious mark as stains from brightly coloured fruit (eg. berries), these stains can turn yellow if they are allowed to dry and then, with heat and age, become almost impossible to remove.
  • Do use a spoon or blunt knife to scrape off as much excess food particles or sauce as possible, before tackling the underlying stain.
  • Do be extremely careful with serving beetroot or ketchup – both of these can leave very difficult stains. Tackle them immediately should any occur – use a paste made up of detergent and lukewarm water to work through the stain and loosen the particles and then soak the fabric for half an hour in warm water before rinsing thoroughly. As an alternative, lemon juice can be used instead of the paste.
  • Do always use a dab and blot method when rinsing – especially when working on carpets which must not be over-soaked.
  • Do always make sure a stain has been completely removed before putting a garment in the washing machine and dryer, as otherwise any hot water or heat treatment will set the stain permanently.
  • Do make use of natural stain removers in your pantry: vinegar, lemon juice and bicarbonate soda (baking soda) – these will work well on a variety of stains.


  • Don’t think about leaving the stains till morning – you will regret. At the very least, do some emergency stain management such as blotting up excess liquid and rinsing with water if possible or using salt or bicarbonate soda to soak up as much as possible.
  • Don’t scrub – this will simply push the stain further into the fabric or carpets. Much better to use a gentle dab with wet cloth & blot dry technique to draw out the stain.
  • Don’t over-soak carpets when rinsing the stains out of them. This can damage the fibres and cause further staining. Again, use the dab and blot method.
  • Don’t try to do too much with fabrics that need to be dry-cleaned – sponge off the worst of the stain and then take it to a professional dry-cleaner as soon as possible.
  • Don’t use bleach except as a last resort – and then only really risk it on white cotton or linen. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and rinse thoroughly before washing as normal.
  • Don’t forget your countertops and table surfaces – these can often acquire unsightly stains, especially from coffee cups. But don’t scrub with a harsh abrasive – this will do more harm than good and might even remove any protective coating your countertop has been treated with. Use a passed made up with baking soda and water and gently rub it into the stain to remove it.
  • Don’t forget the stains inside crockery, such as in cups or bowls. A bit of extra effort now while the stains are still fresh will save you a lot of effort and frustration later. It is as simple as filling the stained items with boiling water and a wedge of lemon and leaving them to soak overnight. Or you can fill them with a solution of washing soda crystals (1 tablespoon) dissolved in warm water and leave them to soak for at least 1 hour.

Remember the golden rule for all stains: the faster you act, the better chance you will have to removing it. So be prepared – have some basic stain removal items handy so that if you see any spills or accidents during the party, you can quickly administer some “stain first aid” so that damage is limited and things will be easier for you to treat later.

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