Now that the wrapping paper has been ripped off the presents and the guests have gone home, it’s time to start thinking about the post-holiday cleanup. Whether fallen pine needles or melted wax stains, here’s how to clear it all up, pack it away and give your home a fresh start for the new year.
Treat all stains as soon as possible, which means once your guests have left, spray a stain remover on the spotted napkin; you don’t have to wash it yet, but the longer a stain sits untreated, the harder it is to get out. Lipstick is grease-based, so use an oil solvent such as Carbona. Sponge or dab the stain with a clean white cloth — do not rub. If the stain persists, use a cotton swab to dab it with ammonia. Rinse and machine-wash the napkin in hot water. Remove the napkin from washer and check for the stain. If it is still there, reapply the solvent or ammonia, rinse and wash. Always air-dry the stained item so that the stain does not set in (the heat from the dryer will “bake” a stain into the cloth).
If you are like me, the thought of putting up the tree is a dream, but the thought of taking it down is a nightmare. Taking the tree down in steps makes the chore less daunting. A few days after Christmas I like to take off all ornaments and store them for next year. I store ornaments by style, size and materials: all soft ornaments together, all small ornaments together, etc. This makes it easier to find what you need next year. Then I leave the tree up — with lights only — through New Year’s. Come January, all you have to do is tackle the lights.
Pine needles clog up a regular vacuum cleaner, so unless you have a shop/canister vacuum, avoid using one. Begin by sweeping up as many of the needles as you can, then use either a sticky adhesive lint roller or a piece of duct tape wrapped around your hand to pick up the rest.
The best way to remove ashes from a fireplace is to dump wet coffee grounds on top of the ashes. The wet coffee grounds moisten the ashes so they don’t fly all over the place when you go to sweep them up. Use a small shovel to remove the dampened mixture.
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Line the bottom of your sink with a layer of sturdy paper towels and set the glass votive holders on top. Fill each votive holder halfway with boiling water and let sit for a couple of minutes. Carefully pick up each votive holder and swirl hot water around the inside to melt any wax residue. Pour the hot water from the votive holder onto the paper towel to catch the residue. Then, using a clean paper towel, swab it inside the votive holder until clean.
Just a tip for the future: Add a few drops of water to a votive holder just before inserting the candle; the wax won’t adhere to the glass, and it will be easier to remove.
Begin by chipping away excess wax with a butter knife, spoon or your fingernail. Lay the tablecloth on an ironing board and place a plain brown bag — without any writing on it — over the remaining wax. Apply a warm iron to the paper. The wax will adhere to the paper. Replace the wax-covered bag as needed. Continue lifting wax from the cloth until it is gone.
For colored wax stains, follow the directions above, but treat the spot with a prewash stain remover before washing.
The easiest way to remove a watermark is to spread about two tablespoons of mayonnaise on a paper towel. Place the paper towel, mayonnaise side down, on the watermark and press gently. Let it sit for about 15 minutes. Lift the paper towel and check the stain. If the mark is still there, repeat with more mayonnaise. When the mark is gone, gently wipe off the mayonnaise and polish the furniture as you normally would.
Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”