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Your Best, at Its Best

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By Annie Groer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007

Okay, let's fess up. Some of us rarely use our best tablecloths, china, crystal and silver, and usually only think about it maybe a week before Thanksgiving. When we pull it out of storage, the silver is probably a tad tarnished, the china a little dusty and there may even be a few telltale spots on the linens from last year's feast.

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We consulted a passel of experts, books and Web sites and found a variety of opinions, which we've distilled into helpful tips for cleaning and storage.

Linens

The tablecloth is the first decorative layer, and in some ways the trickiest to maintain because it is so subject to wrinkles and stains.

* Cotton and linen cloths are far more wrinkle-prone than polyester, so keep this in mind when buying a new one.

* To iron, lightly sprinkle or spritz your cloth with water; even better, remove it from the dryer while it is still damp and iron right away.

* Except for linen, which requires high heat, iron most cloths on medium. Take extra care if using spray starch, which can scorch under a very hot iron.

* On the table, protect the cloth from dripping wax with bobeches , small decorative collars that fit between the candle and holder. Use saucers under the gravy boat and cranberry sauce, and wine coasters under bottles.

* When guests leave, target spots on napkins and the tablecloth right away with a stain dissolver, dish detergent, enzyme-enhanced laundry soap or other cleaner. Check http://www.heloise.com for advice about common holiday stains or http://www.extension.missouri.edu for stain-removal tips on more than 150 substances, including blood and yogurt.

* Machine-wash your linens on gentle cycle with warm water; to minimize wrinkling, shake the cloth out before putting it into a medium-heat dryer.

* Experts differ on when to iron table linens: One camp says iron as soon as they are washed (and still slightly damp); others advise putting linens away un-ironed and press just before using them.

*To minimize wrinkles during storage, fold the cloth between sheets of acid-free paper or roll around a carpet tube; alternatively, fold in thirds and hang on a padded hanger.


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