Holiday Food Stains Are So Not Worth The Drama

Look, holiday mean-related stains are bound to happen. The longer you sit at a table full of food surrounded by your ravenous and inconsiderate family members, the more likely it becomes that you’ll end up spending countless hours worrying over the cranberry sauce in your favorite trousers when you should be knocking people out of the way at the mall.

We’re kidding about that last part — please don’t hurt anyone at the point of sale. But when you do suffer a holiday stain (because you will, or might already have done so during Thanksgiving), it might behoove you to follow a few tips from our friend Gwen Whiting, one of the co-founders of J.Crew‘s favorite line of detergents The Laundress. For all the fancy unguents and lotions she sells to help clothes shine like new, Whiting has a refreshingly straightforward (and emotionally mature) approach to removing even the worst kinds of stains.

1. Calm down. The last thing you want to lose when Uncle Johnny spills gravy on your shirt is your cool. “Nothing irritates me more than someone who spills at the table and then starts soaking themselves in water,” Whiting says. “It makes me insane.”

2. Wait a minute. You don’t really have to fix the stain right then and there, contrary to what you might have heard. Whiting says, “sooner than later is better, but not at the moment. That night, the next day, whatever.”

3. Heat it up. “Fundamentally, hot water is the best way of getting out stains,” Whiting says. “People think that hot water sets in stains, and that’s just not correct.” So how do you use hot water to your advantage? “Just soak it. Hot water, get some chemicals [i.e. detergent] in there and go for it.” And then, wash the stain out in your next spin cycle.

4. Realize you don’t need professional help. You can clean most stains by yourself, and unless you’ve spilled Sancerre on something that’s marked dry-clean only, there’s absolutely no need to rush off to the dry cleaners. “Dry cleaners will set in the stain,” Whiting says. “I’m talking 100 percent: Linen, cotton, polyester, everything that should be washed should be treated in that manner. We have a lot of clients who run to the cleaners because they freak out and they end up in a worse situation.”

Of course, if you freak out and want really detailed and specific instructions on how to remove stains, The Laundress has those, too. At any rate, Happy holidays from our stain-riddled dining room table to yours!

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