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Cleaning Up

Festivities can get a bit messy at times: Barty Phillips takes a look at how to remove stains using edible cleaners...

When the Christmas and New Year hordes have visited, eaten, drunk, revelled and departed for home, it is unlikely you have got through the season without somebody spilling something or being sick and January is time to clean up and do a spot of stain removal.

Although chemical solvents and stain removers can be invaluable, it is comforting to remember that one of the best cleaners available is cold water. In fact you can do a lot of cleaning with edible substances found in the kitchen.

Blood and gravy will often come out when fresh if simply held under the cold tap. (Hot or warm water may set the stain for good though). Lemon juice and vinegar are mild acids and come in useful for lime scale and dirty windows; bicarbonate of soda is an alkali and will get tea stains off the insides of mugs; flour will absorb greasy stains on non-washable clothes (good for hats). Then there's salt, invaluable for absorbing wine and other liquids spilled on the carpet. In general, edible cleaners are cheaper than chemicals and they are certainly pleasanter to use.

Whatever cleaning agent you use and whatever has been spilled, there are some rules for stain removal. Act at once. Immediate treatment may get rid of a stain completely whereas once it has dried it's probably there for good.
Absorb liquids spilled on the carpet by pouring a mound of salt over them and leaving them for several hours. Alternatively you can use tissues, treading, (but not rubbing) them into the spill (not edible but efficient).
Hold the fabric stain-down if possible, so the stain goes out the way it came in.
Use clean white tissue or cotton wool to absorb stain and stain remover.

Here are some common festive stains and edible ways of dealing with them. If there are residual stains you can resort to proprietary cleaning solvents. Beer: dab with vinegar and rinse. Wash as usual in as high a temperature as the fabric allows. Dry white fabrics in the sun to bleach. On carpets, absorb with salt or tissues then use carpet shampoo.
Candle wax: rub ice cubes over the wax until it is hard and then prise it off in bits. Sandwich the residue between clean brown paper or tissues and iron with a warm iron.
Chocolate and cocoa: scrape off any residue, flush with cold water, wash in liquid detergent.
Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, fruit juices: flush with cold water. Wash as usual.
Coffee and tea: flush with cold water. Soak in hand-hot liquid detergent solution. Rinse thoroughly. On the carpet, absorb with salt or tissues and then use carpet shampoo. Tea-stained mugs: rub with a cloth dipped in bicarbonate of soda.
Gravy: wipe off excess, spray or soak in cold water. Treat residual stains with dry-cleaning solvent.
Wine: flush with cold water, rinse; dab with vinegar, rinse thoroughly and wash as usual. On the carpet, absorb with salt or tissues and then use a carpet shampoo.


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