Out, Damn Spot!

The first rule of New Year's Eve party hosting is to never let the soiree get out of control. But since we all know how likely that is -- not -- here's something useful for the morning after: cleaning tips. Because you never know what you'll find when people are partying like it's 1999.

Graham Haley, cleaning guru and author of Haley's Cleaning Hints, was in town recently shooting a special for PBS. He told us that when it comes to tackling grimy January 1 problems, he swears by "household heroes," those items found under just about every sink that are inexpensive and easy to use. Whether you're removing lipstick from the couch or cigarette stains from the armoire, Haley's got you covered.

• Removing red wine from carpet: If the wine starts flowing a little too freely, pour club soda onto the spill as soon as possible. Later, make a paste of equal parts baking powder and Borax mixed with cold water. Spread the paste on the stain; after it dries, vacuum up the remains.

• Removing wax from carpet/upholstery: We assume it's just a candle meltdown you're facing, but who are we to judge? Place an ice cube on the wax for three to five minutes. When the wax is brittle, chip off the excess with a spatula. Then take a paper towel, fold it in half and place it over the remaining wax. Warm an iron to medium heat and place the iron on top of the paper towel. Do not move the iron around -- you'll just spread the wax. When you lift up the iron, the paper towel will have absorbed the wax.

• Removing cigarette burns from wood: Next year, remember to disinvite those "friends" who used your floor as an ashtray. But for now, try rubbing toothpaste, which is a mild abrasive, into the spot. If that doesn't work, apply a mixture of vegetable oil and powdered pumice to the burned area, rubbing it gently into the grain. Then wipe the area clean and polish the wood.

• Removing cigarette burns from upholstery: Unfortunately, Haley says, "If it's burnt right down, there is nothing you can do to fix that." If not, finely trim the toasted fibers with nail scissors and then clean the area with a mix of water and a mild detergent.

• Removing beer stains: If your keg stand went awry, soak the damaged item in a solution of two cups of cool water and 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar. If things really got out of hand, try something a bit stronger: Blot the area with a solution of 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 cup of cool water.

• Removing vomit from carpet/upholstery: It's nasty and bound to happen, and the sooner you pull out the spatula and dustpan to clean up the, uh, excess, the sooner you can apply a solution of a 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of warm water. Blot immediately, then forget about the whole mess.

• Removing lipstick stains: If guests got a little too lovey-dovey and left big lip smackers on your couch, pillows or clothing, douse the area well with hairspray, then rub hard with a bar of hand or laundry soap. Out of hairspray and soap? Try a solution of baking soda and lemon juice.

• Removing bloodstains: It's a good idea to always have baking soda around -- especially if the night gets messy. To hide the evidence, make a paste of baking soda and cold water, apply and let it sit until dry, then rinse it off. For bloodstains of Sopranos proportions, soak the area in hydrogen peroxide.

• Removing that leftover-beer-and- cigarette stench: Place bowls of white vinegar around the house; they'll absorb any odor. If the in-laws are coming by and you need a quick fix, dab a little of your favorite perfume or cologne on the top of a cool lightbulb. Turn on the light, and the room will smell like flowers or musk or patchouli in no time.

You're on your own for picking up thousands of tiny pieces of colored 2003 confetti. And as for resuscitating your goldfish or getting that smelly drunk guy off your couch, our best advice is to perhaps consider spending next New Year's Eve out on the town.

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Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn