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Serving a Spotless Dinner

December 13, 1985|SARVAT HASAN

In a spot over what to do to prevent stains from putting a strain on Christmas dinner? Don't panic. Dmitry Gagarine, who whisked through town recently to promote Visa polyester, can get anyone out of a jam.

As former director of research for Milliken & Co. and one of the inventors of wash-and-wear fabrics, he has been laundering his way through 30 years of disastrous dinner spills in his ongoing search to snub out stains. Here are some of his helpful hints for getting through a spotless dinner:

Calamity Cocktails: Guests are usually gathered in one room, mostly standing. Undoubtedly someone will nudge, bump or just plain push. "Red wine stains are the most dangerous and can be fatal, especially to silk," Gagarine claims. "Don't dry clean or wash silk. It won't help. Instead, use an inexpensive white wine to remove the stain. The key word here is inexpensive, as these wines contain sulfur dioxide, which will remove the red wine."

Agonizing Appetizer: "Oily salad dressing can be particularly persistent on polyester, and garments will often have to be washed as many as 20 times before it comes out," Gagarine says. Before washing the piece, he suggests you completely saturate the stain with a liquid detergent. Rub until the detergent lifts the stain from the garment, then wash.

Messy Main Course: Turkey and dressing, rice and gravy, sweet potatoes, beets and cranberry sauce all sound sumptuous, but not when they're sitting in your lap. Gagarine advises that such fabrics as cotton and polyester/cotton blends can both be ruined by a gravy stain. If you do happen to slip and spill, use the same procedure as for the appetizers.

"If it's grease or butter, make sure the water you wash it in is a higher temperature than the melting point (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit), or the stain won't come out," he says. Bleach can often be useful, he adds. But never use it on silk or wool, or the fabric will turn yellow.

Dangerous Desserts: The children are charging toward the chocolate box, and the next thing you know your little nephew is sitting on a chocolate-covered cherry.

"Chocolate stains do not need to be removed immediately, but don't let them sit too long," Gagarine says. "Scrape off the bulk of the candy and apply a spotting solvent. Then rub in a bit of hand soap. Wash out with lukewarm water and dry with a towel or handkerchief. If you're putting it in the wash, be sure to scrape off the excess so it doesn't smear on the rest of the fabric."

After-Dinner Disasters: If you dance with a man who has two left feet and he steps on your blue suede shoes, Gagarine suggests using ordinary carpet cleaner to remove the miserable marks.

"Spray it on and let it sit for about half an hour, or until it forms a powder. Then brush it off. Carpet cleaner is also excellent for cleaning leather."

Perhaps a few guests may want to exchange phone numbers. "But watch out," Gagarine warns. "Ball point pens can leave quite a signature on shirts. Laundering will eventually take it out, but for faster results I use hair spray. Spray the ink mark and let it dry before washing. You may have to repeat the process a few times."

Finally, it's time to say farewell, which can be fun until you spot the lipstick mark on your collar.

Follow Gagarine's advice and saturate the stain with liquid detergent. Rub well and you'll have a not-so-embarrassing "Kiss-mas."

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