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The Party's Over : And Turning Out the Lights Isn't Going to Make the Post-Holiday Mess Go Away


Pine needles wait in the carpet to jab into a sock-covered foot; spray-on snow holds tightly to the corners of the living room windows; the silver cookie tray tarnishes before your very eyes.

The holidays have come and gone, and all that's left is the disaster area you once called home.

Even though the festivities are barely over, it's time to buckle down and get to work, because the only way the house is going to get clean is with good, old-fashioned elbow grease. And, unless you managed to not spend all your money last month and can afford to hire help, it's probably going to be your elbow grease.

"Cleaning after the holidays can be overwhelming," said Gina Flores, owner of Nature Maids in Newport Beach. "The truth is, it's got to be done, and no one else is going to do it. So you may as well make the best of it and put on some music, maybe boil some potpourri, and start."

Here are some tips from cleaning experts on what to do after the party is over:


The best thing to do is use the kitchen as your base of operations, say the pros. Then start cleaning in the rooms farthest from there.

"Get a trash bag and start filling it up as you move from the farthest point toward the kitchen," Flores said. "Once that's done, go back with a good (hand-held) duster, like the ones made from lambs' wool, and dust up all the crumbs."

Follow the same route with a sponge and cleaner. Then go through again with broom or vacuum.

The exception to this routine is stains and spills. They need to come first, because if they get your immediate attention, you might be able to mitigate the damage.


Was your carpet left with a few unwelcome holiday decorations?

It is possible to get out wine and food stains. The key, say experts, is to act quickly and have a little knowledge of chemistry.

"The most important thing is to reverse the pH of the stain," said Zachary Betts, owner of Betts Carpet Care in Anaheim. "Most food and wine stains are acid base, and that can be a real problem because acid can take out the color of a carpet."

To remove a stain, the acidity, or pH, of the spot needs to be brought back to neutral.

Betts advises not reaching for the spot removal products sold at grocery stores. These cleaners are mostly de-greasers and are useless against food or alcohol stains. They can break down grease but will not remove it.

"People forget that carpet is made of fabric, just like clothes, and the best way to get rid of a spill is to use laundry detergent," he said.

The detergent will take the stain out without leaving a residue to attract dirt, because the pH has been put back to a neutral state.

Michael Barnes, claims manager for Aladdin Carpet Mills in Fullerton, agrees that laundry detergent is the best way to remove spills and stains from carpet. "The sooner you can get to the stain the better," he said. "At least get the stain mopped up during the party and then clean as soon as everyone leaves."

The first step is to lay a towel over the stain and walk over it, absorbing liquid into the towel. (No, this does not push the stain down into the carpet, Betts said.) Next apply a solution of one teaspoon colorless mild laundry detergent dissolved in one cup lukewarm water to the stain. Working from the outside of the stain toward the center, gently rub the stain with a sponge or soft brush. Again place a towel over the stain and keep walking on it until all the solution is removed.

If the stain is from Rover or a guest whose upset stomach couldn't reach the bathroom, the process is the same. But Betts suggests following up with a vinegar bath to remove any odor. "As those stains sit, they turn to ammonia and can give off a horrible smell and fade the carpet color," he said.

Use one-half cup of white vinegar to two-thirds cup of warm water. Apply the solution to the stained area and blot with a towel. The vinegar smell will eventually evaporate.


The biggest damage to carpeting from a pine tree is sap that is apt to weep onto it. The bad news is there is no easy way to remove tree sap from carpet, and experts agree this is one stain that should be left to the professionals to avoid further damaging the carpet.

The best way to guard against sap reaching carpeting is to make sure there is a tree skirt around the base that is as wide enough as circumference of the outer branches.

Pine needles burrowing in for a long winter's nap is the other common problem with carpeting during the holidays. There is no way to avoid getting needles in the carpet, but the number of needles can be significantly lowered with a little planning. Before removing the tree from its stand, wrap it in an old sheet or painting drop cloth. This way fewer needles are dropped to the floor when the tree is being removed from the house.

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