(Party) Foul Play: How to Get Wine Stains Out of Your Host’s Tablecloth

Few things are more flattering than being invited into a friend’s cozy home for a holiday dinner party – it’s an indication that they think you’re worth all the requisite hours of planning, prepping, and, let’s face it, stressing. So, imagine the horror of eagerly scooting your chair up to the dinner table only to have your glass of Cabernet wobble on its base and spill onto your host’s treasured tablecloth.

Short of pulling the linens out from under your fellow diners, there’s not much you can do to fully treat the trouble spot right away. But don’t slink under the table just yet. Help is on the way, and you can likely find it right in your host’s pantry.


Grab the artificial sweetener. Open and sprinkle a packet over the stain. For maximum absorption, let it sit throughout the rest of the meal. Within 24 hours of scraping the sweetener off, your host should rinse the tablecloth in cold water and then launder as usual. (Swap out the artificial sweetener for distilled white vinegar if the cloth is cotton, a cotton blend, or permanent press.)

…or some cornstarch. Drop a dollop of gravy or butter? Scrape off excess with a spoon or dull knife and sprinkle cornstarch on the remaining stain to help soak it up.

Pay up. Hopefully, your host will have the foresight to decorate his holiday table with a cloth that’s not particularly special, as spills are bound to happen. But if presentation trumps practicality and you’re condemned to dining over an irreplaceable heirloom, be prepared to pay (or at least offer to) for any cleaning services or to reimburse him for the doomed linens.

Be honest. Perhaps most importantly: whatever substance you spill, take responsibility for your mishap. Upset as your host may be over damage to something material, it will pale in comparison to the hurt feelings that will result when no one’s willing to fess up to the party foul.

By Lindsay Lambert, Editor

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November 18, 2013