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How to Clean and Care
for Your Holiday Tablecloth

November 24, 2021

The holidays mean fun get-togethers with plenty of food and drink, and most of us like to break out our very best dishes, glasses, and table linens to celebrate. We love to decorate our dinner tables for the holidays with colorful candles, crystal wine glasses, and sparkling silverware to give our family and guests the perfect setting for holiday meals. While all that decorating, dining, and entertaining keep us in the holiday mood, the inevitable holiday messes can put a damper on things if we’re not prepared.

When we’re not sure how to wash tablecloths, napkins, and other table linens, holiday spills and other accidents can seem like a disaster. Whether uncle Joe spills his wine (again!) or mom knocks over a candle reaching for the green beans, you don’t have to worry when you use these tips. When you know how to clean your holiday tablecloths and linens and tackle stains, even the most challenging holiday cleaning is a breeze!

How to Handle Holiday Stains on a Tablecloth

Because you don’t want to stop in the middle of your holiday dinner and crank up the washer, it’s essential to know how to remove stains from linen tablecloths while they’re still on the table. Whether you have a butter stain or a gravy spill on your hands, the first step is to tackle the stain right away. You won’t need any stain removal solution or pre-treating spray because everything you need is right in your kitchen.

The next time one of your dinner guests has a mishap, tell everyone to keep enjoying their meal and leap into action to minimize the damage. Here are a few of the most common holiday tablecloth stains and how to deal with them quickly so you can get back to enjoying your meal:

Red Wine and Cranberry Sauce

If someone spills red wine or cranberry sauce on your holiday tablecloth, immediately remove any solids and blot the stain with paper towels. Lay a cool, damp cloth on the stain to absorb more of the wine or sauce and keep the stain from setting before you can wash the tablecloth.

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Candle Wax

Assuming the table didn’t catch on fire, someone knocking over a holiday candle and getting candle wax on your beautiful tablecloth isn’t the end of the world. Fill a bag of ice large enough to cover the wax stain and leave it to harden the wax. The cold will keep the wax from seeping further into the tablecloth, and the stain will be much easier to clean after dinner.


When someone misses their mashed potatoes and gets gravy all over your tablecloth, here’s how to put the stain on hold until you’re done eating. Scrape up excess gravy with a spoon and blot the stain with paper towels. Rub a drop or two of liquid dish detergent into the stain and let it sit till you’re ready to wash the tablecloth.

Use these stain control tips to put stains on the back burner until your holiday feast has finished, and if you get food stains on your clothes, we have your back.

How to Wash a Linen Tablecloth

Linen tablecloths resist dirt more easily than those made from synthetics or blends, but you still need to know how to wash table linens and remove stains to keep them looking their best. Regularly washing linen holiday time tablecloths also softens the fabric and gives it a beautiful look and feel. Unless your linen tablecloth’s laundry label says otherwise, it’s usually safe to machine wash linen.

  • Wash your linen tablecloth in the washer with cold water and regular laundry detergent with like fabrics and colors.
  • If you’re reading to find out how to clean white tablecloths made from linen, you’ll want to wash them in hot water, ideally above 140 degrees.
  • Use the low-spin setting and gentle cycle to minimize wear and tear.
  • Pull your tablecloth out of the washer as soon as it’s finished.

For a vintage or embroidered linen tablecloth, you’ll need to know how to wash a linen tablecloth by hand.

  • Fill a sink with cool water and a half cup of laundry detergent.
  • Swirl the tablecloth around until it’s soaked and sudsy.
  • Rub soapy water into any visible stains with your fingers.
  • Let the tablecloth soak for at least 30 minutes.
  • Rinse the tablecloth thoroughly, but don’t wring it out.

Whether you wash your holiday tablecloths by hand or in the washer, never dry them in a tumble dryer. Instead, let your tablecloth air dry on a clothesline or drying rack. When it’s almost dry and just a little damp, iron it on both sides, then fold it neatly and store it away for your next holiday meal.

How to Wash Polyester Tablecloths

Polyester is known for its durability and easy care, so learning how to wash tablecloths made with synthetic fabrics is simple. For stains that are still visible, use a safe and mild stain remover like distilled white vinegar or baking soda, and let the tablecloth soak in cool water for 30 minutes before you head to the washing machine.

  • Polyester and other tablecloths made with synthetic fabrics should be washed using a delicate or gentle cycle.
  • Use a front-load or agitator-free top-loading washer if possible to minimize wear and tear.
  • Wash polyester tablecloths in cold water with like colors.
  • Remove your polyester tablecloth from the washer as soon as it stops.
  • Dry the tablecloth in your clothes dryer using the lowest heat setting for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the tablecloth from the dryer while it’s slightly damp.
  • Iron both sides of the tablecloth until it’s completely dry.
  • Use dry-cleaning hangers made for pants to store your tablecloth on a clothes rod to keep it wrinkle-free.

How to Keep Holiday Tablecloths Looking New

Now that you know how to wash tablecloths and table linens, it’s time to learn how to keep your tablecloth clean, beautiful, and ready for the holidays year after year. Even when you know how to remove stains and wash a tablecloth the right way, they can still get dingy looking or yellow. Use these tips to brighten them up and then store them safely:

  • Before storing your freshly cleaned holiday tablecloth for the season, let it hang outside on a sunny day for a few hours. The sun’s UV rays naturally whiten fabrics and can even lighten old stains.
  • If your holiday tablecloth looks dirty even after washing and is bleach-safe, you can soak it in a sink or tub using ⅓ cup of bleach and two gallons of water. Let it soak for 10 minutes, rinse it thoroughly, and then throw it in the washer.
  • If your tablecloth looks fairly clean after a meal (and stain-free), skip the detergent and wash it using water only. The less contact the fabric has with detergents, the longer the tablecloth will look new.
  • Always iron your holiday tablecloth and make sure it’s completely dry before you retire it for the season.
  • Store holiday linens either hanging or folded and stacked in a well-ventilated closet or cabinet.
  • If your holiday tablecloth is dry-clean only, always have it professionally cleaned before storing it away.

Besides whitening and careful storage after the holidays, there are also things you can do to keep your holiday tablecloth clean during meals. Decorative holiday charger plates add a touch of sophistication and help minimize the stains caused by messy eaters and accident-prone dinner guests. Elegant holiday placemats can provide even more protection for your tablecloth and give your table a splash of color.

Learning how to wash tablecloths and remove common stains is an essential holiday skill anyone can learn. When you use these tablecloth cleaning tips, even the messiest dinner table spills can’t ruin the holidays for you and your guests. For spills and stains that go beyond the dinner table, check out our in-depth guide for removing carpet stains.

Whether you do it yourself with our housekeeping guides or let us handle the dirty work with one of our affordable residential cleaning services, we’ve got you covered. Learn how you can enjoy a cleaner holiday home with less dirt, dust, and stains when you get your free estimate today.

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