The 10 Most Common Christmas Stains and How to Remove Them

Holiday gatherings can bring about a lot of messes. Here’s how to tackle spills and splatters quickly so you can get back to the festivities.

It's the most wonderful time of the year—until a guest at your Christmas party spills red wine all over your living room carpet. Or sloshes their coffee across your best table linens. Holiday mishaps happen, but there's no need to panic. You can remove many of the most common Christmas stains with a few basic ingredients and a bit of patience.

This guide will walk you through our best stain-removal tips for some of the usual Christmastime culprits, including candle wax, chocolate, wine, and tree sap. A small spill or smudge doesn't have to ruin your upholstery, flooring, or favorite holiday sweater. With these simple techniques, you'll be able to clean Christmas stains in a snap and get back to the good times as quickly as possible.

friends having christmas dinner with red wine and candles
Xsandra / Getty Images

How to Remove Common Christmas Stains

As you gear up for holiday gatherings, familiarize yourself with these stain-removal strategies, and consider putting together a cleaning kit to use in case of emergency. Stock it with microfiber cloths, cleaning brushes, and a few go-to stain removal products to ensure you're prepared for any mess. It's best to test any cleaning method in an inconspicuous spot first to ensure it doesn't damage the material or affect its color.

Candle Wax

Lighting a few candles is an easy way to create a festive ambience, but wax drips and splatters are often an unfortunate result. To remove melted candle wax from carpet, start by placing a resealable bag filled with ice cubes over the area until the wax hardens. Using a dull knife or the edge of a credit card, gently scrape to break up the wax, then vacuum up the pieces. Blot the spot with a white cloth dampened with a small amount of rubbing alcohol to remove any remaining residue.

If the wax splattered onto walls or table linens, warm the wax with a hairdryer and wipe off as much as possible with a clean cloth. Dab away the oily residue using a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. Launder fabric items as usual; for walls, wipe with a clean cloth dampened with warm water.


Chocolatey treats are a holiday tradition, but the melty mess they leave behind is no joy to clean up. Start by hardening any melted chocolate by placing a resealable bag of ice cubes over the area. For chocolate stains on carpet, scrape up any crumbs or hardened pieces using a dull knife or the edge of a credit card. On upholstery and other fabric items, a dry, clean toothbrush can also work. Vacuum up or shake out any loose bits, then dab the stain with a microfiber cloth dipped in a solution of 1 Tbsp. dish soap and 2 cups warm water. Make sure to blot instead of rubbing, which can push the stain deeper into the material, and work from the outside in to prevent spreading. Repeat as needed until the stain is gone, then soak up the solution with a clean towel.

strawberry coffee cake ingredients coffee countertop
Carson Downing


Whether you're kicking off Christmas morning with a little caffeine or capping dinner with a warm cup of joe, the slightest slip or drip can result in an unsightly coffee stain. To clean fabric items like clothing or table linens, mix a solution of 1 quart lukewarm water, 1/2 tsp. liquid dish soap, and 1 Tbsp. white vinegar. Soak the item in this mixture for 15 minutes before rinsing in clean water and hanging to dry. Check that the stain is gone, then launder as usual.

For coffee stains on carpet, blot the spill first to soak up as much liquid as possible. Apply a mixture of 2 Tbsp. hydrogen peroxide and 1 Tbsp. dish soap, and gently work the solution into the material. Blot with a clean damp cloth (rinsing the cloth as needed) to remove the soapy residue. Repeat until the stain is gone.

Dirt or Mud

You can politely ask guests to remove their footwear at the door, but if one careless visitor forgets, you could be dealing with tracked-in dirt all over your floors. To remove dirt or mud stains from carpet, let the area dry completely first, then vacuum to remove any loose particles. Create a homemade carpet stain remover by combining 1 quart warm water, 1 tsp. liquid dish soap, and 1/4 tsp. white vinegar. Apply the solution to the stain and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot with a clean white cloth until the stain is gone. Dab again with a clean cloth dipped in cold water to rinse away soapy residue, then blot dry.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Kritsada Panichgul

Hot Cocoa

Curling up with a mug of hot cocoa is a relaxing way to end the evening, but sloshing the chocolatey liquid down your shirt or across the carpet can quickly put a damper on the comforting scene. To treat hot chocolate stains on clothing, immediately rinse the garment under cold water, running the water through the reverse side of the stain to flush it out. Pre-treat the stain with your favorite fabric stain remover or apply laundry detergent directly to the area. Wash the garment in warm water and hang to dry. Repeat as needed until the stain is completely gone.

To clean hot cocoa spills on carpet, immediately blot up as much of the liquid as possible with a clean white cloth, working from the outside in. To rinse the area, fill a spray bottle with cold water, spritz a small amount over the stain, and blot again. Using a cloth dipped into a mixture of warm water and a small amount of liquid dish soap, blot the area until the stain is gone. Remove any soapy residue with a clean cloth dampened with warm water.


If your guests' holiday glam leaves your napkins smudged with lipstick, start by treating the stain with liquid laundry detergent. Work it in using a toothbrush, then allow the detergent to sit for at least 15 minutes. Wash the fabric on hot and repeat as needed. Wait to dry the fabric until the stain is completely gone.

holiday punches with garnishing
Adam Albright

Red Wine or Holiday Punch

Red wine and brightly colored punch make for festive sips, but the stains left behind are notoriously difficult to remove. If any of these beverages spill onto your carpet, apply club soda or hydrogen peroxide to the stained area and blot with a clean cloth until the stain is gone. For wine or punch stains on clothing and linens, soak the item in cold water for 30 minutes, then apply white vinegar to the stain. After another 30 minutes, launder as usual. Upholstery stains can be cleaned by dabbing the area with warm, soapy water. Repeat with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water, then switch back to the soapy water. Dab with a clean damp cloth to remove soapy residue, then blot dry.


As you're cozying up around the fireplace, ash and soot can make a mess of your hearth and the surrounding area. To remove soot stains on carpet or upholstery, sprinkle baking soda over the area and let sit at least an hour to allow it to absorb the stain. Vacuum the area thoroughly. If the stain remains, apply hydrogen peroxide with a clean white cloth and blot to lift out the stain. Rinse the area by dabbing with a clean damp cloth. To clean soot off fireplace bricks, mix 1/4 cup liquid dish soap with 4 cups water. Apply the solution to the bricks, then scrub with a soft-bristled brush, working from the top down. Rinse the area with a sponge dipped in clean water.

child hanging ornament on christmas tree in neutral tones living room
Dominique Vorillon

Tree Sap

Live Christmas trees can leave behind sticky sap residue on carpets and clothing. To remove tree sap stains, start by scraping off as much residue as possible using a dull knife. If necessary, place a resealable bag filled with ice over the stain to harden the sap first. For clothing, pre-treat the area using a stain removal product or by applying laundry detergent directly to the stain. Launder the garment as normal, using the hottest water setting safe for the fabric. Repeat as needed; do not dry the item until the stain is completely gone. For carpet, dab the spot with a white cloth dampened with a small amount of rubbing alcohol to remove the sap residue.

Water Spots

Whether your guests tramped across the entryway in snowy boots, or you missed the mark when watering your Christmas tree, excess moisture can leave unsightly water spots on your hardwood floors. If the stain appears white, you can often remove it by gently rubbing the spot with No. 000 steel wool ($5, The Home Depot) and applying floor wax. If the spot has already darkened to a black stain, dip a toothbrush into a small amount of bleach and rub onto the stain. Wait several hours, then repeat. If the stain is still there the next day, you may need to strip, sand, and reseal the area to remove the stain.

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