Stain-Free Partying

Dear Helena,

I got an Evite recently that suggested guests bring a bottle and then said, “No red wine, please. White shag rug, people!” If you have a nice couch or carpet, it’s natural to want to keep them that way. But is it OK to ask your guests to stick to white drinks? —Pro Drink Diversity

Dear Pro Drink Diversity,

Funny you should ask. A few months ago, my husband and I replaced our beat-up futon sofa with a pale gray couch and a white armchair. Shortly after, two friends came over with a good bottle of Zinfandel. In general, a host isn’t obliged to open the wine that guests bring. But in this case, my guests were excited to try it, so I could hardly whisk it away and offer vodka instead. One friend draped herself on the couch and toyed with her wineglass stem as if it were a cigarette. The bowl tipped gently forward. After a while, I couldn’t stand it anymore and asked her to put the glass on the table. She was fine about it, but I felt like the uptight host.

So how can you avoid sullying your décor without seeming like an OCD buzz-kill? By emphasizing the positive: Instead of telling guests what’s forbidden, tell them about all the pale and interesting libations they can have. If you’re having a drinks party, it’s good hosting to have beer and wine (including red) available—but announce you’ve made a pitcher of white sangría or a special Lemonhead Cocktail, and you’ll tempt most guests away from darker drinks. For wine drinkers, lay in a stock of classy whites and say, “You must try this Sancerre.”

But without explicitly prohibiting red or brown beverages, you won’t be able to banish them altogether. That’s why you need to have a stain-removal strategy.

Everyone has a different theory on how to get rid of red wine, whether it’s by applying club soda, salt, or even white wine. Mary Findley, coauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning and owner of Mary Moppins, a cleaning company, says in fact “red wine is fairly easy to get out.”

Here’s what she recommends: In a small spray bottle, mix hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution) and water. Use a 1-to-1 ratio for most spills, or 1 part peroxide to 3 parts water for more delicate materials such as a pale couch. (Also, as peroxide is more likely to bleach things like couches, test an out-of-the-way spot first.) In another bottle, make a 1-to-1 solution of food-grade distilled white vinegar and water.

Spray the stain with the peroxide solution. Let it sit for five minutes (any longer and the peroxide could bleach the surface). Then use a dishtowel soaked in the vinegar solution to neutralize the peroxide. Press on the towel with your knuckles, twisting in one direction. That should remove the stain.

If you have a plan in place, you won’t freak out when a splash of Merlot defiles your flokati rug. And instead of debating whether to rub or blot, all your butterfingered guest need do is get a refill.

CHOW’s Table Manners column appears every Wednesday. Have a Table Manners question? Email Helena.