Christmas is coming and so are hordes of friends and relatives, keen to fill your home with festive cheer, gravy stains and a million tiny shreds of gift wrap. Follow our simple guide to have it done in no time.

Before the place becomes rammed with decorations, presents and people, have a clear up.

  • In the main living areas, you might want to  put away some of the stuff that normally is on display or generally lying around – that stack of magazines won’t get looked at over Christmas and will get in the way.
  • Precious ornaments might be best removed  somewhere your friend’s crazy toddler won’t try and eat them. Your things  don’t have to be banished forever, but you will be glad of the space for decorations, cards, glasses and plates.

Open the windows to air the house out (just for a bit before the heating comes on), wipe down surfaces with a damp or microfibre cloth, run the vacuum round and clean the bathroom.

  • If you have a spare room, chances are it has been steadily filling up with clutter since the last time someone stayed in it. Your guests won’t mind a few things lying around, but try and clear out as much as is reasonable.
  • Some hanging or drawer space will be useful, too, so free up a bit of storage for your guests.
  • Open the windows for an hour or two while you vacuum and dust, then make up the bed with fresh linen.
  • An extra blanket is a nice touch in case your guests feel the chill at night and provide bath and hand towels for them, too.
  • If you are trying to make a good impression (on a potential mother-in-law for example), put some fresh flowers in a vase and provide a few pretty toiletries.
  • If you have put guests in your bedroom while you sacrifice yourself on the sofa bed, find a place to stash the bedding by day where it won’t be in the way or make them feel guilty.

  • Don’t leave it until the bird is due in the oven to drag the turkey-sized roasting dish out of a cupboard and find it caked in last year’s grease. Use washing-up liquid or a cream cleaner to clean it, or for really tough burnt-on grime, clean as you would clean an oven.
  • This goes for other once-a-year items, too, so haul out all the gravy boats, clean carafes, clean coffee makers, cheeseboards and so on now and give them a good wash.

  • Fairy lights and candles set a lovely festive ambience, which will not be enhanced at all by a tray of dusty or greasy crystal, so give it all a good wash before you crack open the bubbly.
  • Bargain glasses can be chucked in the dishwasher, but your more precious items should be washed by hand.

  • Stainless steel and silver cutlery can both be washed in the dishwasher, just not at the same time – the silver stuff will turn black.
  • Silver cutlery should be removed from the dishwasher as soon as the cycle has finished and dried if necessary to prevent salt residue wreaking havoc.

This will allow more room in your freezer for all your Christmas food and treats

  • Unpacking the old box of decorations is an exciting Christmas ritual, but not one to be undertaken lightly if you have a dust allergy.
  • Many decorations are very delicate, so take extra care trying to clean them, unless you fancy a whole new look for this year, in which case go about it like a bull in a china shop.
  • Fragile tree ornaments are best given a light brushing with a soft artist’s paintbrush to remove dust.
  • Secure part of an old pair of tights over the nozzle of your vacuum cleaner and use to gently clean dusty garlands, tinsel and artificial trees.

You may be having too much fun to worry about housework, but dealing with cleaning crises as they happen will save you hassle in the long term.

A real tree brings romance and fragrance to your home at Christmas, as well as a cartload of needles that seem to get everywhere. Obviously going for a non-dropping variety or living tree will cut down on the clearing up, but keeping your cut tree feeling happy will reduce how much it feels the need to drop needles.

  • Buy as fresh a tree as you can – it should be heavy, the needles should be bright and not dry looking, and they shouldn’t drop when you run your hand along the branch.
  • Once you get it home, leave it outside or in a cool place in a bucket of water until you are ready to put it up.
  • When you are ready, cut a few centimetres off the bottom of the trunk to open up the pores and put it straight away into a stand that holds water (or a bucket full of stones and water).
  • Make sure the stump is immersed at all times, or sap will plug up the pores.
  • Keep the tree away from heat sources and top up the water regularly – it should guzzle one to two litres a day.
  • As the tree ages, it will inevitably drop some needles, so be vigilant with the vacuum cleaner.

  • Another hazard of the beloved Christmas tree is sap, which can be a blighter to remove from hands, clothing, carpets, you name it.
  • Milk can remove the sap from your hands, or mayonnaise should you wish to try it.
  • Alternatively, use a little methylated spirits.
  • Meths should work on clothing and carpets, too – try a little in an inconspicuous place first.

Once a party is in full swing, fluids of all types are likely to be spilled on your soft furnishings and carpets.

  • While you don’t want to be flapping around all night with a J cloth, if you mop up a spill as soon as it happens, it is less likely to set into a problematic stain.

For all stains, blotting up as much of the offending substance as possible is your first priority, so keep some kitchen towel or white rags to hand.

You have spent months preparing a festive feast and seemingly within minutes it has gone, all except for a towering pile of greasy dishes. You don’t have to miss the movie as you slave over the sink, though. Gather a couple of assistants and embark on a military operation.

  • First, fill the dishwasher with all the stuff you will need when the herd start bleating for their next feed – cutlery, plates, cups, etc – and start it off on a quick cycle.
  • Fill a large bucket or washing-up bowl with the oven dishes and very hot soapy water and leave somewhere out of the way to soak.
  • Get one assistant to hand wash all the glassware, while another dries with a linen tea towel and puts it away.
  • Stack up everything else that will go in the dishwasher neatly ready for when the first load is done, and pass delicate items over to the human dishwasher to tackle by hand while you wipe down the surfaces and try and find fridge space for leftovers.
  • After a little snooze, check the roasting pans. If the grime doesn’t seem to be shifting, re-fill the bucket with hot water and biological laundry detergent and leave to soak overnight.

As you hit that post-Yule slump, cheer yourself up by getting your home back to its gloriously stylish, clean and un-tinselled self.

Sort Out Stains
When the last of the visitors have said their farewells, you may be surprised by the devastation left behind. Older stains are always harder to remove, but not impossible, and it helps if you can identify what it is.

There are five main types of stain: protein (bodily fluids, milk, egg, mud, grass); oil-based (fats, butter, make-up, grease, mayonnaise); tannin (tea, coffee, beer, wine, perfume); dye (fruit stains such as cranberry, fabric dyes, food colourings); and oil and dye combination stains (candle wax, lipstick, shoe polish).

Protein stains need to be soaked in cold water (warm water will set the stain) and detergent, then washed in warm water.

Oil-based stains can be tackled with soap and warm water, and may need a stain treatment as well before washing.

Tannin stains mustn’t be treated with bar soap – rinse instead with lots of cold water and then wash in hot water with laundry detergent.

Dye stains should also be flushed with cold water, then soaked in cold water and detergent before a hot wash.

Combination stains are tricky – you need to remove the oily part first by scraping (eg for wax) or using a solvent like meths. Then you can soak away the dye in cold water and detergent.

If you discover dubious stains on your walls, then congratulate yourself on throwing a great party.

  • Most stains will wash off painted walls, or if it simply won’t shift, you can always paint over the offending area.
  • Wallpaper is potentially trickier, as you would have to re-paper at least one drop, but many papers are wipeable.
  • Remember to vacuum the wall before washing it, so you don’t add a great dirty smear to the existing problem.

Great for setting the scene, bad for leaving drips of wax like cement on your precious things, candles are essential at Christmas.

  • The key to removing wax is to harden it (with ice) and chip it off, then soften the remainder (with an iron) and melt it off.
  • Methylated spirits will remove any residual marks on fabric.

Roasting a bird the size of a weekend bag can leave its mark on your oven, and unless you want every cake you bake next year to taste of turkey, you need to attack the problem now.

  • If you are lucky (and smart) enough to have a pyrolytic oven or one with stay-clean liners, then it’s a relatively straightforward job – just follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If not, then roll up your sleeves and clean that oven.

If you were faced with broken baubles, tangled tinsel and squashed Santas when you opened the decorations box this year, then let it be a lesson to you to put them away properly this time.

  • Wrap tinsel, garlands and ropes of Christmas tree lights around cardboard tubes leftover from rolls of giftwrap, or around a square of cardboard.
  • Pack baubles in tissue paper in their original box or try a drawer organiser or cardboard egg boxes.
  • Slip candles into old socks or tights to protect them from scratches and give you a laugh next December.
  • If you have several boxes, group the contents to make it easier to unpack – for example tree decorations in one, wall and ceiling decorations in another – and label all boxes clearly.

After the Bacchanalian excesses of Christmas, do the world a favour and try to reduce the amount of waste that gets left out for the bin men.

  • The Woodland Trust has recycling schemes for Christmas cards at Tesco , WH Smith and Marks & Spencer  stores throughout January.
  • Find out from your local authority where you can recycle your tree.
  • Wrapping paper can also be recycled (unless it is metallic), as can drink cans, glass and plastic bottles and foil.


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