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How to avoid and clean up red wine spills 

Stains are the mundane bane of many red wine drinkers. Inevitably, juice dribbles down the shirt, drips on the carpet, or spills on the clean — mostly likely new — white tablecloth. It’s inevitable and a buzz kill. One of my cream-colored couches, which I bought long before wine controlled my life, is now dotted with pinkish splotches, whispering tales of half-drunken accidents that weren’t mopped up. But my spill knowledge has grown and I’m ready to share my expert spotty advice on remedying red wine messes.

Preventative Measures

Buy a mylar pouring disc from the wine shop — they’re thin, bendable and slide into the bottle opening to fashion a wine spout. The pros use them because they prevent dripping and facilitate easier pouring control. This disc is also reusable if you don’t put it in the dishwasher like I did once.

If you’re at the dinner table, place the bottle on a coaster after you pour so whatever drools down the sides doesn’t hit the fabric.

Buy an industrial-sized spray bottle of Wine Away, a citrus-based cleaner sold in most wine shops. This stuff works, and fast. Also comes in a nifty pocket-sized version for those who drink on the go, like yours truly.

Even with these measures in action, don’t let drunk or klutzy people pour the wine, lest it drip on the cat who then licks it off. Of course, this produces homegrown entertainment worthy of Youtube, but that’s your call.

When the Red Flows

The ideal solution: Sop up the liquid immediately by blotting (no rubbing), and then saturate the spill with Wine Away. Excellent for garments, like the white shirt/trouser/skirt you just spent $100 on. It also works on carpet, but you’ll probably need a second application. Launder items as soon as possible.

Other solutions: If you don’t have the miracle spray and need a quick fix, pour white wine on the spill. The neutral color, acidity and alcohol helps dissolve the red. Might seem like a waste of good wine (you can also use club soda) but any cheap plonk will do. Sprinkle until the stain is pink, then soak up with a wad of paper towels or a cloth towel. A word of caution: On light colored carpets, this solution might result in a grayish-brown stain later as the red color seeps back out from the fibers (sugar chemistry at work). Follow up with OxiClean or a white vinegar and water solution (see below), but the white wine will prevent the red from setting.

People swear by OxiClean, a widely available commercial product which comes in a spray bottle or powder that you dilute with water. Never used it, since the guy who hawks it on infomercials annoys me as much as the ShamWow dork. But people love it.

Or use an all-natural mixture of white vinegar and water on the spot and blot. As a bonus, it removes residual dinginess from the carpet.

If the evidence remains after using any of these solutions — or you’re were too wasted to remember to do them — try soaking garments in non chlorine bleach overnight. If it’s on the rug, resort to a commercial carpet cleaning service; in my experience, most supermarket carpet cleaner products suck on red wine spills. It may look fantastic now, but two months later the stain re-emerges to haunt you like a one night stand without a condom. Be proactive and you don’t have to worry.

Recommended Wine

Paringa 2007 Shiraz South Australia Like an Australian fruit salad: blueberry and blackberry followed up by a smidge of eucalyptus and a wash of soft leather. Dry and medium bodied with good acidity. Sw=2. $10. 3.5 stars


Sweetness (Sw) rating: 1-10. Star rating: 1-5. Reach Taylor at taylor.eason@cln.com, on Twitter @tayloreason, and on Facebook.  

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