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Get home back in shape

If you're like most people, chances are you did some entertaining during the holiday season. Though the Christmas decorations are down and the candy, cookies and treats devoured, there are probably telltale signs that have left your home looking a little worse for the wear.

Some of the most common visual holiday leftovers include indentations in carpeting from the Christmas tree stand and rearranged furniture; drops of candle wax on the carpet, upholstery, mantles and tabletops; carpet and flooring spots and stains; and white rings and/or dents on dining tables and other fine furniture.

Getting your home back into shape could be a daunting task were it not for simple solutions we have collected over the years. So here are some of them to help you get past post-holiday cleaning blues.

*Curing dented carpet: You've taken your Christmas tree down and put your furniture back into place only to discover that your carpet is dotted with dimples that weren't there before the holidays. You've tried vacuuming, with no success.

All you need is a clean white terry cloth and a clothes iron. Lightly dampen the cloth, place it over the affected areas, one at a time, and with the iron on medium heat, iron over the cloth for about 30 seconds. Remove iron and cloth, allow the carpet to cool slightly and "rake" the fibers with your fingers.

The steam generated by this process will help the fibers regain their original condition. More than one treatment may be required for stubborn areas.

If this solution doesn't do the trick, a good steam cleaning is in order. You'll get a two-for-one bonus with steam cleaning: no more dimples, plus, the holiday spots and spills will be a distant memory.

*Carpet spots and spills: If you don't have dimples in your carpet, but you do have stains, we have remedies.

To clean up chewing gum, put ice cubes in a plastic bag and freeze the gum stuck in the carpet. When it's hard, scrape it off with a butter knife.

For greasy stuff like lipstick, blot up excess with paper towels, and then use dry-cleaning fluid.

For pet stains, blot excess and then use a mixture of laundry detergent, ammonia and white vinegar. For shoe polish and ink stains, dab with paint thinner. For fruit juice and soft drink spills, mix one teaspoon each of laundry detergent and white vinegar into one quart of warm water, and sponge the stain well with the mixture. For burns, trim off burnt fibers and, if needed, glue in extra fibers cut from rug edges.

Many carpet manufacturers offer free stain-removal pamphlets as part of their customer service program. If your carpet's manufacturer does not offer this service, check with the people who installed the carpet. They may offer a generic stain-removal guide that works effectively with the material used for your carpet.

*Cleaning up candle wax: Who doesn't love a home filled with the glow and fragrance of holiday candles? The problem is that with candles come wax and spills on carpet, upholstery and other surfaces.

Removing candle wax is really pretty simple. You'll need a brown paper sack and a clothes iron. First remove excess wax, with a wooden popsicle stick or a butter knife. Chilling the wax with an ice cube first will make scraping it off easier.

Sweep up what you have removed and place the brown paper bag over what remains. Next, place the iron, set on medium-high heat, onto the paper sack and work it back and forth, not allowing it to rest in place.

You will be amazed to see the wax drawn in by the paper. Use different sections of the sack to absorb all the wax and to prevent spreading it. Though this solution will work especially well on carpet and fabrics, it can be used on flooring and furniture as well. Just be sure to use less heat or substitute a blow dryer for the iron.

*Getting the white out of that ring: It simply wouldn't be the holidays without getting white rings on the dining-room table or other fine furniture.

Contrary to popular belief, a white ring results from damage to the waxed finish and not to the wood. Here's a trick to remove these nasty rings. First, make sure that the surface is clean and dry. Next, place a small amount of mayonnaise directly over the ring.

Cover the area with a piece of plastic wrap and allow it to sit for about 30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and lightly rub the mayonnaise into the finish using a nylon scouring pad and working in the direction of the grain. Wipe up all the mayonnaise with a soft cloth and restore the luster to the area with some lemon oil or paste wax.


James Carey and Morris Carey are nationally recognized experts on home building and renovation.

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