Graphic by Eric DeFreitas
Even the most steady-handed sommelier has been victim to a wine spill or two. It should come as no surprise, then, that beverage professionals know a thing or two about cleaning up after a night of partying.
From how to get red wine out of the carpet to the best way to clean a decanter without turning your wrist into a pretzel, these pros have insider tips. Also on tap? The best way to avoid breaking delicate stemware and how to keep stains from setting in.
How to Remove Red Wine Stains Using White Wine
Sommelier Dlynn Proctor once demonstrated a wine-cleaning tip to me personally. Back in 2013 at a dinner held during the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival, French chef Pierre Gagnaire’s enthusiastic hand gestures splashed my white cotton Marc Jacobs dress with the Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc. I was horrified until one of the sommeliers in attendance sent me to the back of the room.
There, Proctor doused the spots with a Bouchard Père & Fils Chardonnay. And the next morning, the spots disappeared when I washed them with water. Disaster avoided!
How to Get Red Wine out of the Carpet Using Salt
During her days as a renter in San Francisco, Waits-Mast winemaker Shalini Sekhar remembers the time the bottom of a wine bottle fell apart.
“It dumped red wine on this white carpet owned by a very nice and anal-retentive landlord,” recalls Sekhar, who also makes Grüner Veltliner under her Ottavino label. To resolve the spill, she said, “We did the salt thing.”
For the uninitiated, the “salt thing” involves blotting up as much of the red wine as possible with a towel—but being careful not to rub. Add water to rinse and blot dry again. Then, dump copious amounts of iodized salt onto the stain and let it dry. “You’ll see the salt starts to soak up the pigment,” she says.
When and How to Clean Your Glassware
After the party’s over, it’s natural to want to wipe the hummus off the coffee table and restore order so you’re not waking up to a dirty kitchen. But Eddie Osterland, America’s first Master Sommelier based in San Diego, says to hold off on washing your Zalto or Gabriel-Glas until morning. Washing delicate stemware when you’re tired or still feeling the effects of that last bottle of Syrah can lead to butterfingers and breakage. Instead, simply rinse your glasses and line them up for washing the next day, he recommends.
When it comes to how to clean, many folks are intent on cleaning with scalding hot water, says Kiley Evans, winemaker at 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery in Medford, Oregon. That’s a mistake. “Wine generally contains a good amount of protein, which can stick to the glass when heated, so you want to rinse with cool water before washing with hot,” says Evans. “Once protein gets stuck to a surface, it’s much harder to clean off and requires physical scrubbing.” A quick cold water rinse is a way to prevent breakage.
How to Pick Up Broken Glass with a Potato
It’s not really a party until something gets broken, right? Breakage is a common occurrence in bars, too, says Mia Mastroianni, a beverage and hospitality expert seen on Bar Rescue. To make sure you don’t miss any shards during clean up, use Mastroianni’s three-step glass process.
Here it is: Start with a dustpan and brush to pick up the largest pieces. Then, turn to America’s favorite vegetable: the potato. “For larger shards that you may not want to touch with your hands, you can use a raw potato,” says Mastroianni. “Slice a potato lengthwise and press the cut side of the potato onto the glass shards to pick them up easily.” Next, take a large wad of paper towels, dampen it and go over the area again for the smaller pieces, she says.
How to Clean a Decanter
Those decanters shaped like corkscrews and soaring horns are so appealing until it comes time to clean them. It seems these fancy decanters always have a section that’s impossible to reach, even with the longest bottle brush. That’s when Josiah Baldivino, an advanced sommelier who co-owns Bay Grape bottle shops in Oakland and Napa, turns to denture tablets.
Yes, really. The baking soda and citric acid in these fizzy tablets—so good for cleaning coffee and tea stains off false teeth—are also wonderful for cleaning decanters. Simply fill yours with water and add a couple of denture tablets, which will help dissolve stubborn wine stains and spots.
How to Wipe Away Red Wine Stains
White kicks and red wine really don’t mix, but sometimes you can’t help but end up at a tasting in your white Converse Run Star Hike platforms.
“I’m a sneakerhead,” says Sekhar. “I have totally splattered wine on my shoes, like my white Air Force Ones.” Another time at a dinner, someone splashed her white purse with red wine, and the stain seeped into the stitching. Both times, Mr. Clean and his Magic Eraser came to the rescue. Use them to rub over the stain with a damp cloth behind it, and you’re good as new, she says.
How to Remove Wine Stains from Floors and Counters
When there’s a red wine spill in the winery, Cristina Gonzales Samora of Gonzales Wine Company in Portland, Oregon, turns to peroxycarbonate, an alkaline industrial bleaching agent. Hydrogen peroxide is the at-home version, and it’s just as effective at removing red wine stains from floors and counters.
Gonzales says to treat stains with a solution of three-parts hydrogen peroxide and one-part water. If you’re using this combo on a floor, Gonzales says to go over the area with lemon juice afterward to neutralize any slipperiness.
With these tips, you’ll never be terrified by a wine spill again. Maybe try to keep a steady hand anyway, though.