By Claire Stern
Nov 06, 2015 @ 12:15 pm
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There is no worse feeling than spilling your morning coffee all over your crisp white shirt (we've all been there). But before you let the unforeseen complication ruin your entire day, take solace in the fact that your soiled top may be salvageable. In fact, you can probably save it with items you already have lying around the house. Esteemed interior designer and entertaining savant Florence de Dampierre shares these precious nuggets of cleaning wisdomas well as décor tips and recipes for effortless entertainingin her new book, appropriately titled French Chic Living ($34; "Stain removal is a science and an art," she writes. Below, her foolproof tips for keeping your garments spot-free. 


Florence de Dampierre's Go-To Tips for Removing Stains

Beet Juice

Drizzle freshly squeezed lemon juice on the stain. Leave for 1/2 hour. For an old stain, soak the clothing overnight in a mixture of freshly squeezed lemon juice and water, and then wash in the washing machine.


Soak bloodstains immediately in cold water and then wash the garment with detergent in warm water. Sponge a bloodstain on non-washable fabrics with cold water, followed by a small amount of hydrogen peroxide.

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Candle Wax

Scrape away with a knife as much wax from the article of clothing (or table linen) as possible. Then sandwich the stain between paper towels and press with a warm iron.

Chewing Gum

Rub the affected area with a piece of ice to harden the gum, and then carefully scrape it off with a dull knife.


Dab or soak the stain with cold water for 30 minutes. Then rub in liquid detergent and wash the garment with regular laundry detergent.

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Rub the affected area with water and savon de Marseille (various scents and bottle sizes starting at $14; Then wash the article of clothing in the washing machine with laundry detergent.


Scrape off the dried egg with a knife and then sponge the stain with cold water.

Fruit Juice

Cover the stain immediately with powdered starch. Let sit for a few hours, and then brush it off and wash the garment.

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Sponge the stains immediately with cold water. Do not use soap.


Soak the stain with sour milk. Or, put a little sea salt on it and then squeeze lemon juice on top of that. For an old ink stain, soak the article of clothing in freshly squeezed lemon juice diluted with water. Then rinse in cold water and dry. 


Apply a mixture of 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice with a cloth, and then rinse with cold water.

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Mix a solution of freshly squeezed lemon juice and an equal amount of table salt. Rub a generous amount on the stain, and then lay the article of clothing outside, in strong sunlight, on a towel or sheet. Repeat this application, two or three times, until the mildew fades.


To get rid of perspiration stains, rub them with a mixture of one part freshly squeezed lemon juice to one part white vinegar with a cotton cloth. Then rinse and wash the garment in cold water. If this method is not effective, send the article of clothing to the dry cleaner.


For stains on cotton or linen, squeeze lemon juice on the fabric, and then rub with a towel. Rinse with cold water and repeat. For stains on stronger fabrics (such as wool), make a solution of 4 tablespoons cream of tartar and 4 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Apply the solution to the stain until the spot is gone, and then rinse the fabric in warm water. My grandmother taught me this old-fashioned method. For stains on cotton or colored linen fabrics, place wood sorrel leaves in a juice extractor. Dab the juice from the leaves on the stain and let soak for 1/2 hour. Rinse with warm water and repeat this process if necessary. For stains on white linen, insert a slice of lemon between two sheets of white tissue paper, and place the stack underneath the stain. Press the linen with a hot iron, making sure not to burn the paper. Rinse the linen with warm water, and repeat this process if necessary.

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Soft Drinks

Sponge spots immediately with cold water. Then wash in the washing machine.

Red Wine

Soak the stained fabric immediately in plenty of cold water. If the stain remains, try a stain remover, such as Shout, and soak the fabric in cold water. Do not use hot water as it will set the stain.

Copyright © French Chic Living by Florence de Dampierre, Rizzoli New York, 2015, photography © Tim Street-Porter.