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Q. Dear Umbra,

It’s time to starch linen tablecloths for the Thanksgiving feast. I would like to find a spray starch that doesn’t emit nasty chemicals. Do you have any suggestions?

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vintage ironHere’s to a smooth Thanksgiving!Photo: Jenny AddisonA. Dearest Mom,

I am so glad you wrote, as talking to you six times on the phone so far this week wasn’t enough. I jest. It’s always good to hear from you, and I’m glad you asked about spray starch. I know how much you enjoy a crisp linen. You can have your starch and be sustainable too, by making your own spray starch.

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By making your own starch solution and putting it in a reusable container, you cut down on waste. And since the recipe calls for only water and corn starch, you can be comfortable about the ingredients you’re using.

Here’s what you’ll need to make Umbra’s Mom’s DIY Spray Starch:

  1. An empty spray bottle
  2. 1 tablespoon of corn starch
  3. 2 cups of cold water
  4. A large bowl for mixing
  5. A funnel

Pour the two cups of cold water into the large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of corn starch and mix thoroughly. Once the corn starch has dissolved, the water will remain cloudy. Use the funnel to pour the liquid into your clean, empty spray bottle. Make sure to shake well before using each time.

You’ll also want to make  new spray starch about every two weeks, as the corn starch goes bad. Given that you’re only using a tablespoon at a time, it’s not something to worry too much about if you don’t use the entire batch. You can also make less spray starch by using less water and corn starch from the start. You can use homemade starch to stiffen anything you like — from tablecloths to napkins to jeans.

Now, as you well know, I tend not to wear or use anything that needs starching. I do, on the other hand, have occasion to remove stains like those caused from Thanksgiving dinner. Thankfully, our Thanksgiving doesn’t get quite as messy as this scene at a Thanksgiving table from the classic flick Home for the Holidays.

But even if turkeys don’t end up in laps, spilled gravy and cranberry sauce can happen at the happiest of Thanksgivings. Here are a few DIY holiday stain-removing tricks for you to employ in such circumstances. These tips are simple and pretty old school, but they work. Great-grandmother Beulah Fisk would be proud.

Helpful, homemade holiday stain removers:

  1. Club soda can help get rid of wine, coffee, tea, and so many other stains. Keep it handy and use it right away to dab on stains when they happen.
  2. Red wine stains: According to the Queen of Clean, here’s what you need to do: “Mix liquid dishwashing soap with hydrogen peroxide. Pour the mixture on the stain and soak, then wash in the washing machine.”
  3. Cranberry sauce stains: Try combining some white vinegar and dish soap and wash the stain by hand first. Then wash it in the washing machine. Undiluted lemon juice is also a good way to remove fruit stains. Let the stain soak in lemon juice for 30 minutes, then machine wash.
  4. Turkey grease or gravy stain: Soak the stain in warm water. Use a paper towel to absorb oil and then wash in a machine at the highest temperature possible.
  5. Tear stains and emotional scars: Best left to themselves. Time is their best remover.

For all other DIY green cleaning needs, a little elbow grease and these video tips will do the trick.

There you have it, Mom! May your tablecloth be as crisp as the fall and may nothing stain it at all! I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.