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Candles - clean up after using

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In a country where electricity is not always reliable, it is a good idea to have some candles lying around. On more than one occasion, a typical evening meal has undergone a dramatic mood swing and become a romantic dinner by candlelight. Unfortunately, my tables and tablecloths have paid the price.

Getting wax off of most tables requires nothing more than a credit card, but on certain occasions more is needed. Take my teak living room table for example; there was a pretty serious build up that had actually bled into the grain of the wood.

When this occurs, use a credit card to scrape as much wax up as you can and then use a hairdryer on a medium setting to take care of the rest. As the wax melts, wipe it off with a soft cloth. Next, use a vinegar/water solution and finally buff with furniture polish.

Wax on place mats and fabric can be another hazard involved with burning candles. For this, try using some paper and an iron. First scrape as much of the wax off as possible and shake clean. Next, place paper on either side of the fabric - brown paper bags work best, but newspaper and paper towels work too. Using the medium setting, run the iron over the paper, moving the paper as the wax is absorbed. If there is any discoloring in the fabric after this has been done, scrub with laundry detergent and wash as usual.

Candle holders, especially highly ornamental ones, can be a nightmare to try to clean. I suggest one of two methods. First, put your candle holders in the freezer overnight and the wax should simply crack right off.

If that doesn't work, try hot water instead of ice cold. Make sure you use a receptacle that you don't care much about because the wax will transfer from the candle holders to the sides of the receptacle. After scraping as much wax off of the holders as possible, immerse in hot water for two to three minutes and rub clean with a paper towel.

One of the best ways to eliminate wax stains is, of course, to avoid them. Buying high-quality candles actually does make a difference. They tend to burn more slowly and the dyes used do not stain as badly. My grandmother used Saran Wrap to protect her tables, but large tropical leaves are a more subtle solution, especially in Cambodia. You can buy leaves at any market, and good candles can be found at supermarkets and boutique shops around town.

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