Name That Stain



So Happy Chin has discovered red wine. Usually he drinks juice or water with his meal (our children favour apple and blackcurrant, quite a similar colour as red wine) but he suddenly decided what we were drinking looked interesting. Sure, we said, you can have a glass (he’s 22, after all), so he went ahead and poured a large glass for himself.

Now, we knew he was unlikely to drink it. HC favours sweeter flavours and this was a dry red. So we weren’t surprised when he chose instead to wander round the house with the full glass, finally abandoning it on the kitchen bench just before bedtime.

Cut to Wednesday evening. Mr August and I are standing in the kitchen. I gaze at the floor and sigh.

“I wish I could be bothered to clean that red wine stain off the floor.”

“Mmm” agrees Mr A. “And I wish I could be bothered to scrub that coffee stain off the ceiling.”

How the coffee stain got on the ceiling is another story, but Name That Stain is a game that’s been played in our house for…well, about 22 years actually.

I used to be the manager of a small hotel. I’d frequently be called to a room by housekeeping to stand around a bed or sofa and play Name That Stain. According to the domestic goddess book of cleaning tips borrowed from my mother-in-law, you need to know the nature of the stain before you can properly address yourself to its removal. Protein stains require application of enzyme cleaners, oil stains need dry cleaning fluid, blood requires cold water and red wine is best removed with dishwashing liquid and vinegar.

But of course, we hadn’t been involved at stain creation stage, so it was anyone’s guess. I mean we could hardly go asking guests, “what exactly were you doing??”

Is it lipstick? Could it be blood?

It looks like chocolate….but what if it’s not?

Smell it!

I’m not smelling it, you smell it!


And so on.

People who stay in hotels really don’t have a clue how often other people are in and out of their rooms. It’s a regular Grand Central bloody Station in there. Truly, from rom the moment you go out doing touristy things to the moment you return, it’s a cast of thousands in your room!

Firstly, housekeeping have to get in there to clean. That’s a given. Then there’s any number of random tradespeople called in to fix various things that may have gone wrong between check in and breakfast. They’re literally standing by to fix that dripping tap or wobbly shower head.

“Right, they’ve just gone out – in you go!”

2 minutes later…

“Shit, they’ve come back – out you get!”

If it’s magazine delivery day, I or one of my team might be in and out delivering brand new copies of Vogue or Harper’s to your room.

If housekeeping report a light globe out I might be perched up a ladder replacing it, replenishing your fresh flowers, or simply in there because you mentioned at breakfast you’d enjoyed the muesli and wouldn’t mind getting the recipe.

Let me reassure you at this point. We Are Not Interested In Your Things.

Staff at a reputable hotel do not go through the guests’ belongings. We like our jobs. We want to keep them. We have bills to pay. We are not looking under the bed for handcuffs. We do not have time. We have, at maximum, 3 or 4 hours to turn all the rooms over. Sometimes we only have the 45 minutes it takes for you to sit in the morning room and drink a cup of coffee.

We are simply interested in returning your room to the state in which you first entered it. Pristine, spotless, and giving the strong impression that no one has ever slept in it before, even though 867 people have. This is the great hotel illusion we all buy into when we check in. It’s a mutual agreement to suspend disbelief, like going to see a Marvel movie. I won’t tell you it’s all CGI and you won’t ask in case you find out.

In the meantime I wish I could magically CGI away the stains at our house, although they do have a kind of sentimental value. Look at that hot chocolate mark on the wall, I might point out to Mr A, I scrubbed and scrubbed but it never did come off. Remember that day? Wasn’t that the day you had to come home from work at 3PM because I was having a meltdown? And I threatened you with divorce if you didn’t bring wine with you?

In general, parents have a pretty good understanding of the basic range of stains they can expect on any given day. Poo, blood, vegemite, crayon, chocolate, jam, dirt, grass, to name but a few. I would argue though, that it’s only the parents of special needs children who are pleased to discover their child’s face covered in chocolate. It’s so much better than the alternative when it comes to brown stains!

As a parent of a child with Tuberous Sclerosis, blood is my specialty subject. Happy Chin’s angiofibromas (small blood vessels on the surface of his face) bleed easily and copiously when scratched or knocked, so pillowcases and T shirts are often cover with red stains. There’s sometimes a bit of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre moment when peeling back his covers of a morning, then I just sigh and reach for the laundry soaker. I wonder if Napisan would consider a sponsorship?

During the Flying Pasta Days (as previously described in this blog) I often found myself deciding whether to make creamy pasta (white pasta) or tomato pasta (red pasta) based on the potential level of difficulty involved in getting the stains out afterwards.

On the whole, I do wish I wanted a clean house. If I wanted one more, maybe I would do something about it. Instead I’m sat here writing this. It’s a legacy of a childhood spent hiding up a tree reading a book. If I disappear into a book, the world also magically disappears. It’s just a shame the stains don’t magically disappear while I am in the book.

I suppose I could outsource, but really we can’t afford a cleaner. Perhaps if this blog post goes viral….

So please feel free to like and share!


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