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Undecorating? Put holiday baubles away clean and neat

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: December 31, 2013

What goes up must come down. That includes Christmas decorations.

You'll thank yourself next year if you take a little extra time to clean and organize your baubles and lights before you pack them away. Here are some tips:

• Dust ornaments lightly with a feather duster or soft brush, such as a makeup brush.

• Avoid water, which can damage many decorations, particularly those with paint, glitter, silvering or other adornment on the outside. At most, use a slightly damp cloth on stubborn dirt, but use caution.

• Use a soft toothbrush to loosen old tree flocking material.

• Take artificial wreaths, roping and other greenery outside and blow off the dust with a hair dryer set on a low temperature and speed. Or cover your hand with a disposable dust mitt or an old sock and just slide the greenery through your hand.

• Some greenery can be cleaned by tumbling it in a clothes dryer on an air-dry cycle. Add a towel to help it tumble properly.

• For greenery that's really dirty, lay it in a bathtub, spray it with window cleaner or an all-purpose cleaner, rinse it with the spray from the shower and then hang it to dry. If the greenery contains wire or other metal, use a fan to speed the drying so the metal doesn't rust.

• Clean artificial plants and flowers using a cleaning spray sold by craft stores, or swish them through water with a little dishwashing liquid in it. Test the latter method on a single flower first to make sure it doesn't remove the color.

• Or put the flowers in a paper grocery bag with one-third cup salt and shake them for a minute or two.

• Remove wax from candle holders by freezing them until the wax hardens and then chipping the wax out

• To clean Christmas lights, unplug them and then wipe with a dusting mitt, an old sock, a dry wipe or cloth with a static charge. Don't use a wet wipe or any type of water.

• Keep light strings untangled in storage by wrapping them around a piece of sturdy cardboard, the cardboard core from a roll of paper towels or just a section of newspaper rolled and taped.

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