Cleaning Carpet Spots and Spills

** Note: These remedies do not include wool carpets! See special notes on Wool Carpet Spots and Spill Solutions here on our website (coming shortly).

Rule No. 1 regarding spots and spills on your carpeting: Clean them immediately.

 If you catch the spill when it’s fresh, you’ve got a good chance of removing it totally. Also consider these tips:

  • Carefully blot or scrape the entire area before applying any cleaning solution. Remove as much of the spill as possible.
  •  Before using any cleaning solution, test your carpet in an inconspicuous area to make sure the cleaner won’t damage or discolor it. Test the cleaning agents that you keep on hand before you have to use them to make sure they will not harm your carpet. 
  • Do not rub the spill — that might spread the problem to a larger area. 
  • When you apply spot cleaner, work from the outside of the stain toward the inside to avoid spreading the stain. After applying a cleaning solution, blot up all the moisture. 
  • A clean white bath towel is unsurpassed for drying carpet and brushing the nap back up to a standing position. 
  • If you feel that there is still too much moisture after blotting the carpet, place a 3/4-inch-thick stack of white towels over the spot and weigh them down with a heavy object.

 A TWO STEP SOLUTION

With today’s stain-resistant carpet, treating spots and stains has never been easier.  The key is to act quickly! The longer you wait, the higher the probability that a spill will become a permanent stain. No carpet is completely stain proof. So to knock out spots, give them a one-two punch.

Step One: Absorb the Spill

  • Blot liquids with a dry, white absorbent cloth or plain white paper towels (no prints or colors). Use of a printed or colored material may transfer ink or dye to your damp carpet. 
  • Start at the outside of the spot and continue toward the center to prevent the stain from spreading.  Continue step one until the area is barely damp. Semisolids, like food spills, may need to be scooped up with a spoon. Solid, dried bits can be vacuumed up. Warning: do not scrub or use a brush. Scrubbing and brushes can damage the carpet.  Fraying and texture change is the likely result.

Step Two: Treat the Spot or Stain

  • Use a CRI Seal of Approval carpet cleaning product.  Though these have been laboratory tested, you should still pretest any cleaner on a scrap of carpet or in a hidden area of your carpet. 
  • Follow the product’s directions carefully.  Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a white cloth and work in gently, from the edges to the center.  Blot; don’t scrub.  Never use a brush.  You may need to do this several times to remove the spot.

Don’t become overzealous when cleaning stains and spills. Mix the cleaning solutions according to the directions. In truth, more is not better. Don’t use too much water; try to keep the carpet as dry as possible. And always remember to pre-test the product on an inconspicuous spot of carpet.

What if you don’t have a CRI-approved carpet cleaner handy?  Try one of these homemade remedies:

  • Use plain water. Surprisingly, water often works better than untested carpet cleaners do. 
  • Use a detergent solution.  Mix 1/4 teaspoon of a clear (nonbleach, nonlanolin) dishwashing liquid with one cup of warm water.  Never use laundry detergent; it may contain bleach or simply be too harsh. 
  • Use a white vinegar solution.  Mix one cup white (not red wine or cider) vinegar with 1 cup of water.  White vinegar (5 percent acetic acid) is sometimes effective on tannins (weak vegetable dyes found in tea and coffee), and it leaves no residue.  However, be careful because acids can set some other dye stains.

 

REMOVING NASTY SPOTS AND STAINS

 Act quickly.  Many spills can be removed when immediate action is taken.  The longer you wait, the higher the probability that a spill will become a permanent stain.  No carpet is completely stain-proof. 

So to knock out spots, give them a one-two punch. 

Step One:  Absorb the Spill

  • Blot liquids with a dry, white absorbent cloth or plain white paper towel (no prints or colors). 
  • Start at the outside of the spot and continue toward the center to prevent the stain from spreading.  Blot until barely damp.  Semi-solids like food spills may need scooping up with a spoon.  Solid, dried bits can be vacuumed up. 

 Do not scrub.  Scrubbing can damage the carpet because fraying and texture change is the likely result.  Use a soft white cloth to blot the spot.

Step Two:  Treat the Spot or Stain

  •  Use a CRI (Carpet & Rug Institute) Seal of Approval carpet cleaner.  Check out www.carpet-rug.org  for a list of Seal of Approval spot removers.  Make sure you have pre-tested any cleaner on a hidden area of your carpet. 
  • Generally speaking, apply a small amount of the cleaner to a white cloth and work in gently, from the edges to the center.  Blot:  don’t scrub.  You may need to do this several times to remove the spot.

 

HOME MADE REMEDIES

  •  Use plain water:  surprisingly, water often works better than untested carpet cleaners. 
  • Use a detergent solution:  mix ¼ teaspoon of a clear (non-bleach, non-lanolin) dishwashing liquid with 1 cup warm water.  Try this on spilled wine and smeared chocolate.  Never use laundry detergent:  it may contain bleach or simply be too harsh. 
  • Use a white vinegar solution:   mix 1 cup white (not red wine or cider) vinegar with 1 cup water.  White vinegar (5 percent acetic acid) is sometimes effective on tannin (weak vegetable dye found in tea and coffee), and it leaves no residue.  However, be careful because acids can set some other dye stains.

 

SPECIAL TIPS FOR PET OWNERS

  •  Dogs especially have urine retention problems when they’re puppies, elderly or sick.  Absorbent pads can be purchased from pet supply stores that work better than newspaper, so spread them around on the spots where your puppy tends to gravitate.  
  • You can combat pet odors and stains in many ways.  Check out the CRI Seal of Approval products that are specifically designed for pet stains and odors. 
  • Vacuum more frequently to capture pet hair and dust drifting from Fluffy’s fur. 
  • Have your carpet professionally cleaned every 12 – 18 months, or more frequently. 
  • In the case of a pet accident clean up new messes promptly.  Pick up any semi-solids, then follow the steps for spot and stain removal. 
  • When dealing with urine spots, don’t use a steam cleaner, because the heat will set the stain and the smell.  Extracting the spill with a wet-vacuum and rinsing with cool water will reduce the odor.  Certified carpet-cleaning firms know how to permanently remove pet stains and odor, where possible. 
  • If flees should become a problem, keep in mind that your carpet is probably harboring eggs – keep up a regular vacuuming schedule.  Check with your vet for treatment options as well as tips for getting fleas out of the household environment.

 

CALLING IN THE PROS

     Sit down, relax and let the professionals take care of cleaning your carpet.  Regular professional cleaning is as important to your carpet as having a trained mechanic perform routine tune-ups on your car. 

REMOVING THE TOP TEN TERRIBLE STAINS

 Question:  What is one of the worst stains to remove from a carpet?   

Answer:  Paint is high on the list.  Don’t take chances.  Use a drop cloth during any painting projects, covering every inch of carpet.

 

BLOOD:  Rinse quickly with cool water.  Follow with an approved cleaning solution or mix 1/4 teaspoon of clear (non-bleach, non-lanolin) dishwashing liquid with one cup cool water. Blot and dry quickly.

DYE & FOOD STAINS:  Beverages, medicines, cosmetics, foods and other liquids containing dyes, should be absorbed first.  Then try the liquid dishwashing solution.  Blot, repeat, and rinse with clear water on a clean, white towel or white paper towel.  Dry.  Depending on the substance involved, it may require professional cleaning.

FINGERNAIL POLISH:  Use a non-acetone fingernail polish remover.  Apply a small amount of remover on a white cloth and work it in from the edges of the spill to the center.  Blot the area using lukewarm tap water.  Dry with a clean cloth.

INK:  Ballpoint pen ink comes off with rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl) applied to a cloth or paper towel.  Don’t pour rubbing alcohol directly on the spot.

PAINT:  Latex paint responds to the detergent solution.  Blot, repeat and dry.

URINE:  Left unattended, can damage carpets in several ways.  Always clean these up immediately with paper towel.  For pet urine, try the white vinegar and water solution. Rinse with cool water. Blot, repeat and dry.

RUST:  Nearly always requires professional services because of the chemicals involved.

VOMIT: Left unattended, can damage carpets in several ways.  Always clean up immediately with paper towel.  For vomit, try the white vinegar and water solution. Rinse with cool water. Blot, repeat and dry.

WAX:  Paraffin wax from candles responds best when medium heat from an iron is applied to a clean white cloth or paper towel, which is placed over the wax spill.  Repeat the heat application to the towel, as the wax is absorbed.  Sometimes dyes in wax won’t come out, and fibers will have to be cut and the area replaced with a new carpet insert.  A trained professional can assist here.

WINE:  comes out with the very same dishwashing detergent solution found in the blood remedy.  Blot, repeat and dry.  Call a professional if the stain persists.

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