If you have carpet anywhere in your home, you will inevitably have to face a tough, stubborn stain. Your coffee might spill, your child might get a little too excited about finger painting, or your pet might have an accident.
All of these situations can leave unsightly (and sometimes stinky) stains on your carpet that seem to be undisturbed by your strongest cleaners. Are you doomed to have to rip up your carpet or strategically rearrange the furniture? Before you go to any drastic lengths, try these carpet cleaning tips.
Immediate Actions for Stain Removal
Your stain removal efforts will be most effective if you act immediately. The first course of action is to soak up as much of the liquid as you can with a cloth. Be very careful not to smear or rub the mess; just press firmly into the stain, then lift the cloth straight up and continue with a clean section of material. Keep blotting the stain until very little liquid is pulled up into the cloth. Soaking up the outer edges of the spill and working your way toward the center is recommended.
If the mess isn’t just liquid (such as a chocolate ice cream cone that splatters onto the carpet), carefully remove the solid waste before beginning the blotting technique. It’s important to not press the debris or liquid further into the carpet.
At this point, your technique will vary slightly based on the type of stain you’re trying to remove.
Removing Most Stains From Your Carpet
If you’re lucky, the stain-causing culprit will be water soluble, meaning that you’ll only need a bit of water, your cloths and some patience to get the job done. Such stains include soda drinks, most alcoholic drinks (except wine), fruit/berry juice, ice cream, jelly, mud, wet or latex paint, and washable ink.
You’ll need to do something that seems to go against the very nature of what you’re trying to achieve: to pour a small amount of clean water onto the stain and repeat the blotting process. The water “rinses” the carpet by pulling up particles that were left over from the initial clean-up. If pouring water onto your carpet makes you nervous, apply water with a spray bottle or wet a fresh cloth and use that to blot the area (a white cloth works well so that you can see whether you’re removing any of the stain).
Removing Pet Stains From Your Carpet
Carpets and pets don’t seem to mix well, as fur and dirt have a way of becoming deeply embedded in the fibers without regular maintenance. The worst stains of all are those related to pet vomit, fecal matter and urine.
After following the basic cleaning steps above, follow-up with a spritz of white vinegar and warm water (mix equal parts vinegar and water). This mixture will help bring up more of the stain and to simultaneously neutralize strong odors. Let the carpet dry, and repeat as necessary.
If you find the mess long after it occurred, you may need to wet the area first in order to remove the stain. Use plain water until most of the stain has been removed via the blotting technique, and then switch to the vinegar mixture.
Removing Drink Stains From Your Carpet
For removing stains caused by coffee, wine, tea or chocolate, add some non-bleach detergent to the vinegar and water mixture. Dish soap or a laundry detergent will work. Continue to spray, blot and dry until satisfied that the stain is gone.
Note that liquid will spread out among the fibers, so if the surface stain appears small, it’s still important to target the surrounding area with your stain-removing concoction.
Removing Ink Stains From Your Carpet
When an ink pen bursts all over your carpet, don’t run to the sink with your cloth; instead, head to the medicine cabinet. Dampen the cloth with rubbing alcohol and then blot the stain. Repeat as needed, and then follow up with a clean water rinse. White wine, white vinegar and even nail polish remover can be used in lieu of rubbing alcohol. Once you’re done cleaning up the stain, dry the area with a fresh cloth and/or vacuum.
Ongoing Actions for Stain Removal
Over time, you may see the stain reappear. This is normal since the carpet fibers have a natural wicking action and the particles can be drawn up toward the surface, taking the place of the debris you’ve already removed. This is more likely to happen if a large amount of liquid was spilled (enough to make it down to the carpet backing, where it is hard to reach by blotting). And if you live in a humid area like Houston, carpet stains can reappear even faster via wicking.
A practical long-term solution is to regularly have your carpet professionally cleaned, or to rent a professional-grade carpet cleaner and do the job yourself. Such heavy-duty cleaning can get farther into the carpet and pull stains up right before your eyes.