Tipsy friends with glasses of red wine. Aged dogs with dodgy bladders. Toddlers with marker pens and dodgy bladders.
They are all sworn enemies of your carpet, poised to wreak havoc on the most expensive large surface in your house, the one you spent weeks choosing and months paying for, or the one your landlord fitted and which could hold the key to getting your deposit back.
Stain Fighting Kit
The National Carpet Cleaners Association recommends keeping the following items and solutions to hand for dealing with stains:
With All Stains…
Always blot the stain and work from the outside of the stain to the middle. Never scrub the carpet, this risks ruining the carpet fibres and leaving a scrub-mark even if the stain is removed, plus it can allow staining liquid to soak through to the carpet pad. After treating the stain rinse thoroughly (see final rinse procedure below) then blot again.
Common Water-Soluble Stains
They may be water soluble but it doesn’t mean they’re easy to get out; the easier ones are:
For these use a simple cleaning solution made up of 1/4 teaspoon of non-bleach detergent or white vinegar mixed with 2 pints of water.
Tougher Water-Soluble Stains
Something stronger may be required here, and it’s important to know what kind of carpet you have – worth making a note when you buy the carpet as you probably won’t remember 3 years later!
For wool and wool-mix carpets, stick with the detergent mentioned above. For other kinds of carpet, try 1 tablespoon of ammonia mixed with 1 cup of water. If you have a “solution-dyed” carpet then you can go for a stronger cleaning solution and try one part chlorine bleach to five parts water.
Fat and Oil - Scrape off the worst of the spill with a blunt knife, making sure not to spread it further. Place a paper towel over the carpet and iron on warm setting. The wax, fat, or oil should come up off the carpet and be absorbed by the paper towel. Repeat with clean towels and slightly hotter iron if necessary, being sure of course not to replace a stain with the indelible imprint of a hot iron.
Glue - Moisten a cotton ball or soft cloth with surgical spirit and press it on the affected area until the glue is thoroughly moistened. Gently wipe it off and repeat until the carpet is clean.
Wax and Chewing Gum - Place some ice cubes in a plastic bag and gently rub the spot with it until the stain hardens. Break up the frozen mark with a blunt knife and vacuum up the bits. Finish by applying a small amount of surgical spirit with a white cloth, then blot.
Urine (the dog’s or otherwise!) - Absorb as much as possible with white towels and kitchen towels. Blot with a solution of one part white vinegar to one part water. Finally apply a solution of 1/2 teaspoon of mild detergent mixed with pints of water.
Final Rinse Procedure
Applicable to all above methods of stain removal:
Drying after Cleaning
If possible, switch on a fan or dehumidifier to speed up the drying time and prevent possible mildew and bacteria growth, which can start if the carpet stays wet for more than about 24 hours. Gentle use of a hair dryer can speed up drying times if you’re prepared to sit there and hair-dry your carpet!
Other Approach #1 – Call The Professionals
No not Bodie and Doyle - your local (preferably recommended and approved) carpet cleaners who specialise in stain removal. Not cheap, but much cheaper than a new carpet.
Other Approach #2 - Have It Scotchgard-ed
Liquids simply refuse to soak into stain-protected carpets and can simply be blotted off. Local carpet cleaning firms will usually offer this service, and you can have your rugs, sofas and armchairs done at the same time. I got a whole glass of red wine out of a pure wool hand-knotted Persian rug once thanks to stain protection, I was very thankful I can tell you!