Helpful Tips for Carpet Stain Removal
by Courtney Ronan
Thanksgiving has passed, thank goodness. You opened up your house to 10 hungry guests, and a good time was had by all. The evidence is showing on your kitchen counters, now littered with dirty dishes and a turkey carcass ... and your carpeting. It's soiled with little Billy's Kool-Aid, Aunt Millie's red wine and the mashed potatoes that Grandma didn't noticed she'd spilled until Great-Grandpa accidentally ground them into the carpet while shuffling across the dining room. So what now? Is there any hope for your brand-new beige carpet, now spotted with traces of yesterday's Thanksgiving feast?
The first rule of thumb when attempting to remove spots from your carpet is that the sooner you catch it, the better. If you see the cranberry sauce headed for the floor, don't wait until later to clean the area. Your chances of success are much higher if you attempt to clean the spot before it's dry. For many of us, our first instinct is to grab a towel, wet it thoroughly and saturate the affected area. While you'll dilute the stain by wetting it, you run the risk of spreading the stain, too.
Instead, grab a white towel -- preferably cotton or terry, both of which absorb more effectively than other materials -- and blot the area. Make sure that you use a white towel -- many colored towels will add to the problem by bleeding into your carpet when rubbed on a damp stain. And with a white towel, you'll be able to tell if you're successfully removing the stain; the towel will show the evidence. If the spot comes from food and there are solid materials built up on your carpet, scrape them off using a butter knife or other dull edge.
Before you apply any spot remover to your carpet, test it in a remote area of your carpeting -- the corner of a closet, for example, or behind a piece of furniture that you don't intend to move any time in the future. Pour several drops of the stain remover on the carpet in this inconspicuous area, then blot the area with a white cloth/terry towel. If the solution bleaches the spot, or if your carpet's color is being transferred to the towel, be grateful you tested the solution first, and call a professional to do the job where it counts.
If, however, your out-of-the-way spot passes the test, you can attempt the job yourself. Apply a few drops of solution to the stain, being careful not to apply too much, and blot the area gently with a white cotton/terry towel, moving from the outer edge of the stain to the center to avoid causing rings. Make sure you don't rub the area; that can make the stain larger and ground it into your carpet's inner fibers. You may need to repeat this process a few times, depending upon the cause of the stain and how long the stain has been on your carpeting. When the area is dry, brush it gently to restore your carpet's look.
Some materials are tricker and require a little extra elbow grease to remove. Again, if you catch these carpet culprits right after they've dropped onto your carpeting, your chances of successfully removing the stains are much greater. Some of these tougher culprits include:
Gum: If the gum is still soft, harden it with an ice cube. Then scrape it off with a very dull knife (i.e., a butter knife) or a spatula. Then apply a small amount of dry cleaning solvent (available at most hardware and grocery stores) to remove any remaining residue.
Soot: These black smudges are resilient and are best removed with a combination of a dry-cleaning solvent, detergent and ammonia solutions (see below). Blot between each step. At the end of the process, rinse the area well and blot until dry.
Crayons: If Junior has taken to expressing his artistic leaning on your brand-new carpeting, you can remove this waxy substance by applying a combination of a dry-cleaning solvent, detergent solution and grease/oil/paint remover (available at most hardware stores). Blot between each step. When finished, rinse and blot dry.
To make the above-mentioned cleaning solutions yourself, dilute one tablespoon of colorless, mild dishwashing detergent (containing no bleach) in a cup of lukewarm water. You can also use powered laundry detergents; some of them list recipes on their boxes for creating your own household cleaning solutions. To create an ammonia solution, dilute one tablespoon of household ammonia in a half-cup of water.
If, after repeating all of these steps, you're not having success, call a professional carpet-cleaning company. However, let the buyer beware -- a number of carpet-cleaning companies have come under fire recently for their failure to adequately provide the services they claim to perform, leaving customers with poorly cleaned carpets and high bills. You've probably received several coupons in the mail advertising services that will clean multiple rooms in your home for an amazingly low price. The fact is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If in doubt, call your local Better Business Bureau, or ask for recommendations from family or friends. And finally, enjoy the relief that comes from knowing you won't be hosting next year's Thanksgiving feast.