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Spots and stains on your carpet: handy tips

Sunday 14th June 2015

I frequently witness, on social media, people asking how to remove spillages and accidents from their carpets: tea/coffee stains, make-up, nail varnish, vomit, blood, etc. Usually, the question is followed by a crowd of suggestions, most of them very unwise.

So here is a must-read before you attempt any DIY cleaning on your carpet:

  • Keep in mind that anything you put onto a spot or stain should be removed shortly after, or you just end up with a strange mix in your carpet, which will not only attract more soil, but could also damage your carpet over time.
  • Unless you have a wet extractor (a type of vacuum cleaner that sucks water), it is very difficult to fully remove anything from a carpet.
  • If using a wet extractor, Vax or Rug Doctor type, always rinse with clear water, to remove all traces of detergent left in the carpet, and always finish with dry passes (i.e., stop spraying water and use vacuum only), to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Too much moisture left in the carpet will take longer to dry and could cause mould growth.
  • The product and method you use to treat a spill depends on the type of spill AND the type of carpet.
  • Most carpet fibres are either synthetic, wool, or a mix. Each type has very different properties, which means that they need to be treated differently.
  • What worked on someone else's carpet could wreck yours. The same colour carpet does not mean it's the same fibre!
  • Wool and wool mix carpets last longer, but they are prone to staining. Applying a stain protector will make them easier to clean and keep stain-free.
  • Polypropylene carpets are probably the most popular synthetic carpets in the UK. They are pretty much stain proof, so there's no need to splash out on stain protector with these.
  • If you scrub a carpet, you'll be more likely to set the stain in permanently instead of removing it.
  • Scrubbing tends to send the stain or soil downwards. It may look like it's gone but it could wick back up later on.
  • Scrubbing also turns the fibre fuzzy, dull and more prone to further stains (even on synthetic carpets).
  • Do not use solvent products (like nail varnish remover) on synthetic carpets as it would dissolve the fibre.
  • Wool can sustain solvents, but you need to go very gently and only apply lightly to the surface. Don't allow the solvent to reach the base of the carpet. Extract immediately (don't leave the solvent in the carpet).
  • Strong detergents dissolve wool. Avoid anything containing bleach (be careful if the label says "oxydiser" or "oxydising agent" this is sometimes another name for bleach)
  • Oil-based spillages (grease, shoe polish, etc.) smear with water, so you'll only make the spill bigger.
  • Oil stains usually respond well to solvent cleaning, but to avoid risks to your carpet and to your health, this is best left to a professional, well-trained carpet cleaner.
  • In most cases, and if you don't have any reliable extracting equipment, don't use anything other than a little water and a clean white cloth.
  • The only safe tip for DIY cleaning (on water-based spillages) is to spray a little water at a time, blot gently, and check. Don't scrub.
  • If you're unsure about what you're dealing with, avoid DIY cleaning and call a professional.