Stain Removal for Carpets and Rugs

If you plan to shampoo your carpet, first try pre-cleaning: Sweep the carpet, which will make the nap stand up and loosen the imbedded dirt. Next vacuum. With this work alone, the rug should show a noticeable improvement, so much in fact that you may decide to delay shampooing.

Pre-testing Carpet Cleaning Products

Pretest so cleaning problems will not develop during cleaning or after the carpet or rug is cleaned. Not all products can be safely used on all fibers and dyes. The face yarns of a carpet can be dyed by many different dye processes using a wide range of dyes. It is common in multi-colors to have different types of dyes to produce the desired color. Therefore, a cleaner may be safe on one color and not another.

To test a product, mix it according to directions or as it is planned to be used. In an inconspicuous area, such as in a corner, behind a chair, in back of the drapery, etc., place approximately one teaspoon of the solution on a spot about the size of a nickel. Work the solution in with the fingers, press a white tissue against the wet spot and hold it there for about ten seconds. Examine the tissues to see if any dye has transferred. The amount transferred may be very small and difficult to see on the tissues, but over a large area of carpet it could be objectionable. If the small spot tested does not include all the different colors, then the others should be tested. Retest any color that may be in doubt. The wet spots should be carefully examined as they may show a change not apparent on the tissues.

This testing should show any damage or change that may take place on the fibers. The chance of damage occurring with a cleaning solution is very small, but some spot removal chemicals can damage some fibers. The fibers may become sticky, soft, or dissolve. Always test and examine carefully to prevent being sorry later.

If, during testing, a dye transfers or it appears as though a fiber is being damaged, then this product should not be used. Try testing other products until a safe one is found. If none can be safely used, then contact and explain the problem to a professional.

A second test will determine the type of residue that remains after the carpet or rug has been cleaned. The cleaning solution is made up of various chemicals and liquids. After this is applied, the liquid will start to evaporate. The drying time will vary from several hours to several days.

After the liquid evaporates, what type of material remains on the fibers? If it is a powdery, granular material, it will be removed with the vacuum. Any other consistency will remain on the face fibers.

To determine the type of residue, pour one-half cup of the product as it is to be used in a glass pie plate. Allow the pie plate to set undisturbed until all the liquid has evaporated. This may take several days. The process can be speeded up by placing the pie plate, with solution, in an oven at 160 F. Watch and remove the plate when no more liquid is being evaporated.

Examine the residue that remains. Is it sticky? If so, it will hold onto soil at an accelerated rate and make the carpet soil faster. The sticky residue will also hold the fibers together and the surface of the carpet will be more matted and less resilient. A hard, waxy residue will not hold onto soil to the same extent but it will dull the surface and the fibers will not appear bright and clean.

Once the sticky or waxy residue gets on the fibers, it usually remains until the residue is flushed out with a lot of warm water. Another cleaning with the same solution will only build up the residue. If it is suspected that a residue is already present on the carpet yarns, place a tablespoon of warm water on a spot and work it in with the fingers. A foam or a slippery feeling will indicate a detergent residue. The best way to remove it is by the hot water extraction method. Many professional rug cleaners have this type of equipment or it can be rented.

To neutralize odors: Commercial deodorizing powders that are sprinkled over the smelly area, and then vacuumed up, usually do a good job of removing odors. Regular problems with odors from cooking, or cigarette smoke can be removed from the room by ventilation, exhaust fans, or room air cleaner machines before they affect the carpet.

Odors from stains require removal of the stain residue. Musty odors indicate mildew which must be removed. Household disinfectant sprays, or concentrated odor-removing liquids may also help remove some odors, following directions on the product labels.

Carpet Freshener: Combine 3/4 cup baking soda, 2 tbs. corn starch, and 1/4 cup perfumed talcum powder. Sprinkle on dry carpet, let stand 5 to 15 minutes, then vacuum.

Stain Removal: Clean up spills as fast as you can. Blot or scrape up as much of the spill as possible, blotting from the outside toward the center. Test the stain remover on an area under the sofa and wait 15 minutes to see if it damages the carpet color. After you clean the carpet, blot it dry and weigh down a small cushion of paper towels with a heavy object to soak up all the moisture. Don't panic! General stains, use Borax according to label directions. Borax can be toxic if ingested.

Blood stains: Cold water or Club Soda. Sponge stain immediately with cold water or club soda and dry with a towel. Repeat as necessary.

Ink stains: Cream of Tartar and Lemon Juice. Place cream of tartar on the ink stain and squeeze a few drops of ice on top. Rub into the stain for a minute, brush off the powder with a clean brush and sponge immediately with warm water, being careful not to saturate the carpet backing. Repeat if necessary. - Isopropyl Alcohol* Be sure to wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Blot rubbing alcohol onto stain.

Non-oily Stain

  1. Mix together 1 teaspoon of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon liquid detergent, and 1 pint lukewarm water.
  2. Apply this mixture to the non-oily stain with a soft brush or towel.
  3. Rub gently.
  4. Rinse with a towel dampened in clean water.
  5. Blot dry. Repeat this process until the stain is removed.
  6. Dry the carpet quickly using a fan or blow dryer. There is a chance that vinegar may bleach some dark, sensitive colors, so try it on an inconspicuous area first.

Soft Drinks Stain

  1. Mix one teaspoon of a neutral detergent (a mild detergent containing no alkalis or bleaches) with a cup of luke-warm water.
  2. Blot.
  3. Mix one-third cup of white vinegar with two/thirds cup of water.
  4. Blot.
  5. Repeat step 3 and 4
  6. Sponge with clear water.
  7. Blot.

Soot stain: Salt. Sprinkle the area generously with salt. Allow the salt to settle for at least 15 minutes before vacuuming.

Stains and odors: Vinegar and Liquid Soap. Vinegar will kill the odor of urine and prevent staining if you can get to the spot right away. First absorb as much moisture as you can with dry paper towels. Next rinse the area with warm water and apply vinegar and soap solution into the stain using a clean cloth or paper towel and leave on for 15 minutes. Rinse with a towel dampened in clean water and blot dry. There is a chance that vinegar may bleach some dark, sensitive colors, so try it on an inconspicuous area first.

Dents and Depressions: (From furniture or heavy objects.) Shift location of furniture from time to time. Brush the dented area, or use a grooming tool to loosen and stand-up the mashed tufts. Using a steam iron, steam the dented area lightly and brush up the tufts with your fingertips. Do not let iron touch the carpet. Hold the iron 2-3 inches above the carpet. (For carpets containing acrylic or mod-acrylic, use the warm setting on a hair dryer, as steam may melt the fibers.) To avoid further crushing, use casters under furniture legs.

This article has been contributed in part by Michigan State University Extension