Spills on the carpet are one of the things guaranteed to make most people jump up in horror. And unfortunately – especially if you have children or pets – it is almost an inevitable fact of life. Most people wince as they think they will need to call in expensive carpet cleaning professionals in order to remove the stains but in many cases, you can tackle simple soiling using some home methods quite successfully.
The most important thing is to catch any spillage immediately – that way, it’s less likely to be a difficult or even permanent stain. However, this does not mean that you should just start scrubbing violently, as you will simply spread the stain and push it deeper into the carpet fibres. The best thing is to blot up as much excess liquid as possible, using something very absorbent like kitchen towel. Place several layers on the stain and gently press down, so that the liquid soaks up into the paper. Be generous about using more paper – don’t wait until it is soggy – keep repeating this until you have soaked up as much liquid as possible.
Next, try to rinse out the stain with some warm water, working from the outside towards the inside, which minimises the chance of spreading the stain. Soak a cloth in warm water and blot at the stain, rinsing it frequently and changing the water as soon as it becomes coloured. Contrary to what you might think, it is best not to use soap or detergent with the water at this stage as these can be very hard to rinse from carpet. However, you can add one or two drops of vinegar or ammonia to the warm water to help shift the stain.
Remember to keep blotting the excess moisture with kitchen towel papers as if the area becomes too wet, it may shrink or “buckle”. Furthermore, if the carpet is wool, it may take a long time to dry out and become mouldy or even rot in the process. So it is best to try and work with as little water as possible and to keep mopping up any excess liquid as soon as you can.
If the stain is persistent, then you may have to resort to using detergent. For wool carpets, it is best to use the special detergents created for woollen clothing. In all cases, make sure you rinse very diligently, by repeatedly applying small amounts of clean water to the stain and blotting it, after each treatment with the detergent. It might seem like an unnecessary inconvenience but it is well worth your time as if you do not rinse the detergent out thoroughly, the stained area will have a build-up of chemicals in the carpet fibres. This then actually acts as a magnet for dirt and grime, as well as often taking on a matted appearance.
There are special commercial carpet cleaners and shampoos available to deal with carpet soiling and these can be used as the next step if simple home detergents are not making headway. However, remember that these too will leave chemicals in your carpet fibres and so repeated use of such products is not really desirable. You can also treat specific types of stains according to their own instructions, for example, blood, Coffee and Tea Stains and Make-up Stains, etc.
Time to Call in the Professionals
Unfortunately, if the carpet has been subjected to very heavy staining or there are large areas of staining or repeated staining, then it may be time to resort to professional cleaning. Steam cleaning is the most popular method and is a good way to remove dirt and detergent build-up from carpets. Many places will offer you hire machinery for steam cleaning but it is often easier (and not much more expensive) to hire a professional carpet cleaning company to take over the task.
Once your carpets have been professionally cleaned, it might be worth considering having them treated with stain-repellent, particularly if they are in areas subject to heavy wear and soiling. In addition, whenever you are buying new carpets, it is again worthwhile considering those which have been pre-treated with a stain repellent. These treatments will not last forever but they can make a noticeable difference, especially if your carpets are likely to become frequently stained.