Q.I have spilt shampoo on my car upholstery which I would guess is a nylon fabric. I have avoided using water which would produce a lot of foam but it is very sticky and has left a prominent mark. What would you advise?
(Dr Lorraine Bell, 24 September 2008)
A.Spilt shampoo is a common problem and can be a real nuisance, causing a huge foaming mess with all efforts to remove it often seeming to simply make matters worse!
First, it is important to try and remove as much excess shampoo as possible, by gentle scraping with a spoon or dabbing with blotting paper (be careful not to rub it into the fabric). It may even be a good idea to wet the stain slightly (just dab the water on, do not rub) and then cover it with baking powder (bicarbonate soda), to absorb as much shampoo as possible. Repeat a few times until you have removed as much excess shampoo as you can.
Next, find a Wet/Dry vacuum – this will help you “suck up” the remainder of the shampoo, once it is diluted with water. Do not use anything with brushes which will stir up the shampoo and cause it to foam even more – ideally, look for a wet/dry vacuum or a steam cleaner which will simply help you extract the shampoo without stirring things up.
To reduce foaming as you’re working, find a good defoaming agent – regular fabric softener often used in normal laundry is a good defoaming agent; alternatively, many commercial carpet cleaning companies will carry and sell defoaming products.
Dilute the stain with water and then vacuum the area with your Wet/Dry vacuum (the fabric softener or defoaming agent added to the tank will help to keep the suds down in the tank). You may need to repeat this several times in order to dilute the shampoo enough that you can extract it all from the upholstery – however, with patience and persistence, the stain should be removed. Don’t forget to empty the container in the We/Dry vacuum frequently.
Finally, blot any excess moisture left with paper towels or baking soda again. Note, though, that even if you remove all the shampoo, it may still have left a permanent stain on the fabric from a colour change, due to the chemicals in the shampoo. This is why it is always best to tackle stains as soon as possible, when they’re fresh.