Accidental stains and spills on carpets and upholstery are unfortunately an inevitable fact of life, especially if you have children and pets. But don’t worry – expensive professional cleaning is not always necessary: some home methods can tackle simple soiling very effectively.
While you want to act quickly if the stain is fresh, don’t just rush in and start scrubbing frantically – all this will do is spread the stain and push it deeper into the carpet fibres or fabric weave. If it is a spill, blot up as much excess liquid as possible using absorbent material, like white paper towels. Don’t be stingy – use several layers to wick up the liquid and don’t wait until they are soggy before replacing them. If the stain is more solid, use the blunt end of a knife or a spoon to gently scrape off as much excess material as possible.
Next, rinse out the stain using a cloth soaked in warm water, changing the water as soon as it becomes coloured. Always work from the outside of the stain inwards, so there is less chance of spreading the stain. A drop or two of vinegar or ammonia added to the water will help to shift the stain.
Be careful about over-wetting the stain, as this can cause shrinkage or “buckling”, especially on wool carpets which can take a long time to dry out and become mouldy or even rot in the process. Prevent over-wetting by blotting constantly with paper towels to remove excess moisture and try to work with as little water as possible each time.
If the stain is stubborn, you will have to use a detergent solution next. If your carpet or upholstery fabric is wool, it is best to use special detergent created for woollen materials. Rinse everything very thoroughly through repeated applications of small amounts of water and blotting, as any traces of detergent left will cause a build-up of chemicals, particularly in carpets, and act as a future magnet for dirt and grime, resulting in a matter appearance. Specific stains – such as wine, blood, coffee and make-up – can be treated according to their individual removal instructions.
Naturally, if the upholstery is designed with washable covers that can be removed, it is best to remove them and wash according to the care label instructions, rather than treating the stain “in situ”.
Commercial carpet and upholstery cleaners and shampoos are available and you can try these if the simple home detergent treatment is not effective. Remember, these too will leave chemical residues so make sure you rinse them out thoroughly and avoid repeated use. You might be better – if there is heavy soiling, a large stain or repeated and old stains – to resort to professional cleaning, using steam machinery which will remove all dirt, grime, stains and detergent build-up from carpets and upholstery effectively. You can hire this to do yourself but it is not much more expensive (and usually a lot easier!) to hire a professional cleaning company to perform this task for you.
To guard against future soiling, it would be worthwhile having your carpets and upholstery treated with a stain-repellent, especially if they are in areas of heavy traffic or subject to a lot of wear and tear. While these treatments will not last indefinitely, they will make a noticeable difference and provide a measure of protection.
For more tips visit www.stainexpert.co.uk
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