Residential Customers

Cleaning Spots And Spills

A two-step solution

With today’s stain-resistant carpet, treating spots and stains has never been easier.  The key is to act quickly! The longer you wait, the higher the probability that a spill will become a permanent stain. No carpet is completely stainproof. So to knock out spots, give them a one-two punch.

Step one: absorb the spill

  • Blot liquids with a dry, white absorbent cloth or plain white paper towels (no prints or colors). Use of a printed or colored material may transfer ink or dye to your damp carpet.
  • Start at the outside of the spot and continue toward the center to prevent the stain from spreading.  Continue step one until the area is barely damp. Semisolids, like food spills, may need to be scooped up with a spoon. Solid, dried bits can be vacuumed up. Warning: do not scrub or use a brush. Scrubbing and brushes can damage the carpet.  Fraying and texture change is the likely result.

Step two: treat the spot or stain

  • Use a CRI Seal of Approval carpet cleaning product.  Though these have been laboratory tested, you should still pretest any cleaner on a scrap of carpet or in a hidden area of your carpet.
  • Follow the product’s directions carefully.  Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a white cloth and work in gently, from the edges to the center.  Blot; don’t scrub.  Never use a brush.  You may need to do this several times to remove the spot.

When cleaning stains and spills, don’t become overzealous. Mix the cleaning solutions according to the directions. In truth, more is not better. Don’t use too much water; try to keep the carpet as dry as possible. And always remember to pretest the product on an inconspicuous spot of carpet.

What if you don’t have a CRI-approved carpet cleaner handy?  Try one of these homemade remedies:

  • Use plain water. Surprisingly, water often works better than untested carpet cleaners do.
  • Use a detergent solution.  Mix 1/4 teaspoon of a clear (nonbleach, nonlanolin) dishwashing liquid with one cup of warm water.  Never use laundry detergent; it may contain bleach or simply be too harsh.
  • Use a white vinegar solution.  Mix one cup white (not red wine or cider) vinegar with 1 cup of water.  White vinegar (5 percent acetic acid) is sometimes effective on tannins (weak vegetable dyes found in tea and coffee), and it leaves no residue.  However, be careful because acids can set some other dye stains.

Special tips for pet owners

Do you have a pet?  About 70 million U.S. households do, and that’s a 35 percent increase from 1988, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. You can combat pet odors and stains in many ways:

  • Vacuum carpet more frequently to capture pet hair and dander from your pet’s fur.
  • Use CRI Seal of Approval cleaning products that are specifically designed for pet stains and odors.
  • Clean up new messes promptly and then follow the steps for spot and stain removal outlined in the “Removing Spots and Stains”.
  • Use small hand extractors for a quick cleanup of pet accidents but remember that these quick clean ups don’t take the place of periodic deep cleaning.
  • Have your carpet professionally cleaned every 12 to 18 months, or more frequently if necessary.
  • Don’t use a steam cleaner when dealing with urine spots because the heat will set the stain and the smell. Extracting the spill with a wet-vacuum and rinsing with cool water will reduce the odor. If necessary, call in certified carpet cleaning firms that know how to remove pet stains and odor permanently.
  • If you do not have a Seal of Approval certified cleaner handy, you can download CRI’s Spot Solver to learn how spots and spills can be cleaned with common household solutions, such as hot water with a little detergent, vinegar or ammonia.
    » Download PDF PDF (PDF 53 KB)

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