Home & Garden

You're cleaning your carpets wrong

Act fast to nip stains in the bud

How to clean your carpet Credit: Getty Images

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There’s no feeling quite like getting a new carpet. The pile is soft and luxurious underfoot, and gorgeous to look at—until the inevitable happens, and you spill something terrible on it. A carpet with a stain in the center ruins the aesthetic, even when the rest of your room is pristine and impeccable.

But that doesn’t mean you need to rope off your carpeted rooms like museum exhibits to avoid spills and stains. That’s like owning a car you’re afraid to drive: Houses are meant to be lived in and enjoyed. Instead of living in fear, rest assured knowing that with a few simple tips, most carpet stains are easy to remove once you know how.

“No carpet is completely stain-proof," according to the Carpet and Rug Insitute “The key is to act quickly with the right solution to knock out spots with a one-two punch.” Here’s how:

Address the stain immediately

How to spot treat carpet stains
Credit: Getty Images

If you spill on your carpet, it’s important to address the stain right away instead of letting it sit or waiting until the next day. Instead, take care of carpet stains in real time:The sooner the better. The professionals at Mohawk say, “the longer a stain sits there, the harder it will be to remove.”

This might mean having a talk with the kiddos and explaining to them it’s important they come to you right away if they have an accident with their popsicle or juice glass.

Blot the stain, but never scrub it

Blotting stain
Credit: Getty Images

When you’ve just dumped a drink all over your carpet, it’s a natural instinct to grab a towel and rub the spot as vigorously as possible. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst mistakes you can make. When you scrub at a stain, you’re actually forcing it deeper into the carpet fiber.

Additionally, according to the folks at Shaw Floors, ”rubbing alters carpet texture,” which means your gorgeous fluffy carpet will start looking matted and frayed. In other words, rubbing a stain often always does more harm than good.

Instead, the best way to remove a stain is to blot it with dry, sturdy paper towels or a linen towel. Use a white towel if possible: although a darker towel will work, a lighter color allows you to watch the stain lift from your carpet and transfer to your towel.

Bring in the big guns: a good stain remover

How to spot treat carpet stains
Credit: Getty Images

If you’ve blotted your stain until it’s nearly dry and your carpet is still discolored, it’s time to apply stain remover. Be sure to apply the solution to your towel and not directly the carpet itself: that makes it easier to remove to the excess product when you’re through de-staining.

Both Mohawk and Shaw Floors recommend you only use products with a seal of approval from the Carpet and Rug Institute, like Spot Shot Professional Stain Remover or Stain Fu. Se sure to use the blot-don’t-rub method. You may have to repeat this step several times in order to completely remove tougher stains.

If you don’t have an approved carpet stain remover on hand, Stainmaster says its also permissible to mix ¼ teaspoon mild liquid dish soap with one cup warm water, or two tablespoons white vinegar with four cups warm water.

But before you use any stain-remover, DIY or otherwise, be sure to read your manufacturer’s warranty and conduct a spot test in a hidden spot to make sure there are no ill effects. (The back corners of closets are often ideal for this purpose.) Once the stain has been removed, blot the area with a small amount of water to remove any lingering stain remover.

Then, let the treated spot dry overnight. Place a heavy object like a paperweight over a clean, dry towel and let sit on top of the affected area overnight. This step absorbs excess moisture or stain remover so nothing remains but your clean, fresh carpet in the morning.

If all else fails, reach for this household cleaner

How to clean carpet
Credit: Getty Images

If you’ve followed all the steps above and wake up in the morning only to find traces of the stain still remain, Mohawk says to “moisten tufts in the stained area with 3% hydrogen peroxide and let stand for one hour. Blot and repeat until completely clean.”

Hydrogen peroxide is a secret weapon cleaner for stubborn stains, but be careful when you use it on darker fabric: it’s a mild bleach. As always, be sure to perform a spot check first in a hidden location before you try this step to make sure it doesn’t harm your carpet.

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