Wine, pasta, pet feces... our carpets have seen it all.
When faced with a stain, it's tempting to bust out the sponge and start scrubbing. But do yourself a favor and take an extra two minutes to plan your attack, as the right strategy could mean the difference between a clean carpet and a stain that lingers forever.
There are indeed different methods to best clean different types of stains (see below). But before getting to the nitty-gritty, a few universal rules apply for carpet cleaning.
1. Clean the stain ASAP.
"The most important thing is to get to the stain before it has a chance to set," says Bahram Shabahang, co-founder of carpet design house Orley Shabahang. Don't let stains sit around.
2. Blot instead of scrub.
Before cleaning, absorb whatever goo or gunk you can with a cloth or sponge."The goal is to pull out as much liquid as possible, to reduce the size and spread of the stain," Shabahang adds. After that, always use a dabbing motion instead of rigorously scrubbing.
3. Use as little product as possible.
This reduces both the drying time and the risk of staining your carpet. For most stains, it's ideal to use club soda or dish soap as a cleaning product. (See the guide below.)
4. Dry it well.
Blot thoroughly with a towel after you clean, as carpet that remains damp could grow mold. You can also use a fan or hair dryer to gently speed the process, Shabahang says.
After learning the basics of carpet stain removal, we wanted to see if DIY carpet-cleaning methods actually worked. So we made some stains and let them sit for 24 hours or more ('cuz let's face it, we do NOT always address our stains right away). We used Shabahang's recommended cleaning methods, unless otherwise noted. Here's how it went:
DARK-COLORED FOODS (LIKE CHOCOLATE)
Expert says: Scrape off what you can. Mix one part soap and four parts water, and apply with a sponge. Rinse with lukewarm water.
Did it work? Completely! 10 out of 10 stars.
FATTY OR GREASY FOODS (LIKE PIZZA)
Expert says: Scrape off with a knife, then layer paper towels on top of the stain. Turn your iron on lowest heat, and iron the paper towels to lift the grease. Apply a mix of white vinegar, soap and lukewarm water, then rinse.
Did it work? Totally. 10 out of 10.
WINE, COFFEE & MOST OTHER FOODS
Expert says: Blot the stain, and rinse with club soda. If needed, brush the spot with soapy water and rinse.
Did it work? Better than we ever thought. 8 out of 10.
For this trial, we used advice from Into the Gloss.
Expert says: Dip a rag in clear-colored acetone, and use it to blot the stain.
Did it work? Yes, but not enough. There was plenty of nail polish on the rag but a LOT left on the carpet when we were done. 3 out of 10.
Expert says: Remove what you can, then rinse with club soda. If needed, brush the spot with soapy water and rinse.
Did it work? Sort of. The stain improved, but not enough to pass as "clean." However we did let the poop sit for 24 hours, which is not a typical scenario. 6 out of 10.
We used advice from eHow.
Expert says: Dampen carpet, rub with dish soap, and pat dry. Dab lingering stains with three drops of dry-cleaning solvent.
Did it work? Dry-cleaning solvent is hard to find in grocery stores, so we used normal makeup remover instead. While it worked great, we can't verify that our carpet fibers weren't damaged from the remover. 10 out of 10 in the visual department.
Expert says: Wrap ice in a towel, and place it on the gum. Then scrape it off.
Did it work? Pretty well, considering we REALLY rubbed the gum into the carpet to make the stain. The stain was fresh when we cleaned it, but it didn't totally disappear. 7 out of 10.
Images by Tiara Chiaramonte.
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