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How to clean stains out of a carpet.

This blog is intended to help everyone to clean stains and spots out of their carpet.

It’s something i’ve wanted to do for a long time and i’ve finally got round to getting it together! My name is Jason and i’ve been cleaning carpets, upholstery and hard floors for 20 years.

The internet suggests such bad ways and information to maintain your carpets and i can’t take it any longer! There are only so many times i can put up with people telling me they’ve used shaving foam all over their carpet because they got the tip off the internet before i go insane!!!!! I can advise my own clients on what to do, but here’s hoping some of you other guys searching the big wide web will find this information and get some useful tips.

Now, the difficulty is putting all the information into something that you’ll read without falling asleep, because there is actually a lot to know. So i’ve made a list below of the most common problems BUT PLEASE read this section first because tips will depend on not only the stain, BUT ALSO WHAT YOUR CARPET IS MADE OF.

This guide also isn’t going to go into how to clean an entire carpet. The fact is, unless you’ve had training and proper equipment, you shouldn’t be trying to do that. This guide is to get you through little disasters and not to make the problems worse. 

As much as Rug Doctors, Vax Machines and Bissell Machines look like a good bet, they are flawed. Believe me, if it was that easy, i’d be using one instead of investing thousands and thousands of pounds into professional cleaning kit.

So what’s the flaw? OK – think of this….would you wash your hands with soap and not rinse them afterwards? Or would you wash your hair without rinsing away the shampoo afterwards? The answer is of course no, because you know that you must get rid of the dirt AND the detergent/soap/shampoo. Watch your washing machine rinse cycle – it’s actually a big part of the wash and is essential to make sure your clothes are clean and residue free for when you wear them.

And yet very often the same logic is not applied to cleaning carpets. If the Rug Doctor has a shampoo and water mix that you are spraying and sucking from the carpet, guess what??…..that means when the water content evaporates and the carpet is dry, you now have left behind in the carpet a detergent/shampoo residue. As the chemistry of these products is to work by attraction of dirt, then it’s a no brainer your carpet now gets dirty a lot quicker than it did before (plus the fact they do a really bad job of cleaning carpets any way and you’ve now just added to your problem!)

The same thing happens when you use a shampoo product from the shop to clean a stain – all that lovely frothy shampoo stays in your carpet, attracts dirt and starts to go greyer and greyer over time because all the dirt is now sticking to it – sound familiar? 

Even the Which magazine went through a phase of recommending people to use Fairy liquid on carpet stains. NO!!!! DO NOT DO THAT!!! It’s so concentrated and nearly impossible to then rinse out of the carpet even with professional equipment.

This guide will help you remove carpet stains with products you may already have or are easy and cheap to buy and will last you years. They will also not cause problems with your carpet if used correctly.

So……use this guide for problems and then when you need the whole carpet cleaning, choose a professional, it’s worth it.

So - different types of carpet fibres, how it affects the product used and what carpet do you have?

Right, there are 3 main fibres in the carpet face fibre (the fibres you see and walk on at the top) and these are wool, polypropylene and nylon. Now there are others (such as sea grass etc) but they are pretty rare so we’ll stick to the main three.

It’s important to know what fibre you have, as it’ll change what you can use to clean it with. 

Wool

Wool carpets are soft and resilient – meaning they keep their pile better than others. But it’s a natural fibre so that means its absorbent and can easily absorb colours and be stained. It is also affected by harsh chemicals and can be chemically ‘burnt’ leaving visible unsightly discolouring – SO WOOL IS THE MAIN ONE WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL WITH.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene carpets are what we see most of all nowadays. It’s a man-made fibre and a form of plastic.

It’s not as soft as wool and isn’t as resilient – meaning it will flatten down on walkways.

It’s more stain resistant as it’s pretty much non absorbent – so you clean off of it, rather than out of it like wool.

Its resistant to chemicals and fading as the colour runs all the way through the fibre, not just dyed on the outside. It is bleach resistant – BUT DO NOT CLEAN IT WITH BLEACH LIKE THE CARPET SALESMEN VERY OFTEN TELL YOU TOO !!

Can be mixed into wool carpets (80/20 etc.)

Nylon

A much under-rated carpet fibre as people associate it with static electric shocks and the old sculptured nylon carpets of years ago.

It’s actually a great choice – the static problems were fixed and it’s soft like wool even though it’s a man-made fibre.

Most nylon carpets are dyed on the outside like wool, so they can fade or be susceptible to colour damage with certain chemicals. Although solution dyed nylon carpets are available now with the colour running all the way through and that’s a great advancement and a great fibre.

A lot less common than polypropylene but can be found mixed into good quality wool carpets or used entirely on it’s own.

So how do know what your carpet is made from?

Well this can be tricky if it was down when you moved in and you didn’t buy it.

An experienced, trained carpet cleaning professional will be able to tell you straight way. Another problem is the fibre can be a mix of two fibres, like an 80/20 wool.

The easiest way for you to have an idea is a burn test. Now….please don’t set fire to your carpet!! What you do is use some tweezers to pull out a strand of fibre from the edge. Then, holding it still in the tweezers, use a cigarette lighter or similar to heat/burn the end of the strand – please be careful!

If it smells of burning hair, goes black and charcoal like, then you have wool in your carpet.

If it melts back rather than going black and has a sweeter smell, then it’s a form of plastic – either polypropylene or nylon (and normally polypropylene.)

From an Eco point of view, wool is better obviously being a natural fibre and will biodegrade quickly in land fill. Man-made carpets being plastics won’t but the good news is we are now making carpets from recycled materials – this is a huge step forward and a positive one with most carpets being sold now being man-made.

So now you've hopefully read all the above information to give you a better idea of different fibres and why we choose different things to clean them. And....why a lot of things you throw into your carpets are BAD. Remember - residue in your carpet will attract dirt and cause the area to go grey and keep going grey to black as more and more dirt sticks to it un-naturally.

The Carpet Stain Removal Spotting Guide

Now i’ll list some very common problems and how to deal with them with products that won’t ruin your carpet and give you the best chance of fixing the stain. Please ensure you have read the above information as well first. A lot can be fixed with the same recommendations and you will notice i will recommend powders rather than liquids. WHY?…..well remember back to us not wanting to leave a residue. If we use a weak cleaning solution made with a diluted powdered cleaner, when the carpet fibre dries as the water content has evaporated, then the powder will revert back to a powder and not cling like a leech to your fibres. When you next vacuum, the powder (which will be so microscopic you won’t see it,) will just vacuum away. Clever eh?

REMEMBER TO WEAR GLOVES WHEN CLEANING STAINS FROM YOUR CARPET AND SAFETY GLASSES TO PROTECT YOUR EYES.

How to remove red wine, tea and coffee carpet stains (Tannin stains)

One of the most popular! and very often happens on an otherwise spotless well cared for carpet which is horrible.

Red wine, tea and coffee will leave a tannin stain, so we need a chemical which will reduce this stain so we can’t see it. The success will depend on the volume spilt and the heat of the liquid, so a glass is better than a full bottle and a luke warm cup is better than a boiling hot one.

The advice on this is the same for wool and man-made carpets. Firstly, as with any spillage – blot as much of the problem away as possible BEFORE you do anything else. So many times people just grab what they can quickly and start spraying stuff on and scrubbing. This is just mixing it all around your carpet. Don’t do that, what you want to do is get a clean towel, fold it over a few times so you’ve got something thick and absorbent. Place it over the spillage and stand on it, drawing up the liquid you’ve split into the towel and out of the carpet. Keep turning the towel around and inside out to clean dry part and repeating until you can’t draw anymore out of the carpet.

Well done, you’ve now removed most of the problem!

Next, we need to use the right stain reducer. All tannin stain reducers i’ve used that work have the same active ingredient – sodium metabisulphite.

This is actually a sanitiser as well and used to clean the pipes in pubs.

This powdered chemical has the ability to reduce the stain left in your carpet safely. It is your best bet.

Now, this chemical is wonderful but it’s a bit of a beast because it STINKS! It has a horrible aroma so don’t get up close and personal and sniff it. But don’t worry, after you’ve used it and it dries the smell does go away. A MASK IS ADVISABLE. Now we’ve all got one of those spare nowadays haven’t we from the horrible pandemic days?

So buy some – it can be tricky to find but you can get it easily here (or alternatively here or here.)

You don’t need a lot, just a small amount of the powder like above.

To use it, get a clean spray bottle, using one from under the kitchen but make sure you rinse it totally clean first. These bottles are normally 500 or 750ml which is perfect. Put some tap hot water in – DO NOT USE PIPING HOT OR BOILING WATER. Then add about 2 tablespoons of sodium metabisulphite and give it a really good shake to dissolve it. 

Now lightly spray that over your tannin carpet stain and gently agitate it with a soft brush. Don’t scrub at it hard otherwise you’ll fluff the fibres. Just gently agitate and let the chemical do the work. You can then leave for 5 minutes, blot away again with a towel like before and repeat but this time leave the stain reducer on and allow it to dry. If you still have a stain showing once it’s completely dry repeat again. Allowing it to dry in between means you won’t over-wet your carpet.

Remember – it will smell bad so you may want to wear a mask and don’t inhale it directly, it can be an irritant so please be safe.

Patience is key and reapplying over a few days will work better than soaking the carpet all in one go. You do not have to make up a fresh bottle of this chemical every time, it will work cold and keep active in the bottle for a few months before needing to be re-done. 

This method can work on historic tannin satins as well – success will depend on what you may of used before though. But try it on old stains and it may well work it’s magic!

How to remove urine stains from a carpet (Wee, Pee, Piddle!)

OK, i’m not going to sugar coat this one for you, Urine stains on a carpet are a real problem and it’s one of the biggest hitters when it comes to spoiling your day. This is for a number of reasons.

Firstly, your carpet won’t have a waterproof backing (unless it’s a Flotex but we hardly ever see them now and if we do it’s donkey’s years old and fitted in a kitchen.) So this means if the urine spillage is a large one – IT WILL OF PENETRATED THE BACKING OF YOUR CARPET, POSSIBLY GONE INTO THE UNDERLAY AND ALSO THE FLOORBOARD OR CONCRETE FLOOR BELOW.

So you need to consider this, if it’s a big dog for example or the Husband doing it somewhere they shouldn’t after too many, you have a problem you can’t simply resolve easily. If this is the case, as well as trying to fix the top of the carpet, you will need to pull the carpet back and cut out the affected underlay and put a new bit in and possibly treat the floor under the underlay first as well. THIS IS BECAUSE FLOORS CAN ONLY DRY FROM THE BOTTOM UP – IF YOUR UNDERLAY OR SUB FLOOR IS DAMP AND CONTAMINATED, IT WILL RISE THROUGH THE CARPET AND NO MATTER WHAT YOU’VE DONE ON THE TOP, YOUR PROBLEM WILL JUST KEEP COMING AND COMING BRINGING THE SMELL WITH IT.

Also – wool hates urine, with a passion. When the urine dries it’s high alkalinity will stain the wool permanently. So if you have wool – you need to act FAST otherwise it’s pretty much game over, the urine will stain it – forever. Professional carpet cleaners will have advanced spotting techniques to try and help reduce the staining but believe me these aren’t guaranteed and it’s the one stain we can really struggle with.

So – with the above being considered – try this…

Firstly – absorb, absorb absorb!!! Don’t start instantly spraying something at the stain. Just like with any other spillage, take as much of the problem out of the carpet as possible FIRST. A clean, dry towel, folded over so it’s thick, placed onto the urine affected carpet and keep repeating until you can’t get anymore out. Only then, is it time to try something. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STAGE OF ANY SPILLAGE CLEAN UP OF A CARPET. 

Next – if the urine stain is on a wool carpet we need to be quick. We need to dilute down the strength of the urine to try and stop it staining the wool fibres. As the urine dries alkaline, we want to using something acidic to counteract that, so white spirit vinegar can actually help and it also has antibacterial properties. You can buy it easily online here and here and here.

Mix up a spray bottle -as always you’ll have one under the sink you can normally use. Wash it out thoroughly and then add one third white spirit vinegar and two thirds water (cold is fine). 

Then after shaking, lightly spray it over the urine marked carpet and gently agitate it with a soft brush being careful not to fluff your fibres. Then blot, blot, blot again with a clean dry towel and repeat. 

Don’t over wet your carpet, we do not want to push moisture through to the back. Let it dry and if there is still a problem repeat again then. 

The same method can also be used on man-made carpets.

Urine won’t stain a polypropylene carpet, but if you chuck loads of detergent in there to try and clean it, that will attract dirt and you’ll end up with a grey mess over time. Take your time and follow the above steps, it takes patience.

And my advice, if you have pets and kids, choose a man-made carpet and not wool.

How to remove make up stains from a carpet (including other stains like tar, oil, ink, chewing gum, lily pollen, blu tack.)

So when dealing with carpet stains involving things like make up (lipstick, foundation etc), tar from the road, a drop of oil, lily pollen, chewing gum, blu tack or something really greasy or sticky, we need to use a solvent.

This is because we need to break it down to remove it – using something water based won’t do that and will just end up making it worse.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WHEN USING A SOLVENT ON YOUR CARPET IS DO NOT APPLY IT DIRECTLY BY POURING OR DRIPPING IT ON. MOST CARPETS NOW HAVE A BONDED BACKING (GLUED), SO IF YOU POUR A SOLVENT ON, IT CAN DISSOLVE THE BONDING AND CAUSE A BUBBLE IN YOUR CARPET.

To safely use a solvent, blot some onto a clean dry cloth and dab the mark, this will slowly break down the stain and the towel will absorb it. Patience is key.

A good one is low odour white spirit – you can easily buy it online here and here.

Using this type of solvent means no smell and no other dirt attracting residues.

It will safely remove most of these types of problems including lipstick, foundation, tar, lily pollen etc. It will also work on chewing gum and blu tack. For those you will need some patience and little bit of gentle rubbing.

For nail varnish i am afraid there is no quick fix, gentle blotting with nail varnish remover (acetone – buy here) is the correct method.

Fake tan is a bigger problem, being a permanent dye – only coming off your skin as your skin renews. You have to act quickly with that one and dabbing with water is your best bet to dilute and remove it as quickly as possible.

Using cotton buds can be great as you can be very precise and not spread the stain.

Most solvents won’t residue your carpet as they will evaporate from it. Just use tiny amounts indirectly with patience.

These methods are safe on wool and man-made carpets.

How to remove rust stains from a carpet

Do you have a radiator that has dripped from the bottom and left a lovely orange rust stain on your carpet? Or you’ve got a rust stain on the carpet from a metal stud that’s on the bottom of a furniture leg?

Rust stains are removed with an acid. As most cleaning products are alkaline (the opposite to acid) they won’t work.

So white spirit vinegar will help with this one – you can buy it easily online here and here and here.

You want to use it neat so it’s nice and acidic – blot some onto a clean dry cloth and dab onto the rust stain on the carpet and repeat until it’s gone.

If it’s an old stain it may need to be repeated for a few days and a stronger acid maybe needed but the white spirit vinegar is the only acid i can really advise on here so i know you are kept safe!

This method is safe on wool and man-made carpets.

How to remove a blood stain from a carpet

Right – lets be clear about the advice on blood stains in a carpet. The advice here is relating to a small drop of blood that you need to get out of a carpet. If it’s a big spillage like from a burst vein etc YOU WILL need to call in a professional carpet cleaner who will asses it and advise if it can be cleaned or if it needs to be replaced. The above picture is for visual purposes only! I’m not advising on crime scene clean up’s.

If you need to remove a small blood stain from your carpet, then use white spirit vinegar again – you can buy it easily online here and here and here.

Why do we add the vinegar? Well it helps remove the blood stain because the acid helps because of the iron in the blood.

Mix the white spirit vinegar at one third vinegar to two thirds water, apply it to a clean towel and blot the blood stain until it’s gone. ALWAYS USE COLD WATER ON A CARPET BLOOD STAIN.

This method is safe on wool and man-made carpets.

How to remove sick/vomit from a carpet and how to remove milk from a carpet

We have two issues removing a sick/vomit stain from a carpet. Firstly is the mess/stain itself and secondly is the smell. It’s exactly the same with milk, so we’ll treat these bad boys the same.

The smell is caused by bacteria. The vomit or milk provides a perfect host for the bacteria to multiply – providing them with the food source they need. This bacterial activity is what causes the smell. That’s why it does eventually fade and go – because they have eventually used up all the food source and the activity stops.

So we need to clean and sanitise a sick, vomit and milk stain from a carpet.

Your weapon of choice here is an oxy powder cleaner – you can easily buy it online here and here.

Now the product above does not contain additional detergent, which is good. But when it’s added to hot water, it releases two chemicals – one has a cleaning action and the other has a stain reducing action AND a powerful sanitising action, which is exactly what we need. 

Now this should be a safe process on wool and man-made carpets – but if you have wool, test it first in a hidden area to ensure your wool carpet is OK with it.

To use, get a spray bottle from under your sink and wash it out thoroughly. Then add tap hot water – not boiling, but tap hot. Add two teaspoons of the oxy powder and give it a good shake to dissolve the powder. Now this powder has to be dissolved, because only then do we get the conversion into the two chemicals we want. Also, after a few hours this solution mix we have made will be expired, so you will need a fresh batch if you use again after that.

Now, clear any solid bits of vomit off the top and use a clean dry towel folded over to absorb as much moisture away as possible first. As always, fold the towel and place it on top of the stain, stand on it and allow the moisture to come up into the towel – and repeat until you can’t get more out.

Then, lightly spray your oxy mix over the top and gently agitate the carpet with a soft brush taking care not to fluff the fibres.

Now, using another clean dry towel, absorb away again like the first time.

Repeat again a few times if needed making sure you do not over wet your carpet.

Finally, to give the carpet a little rinse, you could use another clean spray bottle with just water in it to give the carpet a mist of clean water and repeat the towel blotting again.

If you have any staining still the next day – repeat. 

This method should not only clean, but destroy the bacteria too.

If the sick is more of a bile type vomit, where just a little bit of bile has come up and left a yellow/brown mark, you may have success by just using an acidic product like white spirit vinegar – you can buy it easily online here and here and here. If its a small stain you can use the white spirit vinegar neat – just dab some onto a clean cloth and then dab the stain with it.

How to remove a poo stain from a carpet (faeces, poop!)

So let’s talk poop – some would tell you i always do  🙂

Basically, the same applies to removing a poo stain from a carpet as removing a sick stain detailed above.

So follow the instructions for removing a vomit stain from a carpet shown above this one.

That also get’s me off the hook about continually talking poo. 

How to remove general carpet stains and spots

So you’ve got a mark on the carpet and don’t know what it is and no one has owned up to it. Or, you’ve used a shop bought carpet spot cleaner on it and now it’s gone grey again – like i told you it would!

Remember – a residue in a carpet will attract dirt, this will cause that area to grab dirt un-naturally and go greyer over time. You will think the mark has come back, but it never actually went and is now attracting dirt as well.

Man-made fibre Carpets

For man-made carpets, let me introduce you to the wonderful Soda Crystals. You can buy them easily online here and here.

You may of heard of them, the older generation certainly will of. They work differently to detergents as they split dirt to clean, they don’t attract it – hence eliminating the possibility of attracting dirt in the future to your fibres when it’s dry. Also remember what we spoke about earlier? Powders will revert back to a powder once it’s dry and simply vacuum away. They also can break down detergent so can help to stop your carpet resoling if you’ve already used a nasty shop shampoo on the stain.

So if you have an unknown mark, or you’ve tried to clean a carpet stain with something and it’s gone grey over time – soda crystals will be your friend.

Remember, if the fibre is wet, as above always blot away as much of the original problem first before anything else (see above advice for urine stains). Then, using a rinsed out spray bottle from under the sink, add some warm tap water and two to three teaspoons of soda crystals. Shake the bottle to dissolve the crystals and lightly spray over the mark. Agitate with a soft brush if needed or rub gently with a cloth taking care not to fluff the carpet fibres. Very often the mark stain will lift from the carpet and any detergent will be broken down and blotted away too. Repeat if needed and allow to dry. You can also blot again afterwards with a clean cloth dampened with just water which will act as a rinse. Repeat again if needed after its dry and don’t over wet your carpet. Soda crystals are a fabulous spotting cleaner and much more eco friendly than other shop bought products. Once used, put the bottle back under the sink to re-use again in the future – you don’t need to make a new bottle each time, just give it a good shake each time before you use it to re-dissolve the crystals and it’ll still work in cold water. When making up a new bottle of soda crystals, the warm water just helps the initial crystals to dissolve.

Wool Carpets

Now for wool carpets – Soda Crystals can be too harsh. They are alkaline and this can be too high for wool. If you have a stubborn mark on wool you can try them, just try an out of sight test area first to make sure your wool carpet is OK with them. You can buy them easily online here and here.

To use them follow the guidelines for using them on man-made carpets above and just make sure you use a cloth dampened with water at the end to act as a rinse.

Alternatively, we will need to use a wool safe liquid as the powdered detergent for wool is harder to find. So use a wool safe product that’s got a neutral chemical pH – you can buy one easily here.

Now, even though this is a liquid detergent, we know it’s safe for wool and we also can control the amount we use. This one also has no additives that will act as bleaching agents.

Follow the directions above for using soda crystals but this time using one teaspoon of the wool safe detergent instead and ensuring you use the method of using a clean towel that’s dampened with water to act as a rinse. Using as little detergent as possible is the key to stop the area resoiling in the future.

And that's it!

So for now that should keep you going for carpet stain removal advice. I’ll add more as i go if some more spring to mind – if you think of something you need help with i haven’t included you can always contact me at – contact@newlookclean.com

There is a lot of information there that should hopefully help you understand the logics of carpet cleaning and keeping the residues to a minimum/zero. 

Please be careful implementing any methods – i take no responsibility if you get things wrong! But using these methods should really help and also stop you ruining your carpet further.

It will also make it easier for any carpet cleaners you employ in the future as they won’t have masses of detergent coming out of your carpet when they rinse it. As much as i love a foam party, having one in the van gets a little bit OTT eventually!

And remember – all carpets need a good professional clean from time to time. To make them look lovely and for hygiene reasons.

So you know it’s coming, it’s unavoidable, you will need to speak to me or someone like me……..one day! Until then, take care and best wishes – Jason.

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