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Out! Out, Damn Spot!

Spots have caused trouble since before Macbeth failed to banish them from his mind. With the birth of  light-colored carpeting, our troubles have only multiplied. (Which, by the way, is why my family room carpet looks like this:)

Do you know how much coffee has blended into that pattern over the past eight years? Camouflage is a lovely concept.  But, assuming that you do have light-colored carpeting somewhere in your home and assuming that people and/or animals regularly assault your carpeting with coffee, mud, hot chocolate, pee and vomit, you need a strategy for removing stains. A lot of folks use expensive carpet cleaning solutions or frequently have their carpets professionally steamed (which I think is the worst possible solution), but the truth is, most organically-based stains are not hard to remove at all and you don’t need a stick of dynamite to accomplish it. I’ll demonstrate how easy this is with a stain one of my dear crumb-crunchers laid down in the hallway. I’m not sure exactly what made the stain, but I’m pretty sure it was a beverage that went AWOL.

In order to clean this stain, I use a dilute solution of plain neutral cleaner in a spray bottle. The particular cleaner I use is the incredibly odd Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, complete with the weird, All-One-God-Love proselytizing all over the label.  Whatever. The soap works anyway.

I spray a little cleaner over the stained area, enough for it to be wet, but not sopping. Then I use a clean terry cloth, soaked in warm water and wrung out, in a blotting, pressing fashion over the stain. (Do not rub furiously!)

At this point, you probably have not eliminated the stain, but it may be a bit lighter. Now comes the magical part. Lay the warm, damp terry cloth over the stain, cover with a dry cloth and weight it with one or two large, heavy books.  Walk away for several hours.  I’m not much of  a scientist, but it’s something like “capillary attraction” or some such thing that draws the rest of the juice, mud or pee out of the carpet.  After five hours of capillary attraction, I removed the books and cloths and my stain was gone. Witness:

I will grant you, this method will probably not work for a serious and non-organic stain, such as marker pen or automotive oil. But it has worked for me even with stains I never imagined would come out, such as the time my daughter, who was a toddler then, threw up a sippy-cup-worth of Prune Juice onto my light grey carpet. (That was my old family room, see? Live and learn.) Prune Juice vomit? The size of Manhattan? I never imagined the humble Dr. Bronners-and-capillary-attraction method would work.  But it did. The sins of an upset stomach – vanished.

Incidentally, this is also a good method for removing furniture indentations from carpeting if you have rearranged a room or are moving out. Just put warm cloths, covered with dry cloths and weighted down onto the indentations overnight.

In the morning, remove the books and cloths and…

Hmmm. Okay, I see what you mean. They are not completely gone in my example. I think it is because this was a Berber carpet, which has very tight fibers. I have used this method with complete success on typical pile carpeting, though. It’s still an improvement however.

So, there you go. You don’t need to buy a steam cleaner or spray chemicals all over the house because families are messy things. Arm yourself with the strange-yet-effective Dr. Bronners, a spray bottle, some terry cloths and a dictionary or two and your carpet can be stain-free.

Let me know if this helps you.