Carpet Care: Can It Be Saved?

Please help me, ladies!

We’ve been in our new townhouse for about eight months. We have neutral-colored wall-to-wall style carpet in our living room. There are a couple of stains from who knows what – beer spillage, chocolate drool from a friend’s happy baby, etc. I spot-treated them (the stains, not the babies) and sometimes they have come out, sometimes they haven’t. Yesterday, the sun was shining in for the first time in a while and I saw stains all over the place. Anyway, I cannot get them out! I tried Resolve Foam Cleaner, no dice. I have a small Bissell steam cleaner and that isn’t helping much, either.

Is there any tried-and-true method for spot-cleaning a carpet and KEEPING it clean? There’s nothing worse than mystery stains that return every few months.

Thank you,
Spotted in Spencerville

carpet care and spot cleaning

Heather says:

Such is the life of builders’ grade carpet. We are currently saving to replace the carpeting in our bedroom. The original homeowner knew they would sell quickly and did not invest in upgrades and compounded the problem by selecting a shade of cream. As I have severe allergies, we’re saving for hardwood as a replacement.

How To Spot Treat Carpet

Always test your carpeting in an inconspicuous area before attempting spot removal!

One of the biggest problems with many commercial stain removers is they offer a temporary solution and may leave the area more vulnerable to oils in the future or worse, leave a sticky residue that attacts more dirt. For water soluble stains, I have had the best luck spot treating with vinegar diluted with warm (NOT HOT) water. I pour a small amount over the stain and blot gently with white rags. When the surface dirt is completely gone, I place several white rags over the spot and weight them down with a heavy object for a couple of hours. The cotton wicks the moisture from the carpet and helps prevent the pad from becoming saturated, thus avoiding the potential for mildew growth.

Oily stains are more difficult to remove. Use a small amount dilute dish detergent and blot the stain. Remove as much moisture as possible then follow with the vinegar solution, blotting and wetting until all soap has been removed.

In each case, I suggest running a fan in the room for several hours after removing the weighted rags to help the area dry thoroughly. Vacuum to restore the carpets texture.

There is a chance the stain will wick to the surface and “reappear.” Simply repeat the steps.

General Carpet Cleaning Tips

guide to clean floors

Click the picture for more tips!

Frequent vacuuming is essential to carpet longevity.  Dirt destroys carpeting and frequent steam cleaning will substantially reduce a carpet’s life. Most builders’ grade carpeting is made of nylon which will stain unless treated with a product such as Scotchgard Carpet Protector. These products should be used immediately after a steam cleaning to protect the fibers from new stains. Other products such as DuPont Teflon Advanced Carpet Protector must be professionally applied. Personally, I find there is a trade off with these products, spot free carpeting, but a possible increase in chemical exposure.

Builders’ grade carpeting is often warrantied for five years, but will begin to show wear in less time. Good luck!

Submit your household questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.



3 Comments

  1. Jay Jetty on July 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I can really understand your frestrations.

    I was given a piece of carpet from a customer of mine who was just going to throw it away. it turned out to be just big enough for one of my bedrooms so I went ahead and took it.

    This was supposedly really good upgraded carpet! yeah the only upgrade was for the salesmans commision.

    I always recommend 100% nylon!

    other blends may have better wear characteristics over the short run. But for the long haul nylon cleans better and looks better after several years.

    As to the problem with allergies…

    Please think twice about removing your carpet.

    I lived in an old farm house with hard wood floors and was totally miserable. Seasonable out door and continous indoor allergies.

    When I moved into a home with freshly steam cleaned carpet my problem were cut be nearly 2/3.

    later in life I started cleaning carpet my self and wanted to research the phenomenom I lived through.

    It turns out that carpet acts like a filter. it traps dust, animal dander, pollen, and other allergens with in its fibers and away from us. The problem is just like any filter it must be maintained. Even the US EPA recommends cleaning carpet ever 6 to 12 months.

    Now on to your spot troubles. Nylon carpet, often called builders grade, responds great to cleaning. So all we have to do is just identify what kind of foreign material caused the spot in the first place.

    If the trouble is from food grease, road tar, or some other oily substance most over the conter cleaners work great.

    But beware there is a dark side. These OTC cleaners almost always leave a soapy residue.

    if you use an OTC cleaner and the spot disappears only to return bigger in a few weks. This is the time to use the vinegar and water trick. This will help to break down the soapy residue so you can remove it.

    I do not care for the spot bot type of machines. They provide too much agitation in an isolated area and may do significant damage to the fibers.

    Instead put on some rubber gloves and agitate by hand. Remove as much moisture as you can with a wet-dry vac. Then blot it up with a white towel and stick a fan on it.

    The science behind carpet cleaning is light years ahead of where it was 20 years ago.

    Some of the old trick still work, But there are many new tricks that work even better.

    Good Luck!

    Jay Jetty
    Carpet Cleaning Pahrump

    Carpet Cleaning Las Vegas

  2. Brent on September 9, 2009 at 1:35 am

    Ok. Here is the bottom line! Some retail carpet cleaning products are like the gift that keeps on giving! They are full of soapy detergents (chemicals) that set-in your carpet when used. These soapy solutions are difficult to remove and will attract dirt like a sponge soaks-up water! Someone may have used on of these products prior to you moving in. If not, the stains could be from
    things such as drink spills or food contamination. The only true way to remove these stains is to extract them. In other words, completely remove the contaminants from the carpet. Rubbing the stain will only move the soil around and bury it deeper into the carpet fiber. So, you can use a wet/dry vacuum to extract the soil from the carpet. Sound too difficult? It's really pretty simple!
    Put 2 drops of woolite into a 16oz glass andfill with warm water. Mix well! Pour 2-3 ounces directly onto the soiled area and agitate with a toothbrush. Use the wet/dry vacuum to extract the solution from your carpet. This process acts like a mini-extraction machine! Continue the process until desired results are achieved. This process does require some work! But, the results are worth it! Hope this helps.

  3. knitaddict on April 21, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Ack! I’ve got that HORRIBLE builder’s carpet TOO! I’m w/Heather on this one…spot treating works, but it’s really just a temporary solution. My carpet was AWFUL! My daughter drinks(SPILLS) white grape juice and no matter HOW well you clean the spot, it just keeps coming back…it just seems to pull all the dirt off your shoes and the stain just keeps getting darker and darker. A few weeks ago, my husband and I finally broke down and bought the Bissel Pro Heat carpet cleaner. That thing has been a GODSEND! It also comes with a Scotchguard thingy so that you can treat the carpet when you finish cleaning. I spilled salsa on the carpet 2 nights ago and, thanks to the Scotchguard, you can’t even tell! Builder’s carpet just really sucks, I can’t wait until we can get the HARDWOOD. (Oh, and by the way, the Bissel comes w/a hardwood attachment…don’t know how it works yet, but I’ll find out sooner or later!)

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