Clean Spots with Household Products
Stains happen. Juice, grease, dirt—they all somehow find their way onto the carpet. And when they do, you may not have an expensive specialty cleaner at the ready. This means you need to rely on your wits and whatever regular household products you happen to have on hand. You’d be surprised at the wonders you can work with products in the right combinations and ratios, along with a white cloth, some gentle dabbing, and a little elbow grease. However, a word of warning: Natural and synthetic fibers do not react the same to all cleaning solutions and mixtures. Before cleaning, test the solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the carpet.
Ammonia is one of the most useful and versatile household cleaners. However, it’s highly alkaline, so you have to be careful how and when you use it. For instance, it should be used only on natural fiber carpets. Ammonia solutions work on stains caused by gravy, mayonnaise, ink, and pet accidents.
To deal with stains, mix 1 teaspoon ammonia with 1 cup of water. Spray the solution on the carpet and let it sit for one or two minutes. Use a white cloth or paper towel to blot the area, and you’re done.
Over time, carpets develop an odor, and baking soda is good at pulling odors out of carpet fibers. However, baking soda isn’t a magic wand, and strong pet odors may be too much for it.
To eliminate odors, sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda over the affected area. Leave it on the carpet anywhere from 60 minutes to 24 hours, then vacuum it up. The longer the baking soda stays on the carpet, the more odor it absorbs. (But don’t walk on the carpet while it’s covered with baking soda!) Even if you leave the baking soda on for only 60 minutes, it will remove some odors.
Clear Liquid Dishwashing Detergent
Clear liquid dishwashing detergent is effective at pulling stains from carpet. The trick is not to use too much. Mix just 2 or 3 drops of dishwashing liquid with 1 cup of warm water. The drops should be very small. Too much detergent can leave behind a sticky residue that attracts dirt, dust, and debris.
Dip a white towel or paper towel into the solution, and dab the stain, gently working your way from the outer edge toward the middle. After you’ve eliminated the stain, dab the spot again with a white towel to remove the remaining cleaning solution. Detergent works best on water-soluble stains. Be sure to use only clear, non-bleach liquid dishwashing detergent.
Vinegar removes odors and loosens many food stains from carpet fibers. For cleaning and deodorizing, mix equal parts vinegar and water, then spray the solution onto the stain. Leave the vinegar/water solution on the carpet if you’re removing odors, or dab it off with a white cloth or paper towel if you’re using it to remove stains. Your house will smell like vinegar for a while, but the smell quickly dissipates. Be sure to use white vinegar. A colored vinegar could further stain the carpet.
Nail Polish Remover
The next time you drip nail polish on your carpet, just grab the nail polish remover. Nail polish removers can be harsh, so be sure you use a non-acetone, dye-free variety, and test it on a small area of carpet first.
Soak a white cloth in the nail polish remover, squeezing out any excess before dabbing the stain. Use a clean white cloth or paper towel to soak up any remaining nail polish remover after the stain has been removed. Keep in mind that nail polish remover works best on fresh stains.
Baking Soda and Cornstarch
If you don’t want to get your carpet wet, a mix of baking soda and cornstarch offers a dry option for cleaning greasy or oily stains. Both ingredients soak up grease and oil, while the baking soda also removes odors.
Mix the baking soda and cornstarch in equal parts and sprinkle it on the affected area. Let the mixture sit on the stain for 15 to 20 minutes, then vacuum it up. If the stain remains, repeat the process. You may have to dab the mixture into the carpet fibers, but avoid scrubbing. Scrubbing your carpet can undo the twist and create a fuzzy, worn look.
Club soda is nothing more than carbonated water with a few added minerals. Not surprisingly, it’s effective only on water-soluble stains. Apply club soda to a stain as soon as possible. The water and aeration keep the stain from setting into the carpet fibers. Dab the club soda on the spot, and repeat as needed.
Ice (for Gum)
Before applying ice, remove as much gum as you can with your fingers. Then, put two or three ice cubes in a plastic bag and set it on top of the gum. Once the gum has hardened, you can more easily remove it from the carpet fibers. Be gentle, so you don’t leave behind a worn spot.
Ice and an Iron (for Wax)
Gum isn’t the only stain ice removes. It’s also great for getting wax out of your carpet. Put one or two ice cubes in a plastic bag, then place the bag on the wax. When it gets cold, the wax becomes easier to pick out from the carpet. Gently scrape out as much as possible.
When you’re done scraping, cover the remaining wax with a white towel, paper towel, or paper bag. Set your iron on a low temperature (you don’t want to melt the carpet fibers), and pass it over the towel. As the wax melts, it soaks into the towel. Reposition the towel as needed and repeat.
If you don’t have a ready-made carpet cleaner on hand, a little window cleaner will do the job. Create a general carpet cleaning solution by mixing equal parts window cleaner and water. It’s simple, inexpensive, and safe for most types of carpet. Spray or dab it on the problem area, and remove it with a white towel or paper towel.
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