When it comes to keeping our carpets clean, most of us know a few general rules of thumb. Or at least, we think we do. But when it comes to actually hitting stains hard, how do we know we’re doing the best we can? From misguided home remedies to bizarre afterthoughts, there are so many misleading tips about carpet health out there. How do we know which tips are the right ones? One thing to keep in mind is that every carpet is different, and has the potential to react differently to any solution, no matter how harmless-seeming it might be. And when it comes to getting the best results from carpet cleaning, sometimes it’s the least aggressive treatments that surprise us. If you’re wondering what not to do when removing tough carpet stains, here are a few tips to remember.
Don’t Ever Rub
Most seasoned homeowners will already know this, but it bears repeating: Whatever you do, don’t rub that stain into your carpet. Using too much pressure will not only fail to remove the offending liquid or material, it will actually set the stain deeper into your carpet, making it nearly impossible to remove short of a professional dry cleaning. When caring for your rug, gentler is always better. You may feel tempted, at the first sight of a particularly nasty stain, to go for broke, aggressively attacking the stain with lots of cleaning solution, but this method will quickly come back to haunt you. Even though gently dabbing might seem ineffectual, have faith. Doing small, quick movements will help you soak up liquid and odor without pushing everything deep into your rug’s fibers to nest and create mold. If you’re not having progress after a bit of dabbing, leave it overnight and try to tackle it again in the morning.
Never Use Undiluted Compounds
Having a handy stain-removal kit at hand under the sink or in the laundry room can be a lifesaver when it comes to removing stains in an instant. However, while these kits should come with a good supply of bacteria-busting chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, and acetone, none of these chemicals should touch your rug before being diluted with water. Not only are these extremely strong substances (with strong, woozy-making fumes to match,) they’re capable of doing a lot of damage to your rug on contact. When it comes to anything strong and overpowering, less is more, and diluted is always better.
Don’t Use Too Much
Even too much water can create a problem for your rug. Getting overzealous with anything, from soap to rug shampoo to water itself, can create even more mess for you to clean up. When treating your rug, go easy on the liquids, and always remember that what you don’t pick up with your paper towel will sit in your rug (or on top of your rug) for the foreseeable future. If you’re dealing with natural fibers that aren’t mold or dust resistant, this can create a big problem for any asthma sufferers in your household, not to mention anyone who prefers to breathe clean air. Whatever you do, don’t drown your rug in cleaners and soapy water. A small amount is always preferable to an overwhelming amount of product.
Don’t Use Harsh Chemicals or Detergents
In the same way that you wouldn’t want to pour undiluted ammonia on your sensitive carpet, you also don’t want to use just anything, from harsh laundry detergent to heavy chemicals, to attack your stain. Not only do harsh chemicals and soaps strip your rug of its fibers over time, they leave behind residue and unpleasant chemical smells that aren’t too easy to counteract. Unless you want your living room to smell like chemicals, try to opt for gentle spot-removing formulas and organic, green dish detergent. One important rule of thumb: Don’t use anything on the carpet that you wouldn’t use on your own skin.
Don’t Just Vacuum
Many homeowners feel that it’s fine to simply gloss over a stain with a few quick vacuum strokes. Vacuuming is an effective way of cleaning a non-stained carpet. It is far from the best way to tackle a stain. While harder stains like those resulting from mud or paint can use a vacuuming session to get a bit of debris out of the way, this should by no means be the only method you use of treating a heavy stain. With thick stains, always scrape away the material with a knife first, vacuum second, and treat with a gentle soap and water solution as a final step.