Treating liquid stains on rugs and carpets

It has always puzzled me as to why people tackle stains on carpets and rugs differently to other fabrics. I have seen it a hundred times or more, a drink spills on a rug there’s a panic and it’s off to the kitchen for a tea towel which is used to vigorously rub the stain into the rug. Often the next course of action is to cover up the stain by applying neat concentrated liquid dish-washing detergent creating a pile of soapy white bubbles.

There are many types of liquids that can spill in the household from paint to make-up to hot coffee, without doubt the most common type of liquid we spill on our rugs is a drink. Whist hot drinks are usually more difficult to tackle than cold drinks, some cold drinks have artificial colouring that can prove very difficult to remove and milk in particular if not treated correctly can leave a greasy residue and sour smell days later.

Whatever drink you spill on your rugs the first point of action should be to absorb as much liquid as possible, the most effective way to do this is to use kitchen roll or toilet tissue. The best way to absorb the liquid is to split the kitchen roll or tissue in individual sheets and lay them on the stain to absorb the liquid, discarding the wet sheet and repeating the process again and again until you can absorb no more liquid by simply laying the paper sheet on the stain area. Once you have the liquid from the top surface of the rugs pile you have to ascertain how deep the stain has sunk into the pile.

The next step really depends upon the type stain but in ninety percent of cases the best application would be to apply heavier pressure to the paper sheets to absorb as much liquid from the base of the pile as possible. Once you are satisfied that you have absorbed as much moisture as possible from the affected area you need to determine the level of discolouration and potential stickiness on the rugs surface pile.

What do I mean by stickiness? All drinks including alcohol are made up of water plus other ingredients, the main ingredient usually being a sugar or a sugar derivative, either way when the water evaporates from the liquid you are left with a sticky residue.

On minor stains I find that a plain baby wipe or a face wipe, the ones that don’t contain lanolin or moisturiser can be used to gently wipe any residue from the affected area. On more severe stains clean lukewarm water and a clean white cloth is what you need for the next stage. Soak the clean cloth in the water and gently dab it onto the affected area making sure that water is transferred to the stain. Then again apply kitchen roll or toilet tissue and laboriously absorb and repeat the process until the stain is removed. Only if the stain is persistent should you resort to detergent.

Assuming you don’t have a suitable foam type stain removal agent for rugs at hand, choosing the correct detergent from your household supplies in the kitchen cupboard is always a big issue. As I stated earlier the common choice is often washing up liquid. The big problem with this choice is it’s a highly concentrated detergent designed to remove grease from a ceramic surface which is smooth, therefore easy to rinse off the excess detergent residue. Your rugs and carpets are a fabric that will absorb detergent residue and over time if the residue is not fully removed it will start to harbour dirt particles creating a soiled patch. If you going to use a household use a fabric detergent, the washing machine powder you would use to clean your clothes.

On persistent rug stains you can mix your detergent with water to make a weak solution and gently dab the stained rug using the solution and a clean white cloth, then apply clean water and absorb with tissue to remove the detergent residue. Never vigorously rub the stained area it will only make things worse. Ensure that all residues of sugar and detergents are remove with clean water as these will attract dirt and appear as a soiled patch in coming weeks.


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