When should I give up on removing carpet stains?

Ready to give up on those carpet stains? Read our carpet cleaning tips before you do.
You know the old axiom: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Though the words of wisdom may apply to various aspects of life such as relationships and sports, you're not inspired whatsoever when it comes to ridding your carpet of stubborn stains. Your once-perfect carpet is now a hodge-podge of red wine, coffee, grease, and pet urine stains, and you're not sure if it's even worth fighting the good fight anymore. Can you save your carpet, or is it time to call a carpet service professional? Let's take a look at some things to try before throwing in the towel.

Get to the spills and spots immediately.
Not all spills can be contained right away. However, if you witness a spill as it happens, channel your inner Speedy Gonzalez and know how to react quickly before they become permanent carpet stains. Soak up the spill with white cotton cloths or white paper towels. For best results, try using a wet/dry Shop-Vac to suck out the stain. If you spill food, clean it up right away. Use a spoon to dig out semi-solid food like pudding and peanut butter. After the initial cleanup, rinse the spill with water (but don't flood the spot to avoid driving the stains deeper into the carpet). Press the white cotton cloths or white paper towels onto the stain and gently soak it up. Repeat as many times as needed.

Bring on the strong cleaners if water doesn't work.
If water wasn't enough to clean the stain, try putting isopropyl rubbing alcohol on the white cotton cloth and gently blot the affected area. If it seems like you're getting nowhere fast, don't continue! Rubbing the alcohol too deeply could damage the latex backing on the carpet.

Next, try a drop or two of a non-bleach dishwashing detergent (like the original blue Dawn) in a cup of water as a cleaning solution. Gently blot with the white cotton cloth as before. If you rub too hard, you'll add another eyesore stain to the existing hodge-podge. Use a spray bottle to rinse the stain and blot dry. The faster you dry it, the better you can avoid the deep-down stains that become permanent. Use a fan nearby to help dry the spot faster as you blot dry with a cloth.

If the stain still lingers, consider renting a carpet-cleaning machine from your local home center. The carpet-cleaning machine injects hot water and detergent under pressure into the fabric, and the detergent breaks down grease and dirt. A powerful vacuum then extracts the dirty solution from your carpet. You can rent one starting around $25 per day plus the cost of the cleaning detergent. Carpet cleaners are very easy to use, but make sure to follow the instructions (or ask for a demonstration when you rent the machine).

The downside to renting one of these carpet cleaners is that other people have used the same machine to clean all sorts of stuff. Make sure you inspect the carpet cleaner for dirty bristles, dirty attachments, and a dirty water tank. People who have animals in their homes often use carpet-cleaning machines, and the animal odors and leftover hair are hard to eliminate inside the machine. If renting a carpet cleaning machine isn't appealing, you could consider buying your own. But the upfront cost is quite steep (about $90 plus the cost of the cleaning detergent), and you may have permanent carpet stains that may be best left to the professionals.

Uh-oh. You've made the carpet stain worse. Now what?
If you've exhausted all your options in trying to remove the carpet stain and it didn't work or got worse, you may have inadvertently made the stain permanent. The following no-no's can cause a stain to set:

  • Scrubbing the stain
  • Applying heat to the affected carpet
  • Ignoring the stain
  • Drowning the carpet in cleaning solution
  • Failing to remove any excess substance
Some carpet stains are created by compounds that permanently change your carpet's color. The only solution at this point is to call your service professional. More than likely, the stained area will need to be replaced with extra carpeting or a patch cut from an inconspicuous place in the carpet. Find professional carpet cleaners in your area on Kudzu.com.

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