Removing Stains from Your Carpets

One way simple way to keep your house looking clean and fresh is to maintain your carpets.  Weekly vacuuming is important but is not enough.  Every 12-18 months carpets should be professionally cleaned to maintain and preserve the life of the carpet as well as keep things clean and hygienic. Spot cleaning in between those full cleanings is essential.

When it comes to spot cleaning there is some very easy do’s and don’ts. First, do not use retail spotters. Most of them leave a sticky residue that attracts and holds onto soil, especially when you use too much.  More is not better.  This sticky residue, along with using too much, leads to gray to black spots in your carpet.  Virtually all retail carpet products – spotters, deodorizers, and detergents for use in small home extractors – are part of the problem, not the solution.  The more you use the worse it gets.

Instead, the best thing to use, besides water, is 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, also called rubbing alcohol.  It is effective on most spots in homes, including: coffee, cola, food, urine, feces, crayon, magic marker, lipstick, ink, make-up, oily/greasy spots, light paint spots, etc. Use it as is, as a general purpose spotter.  An old adage in carpet cleaning is “if it went in wet (i.e. water based), it comes out wet”.  Also keep in mind that water alone will probably remove about 80 percent of spots on carpet.

 Rubbing alcohol is inexpensive and leaves no residue, so it will not cause a re-soiling problem.  Plus it will remove about 90 to 95 percent of spots on carpet.  It is also a hospital grade disinfectant.  So it is good to use on pet accident spots, and other bacterial issues. Use the rubbing alcohol as is – do not dilute with water.  Simply spray a couple times with a trigger sprayer in a bottle of alcohol and blot or lightly rub the area with a clean white cotton towel – until the spot is removed. Always pre-test! Carpet and rug dyes are not as color fast on natural fibers.

Residue from overuse of retail spotters is the biggest problem. Another problem is Wicking Stains. These occur when a large liquid spill occurs, like a whole cup of coffee or a cola spill.  You spot clean them, and they just keep coming back.  It takes time and patience to get large liquid spills out of carpet.  Keep working on them with water or rubbing alcohol and white cloth towels – not retail spotters.  You may have to spray and blot several times to remove the spot completely. 

When it comes to blotting, cloth towels are better than paper towels.  If the spot keeps coming back, but continues to come out of the carpet onto the damp towel, it is a wicking type stain, and you just haven’t gotten it all out yet.  The big mistake homeowners make is turning a wicking stain into an excess spotter residue problem.  Speaking as a carpet cleaning professional, and a certified carpet inspector, I can’t tell you how many times I have seen carpets ruined by using bad, or too much carpet spotters. 

It is vital that when a spill occurs, it is attended to immediately. The sooner you can get onto cleaning up the stain, the less chance of it becoming a permanent mark.  Carpet lifespans range with quality but following these few simple spot removing tips along with an annual professional cleaning will help keep your carpets looking fresh and new as well as extend their duration. 

Informatin courtesy of 

Brian P. Motter

Owner – Certified Carpet Inspector

CarpeTex, Inc.