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Four Things Not To Do When Cleaning Up A Spill On Your Carpet

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When faced with an unexpected spill on your carpet, it can be hard to know what to do in the moment. However, delaying or cleaning it improperly can make the stain worse or even ruin your carpet entirely. Here are four things that you do not want to do when faced with cleaning a mess from your carpet:


If you discover a spill or mess, it can be tempting to remove the bulk of the mess initially but leave the stain for cleaning later. However, it is dangerous to allow a stain to sit for an extended period of time. Once many stains dry, they are "set" in the carpet and become next to impossible to fully remove. Even when it seems inconvenient, you should always deal with a stain immediately. If you are absolutely unable to tackle a mess right away, lightly spray the surface of the carpet with clean water to prevent the stain from setting.

Rubbing a spill or stain

A common approach to handing cleanup of a mess on carpets is to rub the area with a cloth. Unfortunately, rubbing is never a good idea; it only leads to material being further ingrained into the fibers of the carpet or down into the padding underneath. Many carpets have a stain blocker that can resist immediate absorption of a spill. However, rubbing defeats this built-in protection.

Instead of rubbing or scrubbing, always blot messes or stains on your carpet. Gently pat the area with a clean cotton cloth, and allow the natural absorbency of the cotton to pull the offending material away from the carpet. The cotton is less-resistant to absorption than the carpet fibers, so let this natural advantage work in your favor. Also, don't be stingy with your cleaning cloths; replace them often with clean, dry cloths as they become saturated.

Soaking your carpet

You may be inclined to pour water on a mess in an effort to remove it from your carpet. While water is a good solvent for many kinds of messes, too much water can be harmful to your carpet. Your home's carpeting lies on top of a pad that consists of a spongy foam or other cushioned material. That means many kinds of carpet pads will absorb and hold water for extended periods of time. The damp, dark environment beneath your carpet is ideal for the growth of destructive mold.

Once your carpet and its padding become moldy, your only realistic option is complete removal and replacement in most situations. That's why you should never douse your carpet when cleaning it, even if it seems to help with a spill or mess. When using water on a carpet for cleaning, here are few tips to help prevent mold growth:

  • Use a water extractor to immediately suction water from the carpet and pad.

  • Place fans or blowers near wet spots to accelerate drying.

  • Turn on your home's central air conditioning unit to remove moisture from the air and your carpet.

Not matching the cleaner with the stain

If you scan the grocery store aisle that contains cleaning products, you are likely to see claims of being able to remove any kind of stain or mess. However, the reality is different types of spills require different kinds of cleaners in order to obtain satisfactory results. There is no such thing as a "one size fits all" stain remover, but you can create a cleaning arsenal for a relatively low cost. Here are some common messes and matching cleaners appropriate for each:

  • Pet messes – vinegar and liquid laundry detergent are good choices for cleaning urine and feces. Don't use ammonia, however, as urine contains ammonia, and your pet may mistake that location as an appropriate place to relieve itself.

  • Blood – one important thing to keep in mind is to use cold liquids on blood. Warm or hot liquids only cause the blood to become more embedded within the carpet fibers. You should keep hydrogen peroxide or an oxidizing cleaner on hand for removing blood stains.

  • Ink – ink from a pen is usually soluble with isopropyl alcohol, so keep this on-hand in case of an emergency. Try to use as high a concentration of alcohol as possible.

  • Greasy or oily substances – mineral spirits are known to be tough on grease or oil-based stains. Plus, mineral spirits have the advantage of being relatively odor-free and quickly evaporate without leaving a residue behind.

Click here for more info on how to get rid of stains or to find professional help.