Spills and stains? Find out how to expertly clean your carpet

Spills and stains? Find out how to expertly clean your carpet

Raphael Knecht
Zurich, on 16.07.2020
So you’ve dirtied your favourite carpet. What now? First of all, don’t be hasty. Take your time to find out which cleaning technique is right for your carpet.

At some point in time, every carpet will suffer its first stain. No matter how small or sturdy your rug or carpet is, there’s no way it’s staying clean forever. You’ve spilled something? Don’t panic. If you act too rashly, you risk ruining your carpet completely. Keep a cool head and check what material it’s made of. Next up, learn the basics of the right cleaning technique. This will save you splashing out on a professional cleaner or, at worst, a new carpet.

It happens to us all. Spilled coffee on the carpet.
It happens to us all. Spilled coffee on the carpet.

Three is the magic number

Treating carpet stains isn’t rocket science as long as you follow three basic rules. Firstly, never rub but dab stains. Otherwise you might make the stain spread. This can also happen if you clean the stain from the inside out. That’s why the second rule is: always treat the stain moving from the edge to the middle. Spills and stains should be cleaned as soon as possible. That’s why the third rule says: the longer you wait, the longer it will take you to clean your carpet.

Rub-a-dub-dub? No thanks. Try dabbing instead.
Rub-a-dub-dub? No thanks. Try dabbing instead.

Adapt cleaning method to material

The material and texture of your carpet plays an important role when it comes to cleaning. No two carpets are alike. Different materials require different care and cleaning products. Some materials are very delicate while others will survive almost any kind of treatment. By applying the correct cleaning technique as well as taking into account the special features of your carpet, you’ll manage to remove many stains without damage or problems.

Natural and animal fibre carpets

Sisal, jute, cotton and silk are all natural fibres. If you’re the proud owner of a natural fibre carpet, immediately clean any spills with absorbent kitchen paper and some stain remover. Before you start attacking the stain, apply the detergent somewhere along the edge of your carpet to make sure the fabric doesn't discolour. Treat stubborn stains in the same manner, but use a natural fibre brush instead of paper towels.

Sisal is a sturdy natrual fibre often used in wall-to-wall carpeting.
Sisal is a sturdy natrual fibre often used in wall-to-wall carpeting.

If you’re dealing with animal fibres, wool for example, steer clear of soap. It can cause damage and your carpet may lose its density and elasticity. Special acidic carpet cleaners, however, ensure that the carpet retains its sheen. After treating your rug or carpet, always brush it in the direction of the grain.

Shaggy and deep pile carpets

For carpets with long fibres, use a comb to remove caked-in stains. Fresh or small spills are easily cleaned with shampoo. Pour a bit of sparkling mineral water into a small bowl, add a few drops of shampoo and cover the stain with a thin layer of the liquid. Let it soak for a bit, dab the stain dry and, tad-ah! All clean.

Deep pile carpets are very popular but are also dust and dirt magnets.
Deep pile carpets are very popular but are also dust and dirt magnets.

Oriental carpets

Make sure to use the right cleaning agent when cleaning an oriental carpet. Go for mild, PH-neutral detergents rather than classic cleaning products. The latter could discolour your carpet. In any case, test the gentle detergent in a hidden spot before applying it to the stain to avoid risking discolouration. Also try not to get your carpet too wet during the cleaning process. Otherwise, it could be difficult to completely dry and it may even grow mold. Top tip: after cleaning, apply wool grease or wool wax and hang the carpet up to dry. This way, the carpet will keep its sheen.

Microfibre carpets

Never wash synthetic fibres in the washing machine. You might get away with machine washing smaller, less delicate carpets, but microfibre models risk losing their latex layer and therefore their whole structure. Always hang dry this type of carpet. Don’t try to speed things up with electric gadgets, as they could melt the microfibres.

Microfibre carpets are easily identified by their fibres and usually available in many different colours.
Microfibre carpets are easily identified by their fibres and usually available in many different colours.

Flokati rugs

The flipside of this incredibly fluffy material? It’s a prime dirt catcher. The term flokati describes a woolen carpet that’s dyed – a trend with origins in Greece. You can pop smallish models in your washing machine at 30 degrees in a gentle cycle. Larger carpets are best cleaned with lukewarm water and a wool detergent or gentle shampoo. If you’re dealing with large stains, soak your carpet in the bathtub.

Leather carpets

As leather is a highly sensitive material, it’s best cleaned with special leather cleaner. It’s important to know what type of leather you’re dealing with. Suede, smooth or nubuck? Depending on the carpet’s quality, you will need a different kind of cleaning product. Treat stains with a damp cloth and the right detergent. Saddle soap can also be used if you don’t have the right leather cleaner at hand.

Leather is an exclusive but delicate carpet material.
Leather is an exclusive but delicate carpet material.

Pure as the driven snow

Admittedly, it’s a bit early to be talking about cold weather. Nevertheless, there’s a pro tip you should know of. Has your carpet accumulated dirt and dust deep down in its fibres that not even a brush or vacuum cleaner can get to? All you need to do is hang it up outdoors and beat the dust out of it. Next, put it face down in the snow for a few minutes. Finally, shake off the snow and finish up by brushing your carpet. Let it dry and prepare to enjoy a carpet that’s clean to the core and impresses with revived colours and sheen.

Even if it’s off-season – it’s worth knowing about the snow trick.
Even if it’s off-season – it’s worth knowing about the snow trick.

Know any other rules of thumb that should be considered when cleaning a carpet? Maybe you’re a pro when it comes to other types of carpet materials and their care needs? Drop me a comment below. Thanks! If you'd like to get more tips and tricks to improve your cleaning, follow me by clicking on the «Follow author» button.

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Raphael Knecht
Raphael Knecht
Senior Editor, Zurich
When I'm not stuffing my face with sweets, you'll catch me running around in the gym hall. I’m a passionate floorball player and coach. On rainy days, I tinker with my homebuilt PCs, robots or other gadgets. Music is always my trusted companion. I also enjoy tackling hilly terrain on my road bike and criss-crossing the country on my cross-country skis.

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