Sure, hardwood floors are easy to maintain but on a cold, wintery day, nothing beats the warmth and comfort of a thick, pile carpet. That is, until you have to clean it.
If your world includes people with tiny feet, and even if it doesn’t, maintaining a carpet to a high standard of cleanliness and attractiveness isn’t always easy. There are, thank goodness, some easy ways to clean your carpets that won’t break the bank or have you inhaling toxic fumes.
© carpet cleaning image via Shutterstock
Carpet Cleaning Hacks
We all know how to run a vacuum cleaner over our living spaces, but how much is it really cleaning and how do you deal with the more specific issues that can come up with carpets? It’s easy. Keep reading…
Tip: If you’re going to use a homemade rug cleaning concoction, make sure you test it on a tiny corner first!
Dealing with spills
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The key to dealing with spills is to deal with them as quickly as possible. Of course, you don’t want to be getting out the steam cleaner in the middle of your party but you can pre-treat any spills to avoid a stain setting in, that will make delayed clean up all the more difficult.
For any wet spills, soak up as much of the excess as possible. And then look at what it is that was spilled to decide what your next more is:
- Sugar based spills (juice, for example): Blot the stain to pull up excess moisture, spray the area with warm (not hot) water and use a cloth to blot again. The key is not to rub, which can help set the stain, but literally blot by putting pressure on the cloth and then lifting and repeating. Finally, place a clean towel over the area and put something heavy on it for a couple of hours: this will help soak up the remaining water and juice.
- Dairy spills: Mix a cup of warm water with half a tablespoon of dish detergent and use a clean cloth, dipped in this mixture, to blot the milk stain until it has disappeared.
- Wine spills: You can use the same method as for milk, or replace the dish detergent with vinegar for a tougher spill (that Pinot Noir isn’t going to give up easily!) You can also blot up the excess and then pour cold water on the stain, to dilute it without setting it and continue to blot. If some stain remains after the cold water rinse, you can add baking soda, mixed with water (3:1 ratio), to the area. Once it is dry, vacuum it up and you should be good to go!
Dealing with smells
An older carpet or one that has been subjected to the rigours of puppy training might be a little stinky after a while. Treat it by mixing two cups of baking soda with up to ten drops of your favourite essential oil. Sprinkle over the carpet, wait until it dries fully and then vacuum up the powder. What’s left is a light, fresh scent and a deodorized carpet.
Dealing with stains and wear
Pet fur is one of those things that does NOT come up easily in the vacuum. A lot will get left behind so once in awhile, you need to get down on your hands and knees with a rubber window squeegee. The fur will stick to the rubber and come up easily.
Another option is to use a lint roller on the areas where the dog / cat tends to hang out most often! This has the added advantage of picking up other things that the vacuum might have missed, like mud, crumbs and so on.
Oil based stains are best handled with baking soda: spread a thick layer of baking soda on the stain and leave it until the edges look a little crusty. That’s how you’ll know whether the powder is dry enough to vacuum up. Repeat if needed.
Paint or nail polish should be removed with rubbing alcohol. The issue is that you can have bleaching where the dyes in the carpet are leached away as the alcohol dries.
As per my tip above, you might want to test it before, on a less visible corner of the carpet. Chip away on the polish or paint with a knife – something sharp edged enough to pull up the dried up polish, but not so sharp as to damage the carpet fibres. After, dab the area with the rubbing alcohol.
If someone has tracked in or dropped gum into your carpet, you’ll need an ice cube to freeze it up so that it can be scrapped up. You won’t be able to do it when it is still soft, so this allows you to get it up and off your carpet without having to wait for it dry up.
High traffic wear is usually an accumulation from foot traffic, though excess mud falling off footwear can make it very dirty. One solution for this is shaving cream. Yes, you read that right. No, you don’t need to shave the carpet afterwards.
Cover the stain thoroughly with the shaving cream (preferably one without too much scent) and then vacuum up the residue after it has sat for a while. If you have longer / thicker carpet fibres, this technique will also fluff up the fibres a little, which get trodden down in high traffic areas.
The BEST way to get rid of a random stain of perhaps unknown origin? Get out your iron and follow these three steps:
- Vacuum up any stray residue around and on the stained area.
- Treat the stain with a water and white vinegar mixture (three parts water to one part vinegar), sprayed in and giving the carpet fibres a good soaking.
- Place a cloth or tea towel that you’re not a fan of over the stained / treated area and iron it with a hot iron. After a few passes, the stain should transfer off the carpet and onto the towel.
Getting your carpet fibres looking like new again
One pesky issue is furniture dents. These are dents created in your carpet by heavy pieces of furniture. The day you want to re-decorate and move things around, you’ll see them!
An easy fix for these dents is to place an ice cube in each one and let it melt. After it has done so and the area is thoroughly dampened, take a towel to blot the excess water and iron the area, again with a towel over top. Once the area is dry, you’ll be able to fluff up your carpet fibres by hand.
High traffic areas are prone dirt but also to becoming flat from being trodden on so often. Spray the area with equal parts water and vinegar and let it try. Afterwards, you can run a spoon along the fibres to pull them up and give them new life!
You might also want to know how to remove candle wax from a carpet.
Do you have a secret family trick for getting up stains or rejuvenating your carpets?