Accidents happen. Food gets dropped, glasses get spilled and there's an ever-evolving collection of items we bring in from the outside on our shoes, clothing and personal accessories. With hard surfaces like wood and tile, these mistakes are usually easy to correct: wipe it up, clean the spot. But the absorbent nature and open fiber structure of carpeting and rugs means that what started the spill can often stay in the carpet, thus causing a stain. Hiring professional steam cleaners is the best way to maintain your carpets, but that's not practical when spills are seeping into your carpet fibers. So, here are a few DIY tactics for addressing spots, stains and general carpet maintenance without having to resort to renting a specialized machine.
1. DIY Deodorizer: Once a month, sprinkle a layer of baking soda all over your carpets and rugs. In the same way that it helps absorb odors in your refrigerator, the soda will soak up smells in your carpet. Allow it to sit for a few hours or overnight and then simply vacuum it up as part of your normal routine.
2. Make Your Own Spray Carpet Cleaner: If you look at the ingredient list on commercial spray carpet cleaners, you'll notice a strikingly familiar ingredient that you could find in your house: hand soap. So, create your own spray cleaner by mixing a clear, scent-free hand soap with clean water (distilled if you can) in a 1:1 ratio in a spray bottle. Shake thoroughly and spritz an even layer on stubborn stains. Allow to penetrate, and use a clean, white cloth to dab -- don't rub -- the stain and dirt particles out of the carpet fibers. Repeat as necessary.
3. Create Your Own Steam Cleaner: For stubborn spots that have settled, you can recreate a steam cleaner-like environment to help clean the carpet. First, spritz on some carpet cleaner (see idea #2), and allow it to penetrate while you heat up your clothing iron. Make sure it's full of clean water. Set the iron to medium high and use it to apply steam to the stain. Be sure not to place the hot iron surface directly on the carpet, as the heat could actually help set the stain and the direct heat can actually melt some synthetic carpet fibers. Just hold the iron over the stain, and press the steaming button a few times. Then dab the stain to remove.
4. Clean Up Greasy Spills: If you've dropped some oily food or an oily substance from the garage, take a tip from restaurants and home cooks to help absorb the grease. What do many fry cooks use to make an extra crispy coating? A combination of flour and cornmeal. And then where do they place the hot food to drain? On a brown paper bag. So, create a similar environment in your carpet. After cleaning up as much of the spill as you can, sprinkle on some flour, corn meal or a mixture of the two. Then, place a brown paper bag or piece of copy paper down on top. Both will help to wick away the oil from the fiber. This may take up to a day or two, so in order to keep things in place, place a pile of books or other heavy objects on the paper. That way, no one in your home will step on it and the weight will help increase the surface area of the paper and flour combo. Then, clean as usual. For another take on oily stains, check out GMC Trade Secrets pro Sabrina Soto's video tips for keeping your home clean and tidy.
5. Remove Old Set Stains by Neutralizing Them: If you have an old dark black or brown stain that won't go away with some of the methods above, try a bit of science to help neutralize it. If you're sure your carpet is synthetic or made of acrylic fibers as opposed to wool (most modern carpeting is nylon), then mix up an ammonia solution by diluting it in with a 1:5 ratio of ammonia to water. Then, spray it on your carpet and start to blot with a clean white towel. The ammonia is an alkaline or base solution than can create a reaction with the acids in the stain, causing the solids to let go of the carpet fibers. Be sure to clean the results thoroughly with water after you've removed the dirt.