Make a Carpet Cleaning Toolkit This Holiday Season

Holiday season is just around the corner – that wonderful time of year when we open our homes to friends and family and good cheer. It’s also the time of mulled wine spills, tipped mugs of eggnog, cranberry stains, and grandchildren tracking dirt indoors. In other words, it’s the season of carpet stains. Thankfully, just a little advance preparation can keep a little mishap from becoming a permanent stain.

Start by assembling a carpet cleaning kit. Many of the items below are probably in your cupboard already:

  • Plain white cloth, or plain white paper towels
  • Vinegar
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Club soda
  • Baking soda
  • Table salt

Plain white cloth – Witness a spill, and you might be tempted to use whatever towel you have at hand. Instead, take a moment to grab a plain white cloth or paper towel. After a spill, your goal is to transfer any color onto the cloth; use a colored cloth or patterned towel, and you may just end up transferring more color onto your carpet.

White vinegar – It’s no accident that vinegar is so often mentioned in homemade stain removal solutions. Vinegar is a mixture of acetic acid and water. When mixed with water, the components of acetic acid break down; the remaining components are very effective at weakening and breaking down stain-causing substances. And because acetic acid also mixes easily almost any kind of liquid, it’s a great teammate for other cleaning solutions.

Dishwashing liquid – This common household ingredient helps water to spread more easily over surfaces and penetrate deeper into carpet fibers. If your stain is water soluble – think holiday fare like food, gravy, and alcoholic drinks – a little warm water and dishwashing liquid may be enough to release the stain. If you need a little more stain-fighting power, add a little vinegar into the mix.

Club soda – The carbonation in club soda lifts stains and prevents them from penetrating carpet fibers; this home remedy is particularly effective at removing stains from red wine – a holiday season staple at my house. In fact, the professional carpet cleaners that I use – Rainier Chem-Dry – uses carbonation as a key component in their own cleaning solution. In addition to being effective, club soda also evaporates without a trace.

Baking soda – First, baking soda can act as a chemical catalyst for improving the effectiveness of vinegar. Baking soda is absorbent, and able to soak-up stain-causing liquids. Baking soda is abrasive; it’s slight grittiness can help to pry stains out of carpet fibers. And finally – it’s a natural freshener and deodorant. Apply a baking soda and vinegar mixture to a stain, and let it sit for a while; after it dries, circle back with a vacuum cleaner to pull up the soda and the stain.

Table salt – Baking soda is one kind of salt; table salt is another. If you don’t have baking soda handy, table salt may do the trick.

No matter which cleaning solution I try, I work slowly. I use each cleaning solution sparingly, to avoid spreading the stain. And I’ve had pretty good luck using each of the above ingredients, or combinations of them. That said, they don’t always work. The last item you should add to your stain-removing toolkit is the phone number of a professional carpet cleaner you can trust. You’ll want one handy, because time is of the essence when dealing with stains; the earlier you deal with them, the better your chances for complete removal.

Prepare for carpet stains in advance, and when the inevitable spill occurs, the fast cleanup won’t dim your holiday cheer.