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Easy & Difficult Carpet Stains

Have you ever wondered why some really big bad stains are easy to remove while others that you think look easy turn out to be impossible?

Here’s a brief look at stains from a professional carpets cleaners perspective. It might add some clarity and help you manage some of the common spills.

In stain removal we put stains into two categories:

  1. Easy
  2. Difficult

Whilst it may be obvious that some stains are harder than others, what isn’t immediately obvious is the reason why, from a carpet cleaning perspective.

Basically we categorise a stain as easy if it responds to a standard shampoo or spotting agent.

“EASY” stains dissolve or emulsify in the shampoos and spotting agents used in the standard carpet cleaning process. This includes general soiling and many of your common greasy spills from food.

A “DIFFICULT” stain is therefore one that does not respond to shampoo thus requiring a different product and or procedure.

Most “DIFFICULT” stains are coloured stains, that is, they have a pigment to colour the product. Examples of this are: nail polish, paint, ink, cordial and wax. As you have no doubt seen these pigments can be very effective at dyeing carpet 

Difficult Stain Removal
To remove most of these coloured stains, the technician has to have a product that will turn the stain back into a liquid so it can be extracted. In some cases this is reasonably easy. For instance, most nail polish can be removed with acetone or its environmentally friendly alternative. Both these products will turn the nail varnish back into a liquid and allow extraction. Some stains such as ink are not so easy because the carrying agent can be one of many different things. Reliquefying the pigment requires the technician to have a number of different products. This is one of the reasons why removing “DIFFICULT” stains remains highly specialised.

Just to make things a little more complicated, there is another set of “DIFFICULT” stains that require a chemical reaction to fade the stain away. These are stains like tea, coffee, red wine, cellulose browning, some dyes, inks, pet stains, soft drink and cordial. Different products are used to cause this chemical reaction and again some are easier than others.

A carpet cleaner with little or no stain removal expertise will consider these stains permanent when they don’t respond to the cleaning process. It’s common to hear comments like, “it’s set now” or “it’s been there too long.” This is certainly not true as most of these stains can be removed by a technician with the right knowledge and products - no matter how long the stain has been there.

Another common myth spread by carpet cleaners who can’t remove “DIFFICULT” stains is that you have set the stain by your attempts to fix it yourself. While I can’t 100% rule out the possibility of an adverse chemical reaction from your product without all the information, I can confidently tell you, if your attempts to fix the stain have not damaged the carpet, it is highly unlikely to have set the stain. In my experience a good carpet cleaner will simply wash out any extra product that has been applied and treat the offending stain with the appropriate product and procedure and remove it.

There are some dyes and inks that can’t be removed without also removing some of the carpet colour. Generally for these really stubborn stains, removal can’t be done cost effectively. NB: There are very few of these, most can be successfully removed.

Bleach marks are not stains, they are permanent damage done to the carpet dye and can only be fixed by patching, recolouring or replacement.

Easy Vs Difficult
From a Carpet Cleaners perspective, we would rather clean a room completely covered with “EASY” stains no matter how badly soiled the carpet looks. We know these stains will respond to the shampoo and specialised spotters we use in the cleaning process. On the other hand, the one “DIFFICULT” stain over in the corner, although it’s only the size of a 50 cent coin, is likely to be more difficult, take additional time and almost certainly require additional products and procedures.

Hopefully you now have a new perspective on what’s an easy stain and what’s not. This will be especially important if you have difficult stains and are choosing a carpet cleaner. Hopefully I have given you enough information to ask the right questions to make sure you get the right person for the job.

Myths about Carpet & Carpet Spot Removal

If you have carpet in your home, chances are you will need to attend to a spill at some stage. Having some easy methods to attend to fresh stains may save you the need to call in a professional.

Before I get into the stain removal tips I thought it was important to dispel a few myths about carpet and carpet stain removal. Once you have this information you can tackle those fresh spills with confidence and the best chance of getting a great result.

Common Carpet Cleaning Myths

  1. You shouldn’t steam clean wool carpet because it will shrink. This is not true of any tufted carpet. The myth has arisen around the very real chance of a woven carpet shrinking if it was installed or cleaned incorrectly. Over 90 % of woollen carpets are constructed using the tufting method and those woven carpets still out there can be steam cleaned by someone who knows what they are doing provided they have been installed properly.

  2. You shouldn’t clean woollen carpets because you will wash the lanolin out of it. The lanolin that naturally occurs in the sheep’s fleece is completely and 100% stripped out of the wool as it is being processed into yarn. Lanolin is a greasy fatty substance and would make keeping the carpet clean and dyeing the yarn impossible. Consequently no woollen carpet has ever had the smallest trace of lanolin left in it. Steam cleaning remains the manufacturer’s preferred cleaning method for a full restorative clean.

  3. You shouldn’t clean your carpets because they will never be the same and will get dirtier faster. There are many reasons why a carpet can re soil quickly after it has been cleaned but these all relate to the job being done incorrectly. Bad cleaning can leave a residue, change the pH and static qualities and leave dirty water to rise to the surface as it dries. All three of these things will cause premature re soiling. A properly cleaned carpet will be dirt and chemical free and the carpet will be left in a neutral or slightly acid state to eliminate the pH and static problems. Another thing to consider is the user’s perception. When the carpet looks great after cleaning, every little bit of wear and tear is much more noticeable. This means even when the carpet is re soiling at the appropriate rate it is more noticeable to the user. Good cleaning can’t fix this one but it will deal with the first 3 :)

  4. You shouldn’t vacuum your carpet with a beater because it is wearing out the pile. It is strongly recommended that you do vacuum your carpets with a machine that has a motorised power head (beater). The extra vibration this causes helps dislodge more grit allowing it to be sucked away. The grit left deep in the pile is what causes most of the wear so it makes sense to remove as much as possible. Some woollen carpets shed small amounts of fibre as they are vacuumed. These are tiny little barbs on the main fibre and having these come off and vacuumed away is not hurting the carpet. Because some carpets shed quite a lot in the early stages this might explain how this myth came about.


Common Stain Removal Myths

  1. Pour salt on to any spill quickly and allow it to soak it up. Watching salt change colour as it soaks up the red wine, tea or coffee could easily make you think this is a good idea but it really isn’t. If you have ever tried it you will know it doesn’t soak everything up. No matter how much salt you use there will always be a residue which you will have to fix anyway. Save yourself the salt and all the extra work of cleaning up the salt and treat all fresh stains with water and blot with a clean dry towel. This will dilute the problem and provide more carrying agent to be absorbed giving you a better transfer onto the towel. If this method fails to remove the whole spill you can try warm water (*except blood see note below) and “MILD” dishwashing detergent and continue to blot until the stain is gone or no longer responding. If the stain persists refer to our stain chart for stain specific advice. You can download a copy from our website free of charge or visit the stain advice section. *The protein in blood will congeal when heated making it harder to remove. 

    Here’s a true story that happened a few weeks ago that demonstrates the effectiveness of this first response method on a fresh spill: 

    The other evening at a party someone bumped my arm and spread half a glass of red wine onto my friends bone coloured wool Berber carpet. My friends live in one of those pristine houses you see in magazines so you can imagine his face turned grey as he started running toward the laundry cupboard for the cleaning stuff.  His wife, the calm one, asked me what I needed to fix it. There were many people in the room who thought I was mad and or stupid when I replied “just some water and a dry white towel please.”

    I was able to remove the spill with the water and dry towel using only one hand….I was using the other to fight off a well meaning person trying to get me out of the way so she could pour salt and soda water onto it :) It wasn’t until the host told her I owned the local Stain Busters that she relented. I did have to finish the stain off with a mild detergent diluted in warm water. You may find this necessary on some spills on some carpets. Needless to say it was a good advert for Stain Busters and I now try to spill wine everywhere I go :)

  2. The best thing to put on red wine is white wine and vice versa. This is not correct although pouring white wine onto red does work, the white wine is just doing what water will do so save the white wine and stick to the instructions above. Pouring red onto white is not only wasting wine but also doubling your work and risking leaving a tannin stain which will be a lot harder to remove than the fresh wine stain. 

  3. Bicarb Soda is a good stain remover. This is like the salt in that it will soak some of the spill and leave a residue. The problem with putting it on your carpet apart from it making a mess and leaving a residue is it can actually chemically burn carpet. Some woollen carpets do not like anything with a high pH and it can be chemically burnt on contact.

    Its alkalinity and the fact it remains damp from soaking up some of the spill can also promote cellulose browning (a different chemical reaction) which will require specialised knowledge to reverse. 

    Bicarb can be useful in balancing or creating a chemical reaction to help in advanced stain removal but this requires knowledge of the chemical makeup of both the stain and the products you are using. Unless you have this expertise the best thing is to stick to the water and towel method as described herein. In most cases it is all you will ever need on a fresh spill. Check our stain Removal Advice section on our website for more instructions if a stain is not responding to this first step.

  4. Off the shelf carpet cleaners and stain removers must be OK or they wouldn’t make those claims on TV. The off the shelf carpet cleaner & stain remover is often not acceptable for wool and New Generation carpets. They have a high alkalinity to make them affective on grease and oil but this high pH can chemically burn wool carpets and strip the protection from New Generation carpets. You will usually find they have some small print which covers them for the damage they do. It will say something like “apply to a small area and check for colour fastness” Even if you can’t find this on the label it is a good idea to do this with any product you haven’t used before. These products use alkalinity so can be affective on general dirt, oil and grease stains but will be ineffective on most coloured stains once they have dried.

  5. You must use salt or vinegar to balance the chemical reaction. Whilst there may be some times when balancing or changing the chemistry of a stain is going to help you remove it, in most cases it will be irrelevant when dealing with a fresh spill. I advise to follow the water and the dry towel instructions and seek stain specific advice if a residue remains. Water is a great first step as it will dilute the stain’s colour and the acidity/alkalinity. Because water is neutral it will bring the pH up toward neutral in an acid spill and down toward neutral in an alkaline spill. Neural or slightly acid is where you carpet likes to be.

  6. It must be OK I read it on the internet. Unfortunately you can’t believe everything on the internet. I advise you stick to a trusted source where possible. If you don’t have a trusted source, do your research and check out a few sites. Look for consistency and contradiction. Both will help you narrow down your search. Be wary of sites selling a product especially if they claim one product fixes all stains on all types of carpet. They are blatantly lying to you and can’t be trusted. Their label is most likely full of small print diluting these spectacular claims. Our technicians carry around up to 20 different products some of which we would never use on a woollen or New Generation carpet and we have others we only use on a particular stain, knowing nothing else will work. We have 6 different products for ink because ink has several different carrying agents. Even if an off the shelf cleaner worked on your last ink spill it is no guarantee it will work on the next! There is no one product that fixes all despite the many claims to the contrary.

Here is a summary of some important stain removal tips

  • Attend to the stain as quickly as possible. Don’t stop until it is gone completely or not coming out anymore.
  • Avoid scrubbing, use the blot and dab method starting with water and progressing to a diluted soap and warm water solution. (stay with cold for blood and other protein spills)
  • Never use bleach, it will remove most stains but it will also change the colour of your carpet. Do not use dish washer or clothes washing powders. They are very high in alkalinity, even if the don’t damage your carpet they will almost certainly leave a stubborn residue.
  • If using an off the shelf cleaner do a colour fast test in an inconspicuous area to make sure it isn’t going to pH burn or remove dye from your carpet. These are often high residue so be prepared to get out what you put in to avoid premature re soiling.
  • On large stains start at the outside and work your way in to avoid spreading.
  • Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, even the well meaning sites may buy into the myths and other bush remedies. Some bush remedies work on some things some of the time so unless you have this context you need to be wary of them. Work with a trusted source or do your research.
  • Visit our stain specific pages on our website or download a stain removal chart for more helpful tips.

I hope this has been helpful and there were a few myths I have busted for you. 

3 Birthday Party Stain Hazards

Birthday parties are a wonderful celebration. Whether you're hosting a party for your child, yourself or your friend, you want the entire event to go as smoothly as possible. You've ordered the cake, have the food sorted and purchased all the necessary party supplies.

You feel excited as they day for the party approaches, but you also might have a small, looming fear. Maybe you just cleaned your carpet or had new flooring installed. Perhaps you just bought new furniture for your home. Whatever the case, you'd like to keep your home as clean as possible.

Below, we've listed three birthday party stain hazards so you can prepare in advance and avoid staining your flooring or furniture.

1. Birthday Cake

No party would be complete without a cake to celebrate the birthday boy or girl. Whether you're throwing a party for your four-year-old daughter or a birthday bash for your 20-year-old best friend, cake is a party requirement.

Unfortunately, cakes come covered in sweet and colourful icing or toppings. Though this cake topping may seem like a great treat to eat, it quickly loses its appeal if it gets trampled into your carpets or rugs. And these stains can prove incredibly difficult to remove-especially if the coloured icing contains bright food dye.

Additionally, other desserts and sweets can pose the same risk at your celebration. The obvious solution, weather permitting, is to plan to have the food table outside. A good second option in case the weather is not conducive to an outside party is to have a table set up on a hard floor area.

If all else fails and you must eat on a carpeted area, set up a table with chairs, encouraging people to sit at the table. This will overcome the highest risk of food falling to the floor. People walking around, holding a plate in one hand and a drink in the other is the perfect recipe for a spill. You may not have to worry about this outside but you should try to avoid this situation on your carpeted areas if you can.

If you do have a spill, attend to it quickly and follow these tips:

  1. 1)Scrape or blot up any excess.
  2. 2)Make up a mixture of 1 teaspoon of washing up liquid (not laundry) with a litre of warm water. Blot this onto the stain working from the outside in so as not to spread the stain.
  3. 3)Blot dry with a colour fast towel. Double it over and tread or kneel on it to draw up as much of the liquid and stain as possible. Do not use salt. The towel works better and without the mess.
  4. 4)Repeat this procedure for as long as it works or until the stain is gone.

If a residue remains go to our website for advice on your particular stain.

2. Food Items and Snacks

Aside from cake, you may also have snacks or a meal at your birthday party. Just like cake, many foods and snack items can become staining hazards. Here’s a list of common party foods to watch out for that we’ve found can create stains in carpets:

  • Berries
  • Chocolate
  • Tomato sauces (such as marinara sauce)
  • Mustard
  • Peanut butter
  • Relish
  • Tomatoes

Again, if you must serve these foods on your carpeted area, encourage your guests to sit at the table. Any steps you take to avoid people walking, talking and trying to eat and drink on their feet will reduce the chance of a spill.

3. Beverages

Drinks can also severely stain your carpet-especially if you don't clean up the spill right away. At your next party, look out for the following beverages indoors as they can easily stain carpets:

  • Berry juice
  • Coffee
  • Fruit punch
  • Lemonade
  • Milkshakes
  • Smoothies
  • Tea
  • Wine

After eating, your guests will want to move around and socialise. If you want your party to be a success you are unlikely to stop people from having a drink once they have left the table.

Most drink spills you encounter at a party are easy to remove with the above method provided you get to it before it dries/sets. An exception to this rule is brightly coloured soft drinks including those containing alcohol. Drinks coloured with pink, red, blue, green or yellow food colour (including cruisers) can cause an immediate stain that will require a professional. If you do encounter a spill with food colour, it still pays to follow the procedure to remove as much as you can.

You may not be able to completely avoid a stain but you will reduce the amount of colour that needs to be removed when your professional arrives. This will make the job easier and therefore cheaper for you. Placing a wet towel over a fresh stain can help avoid the stain from setting. This is particularly important if you can’t get help straight away. It can also buy you a day or two to allow a professional to turn up in “normal time”.  Emergency callout fees are often 2, 3 or 5 time more expensive than the normal rate depending on the day and time of the emergency.

 As you prepare to host a birthday party, remember some items could stain your flooring and furniture more easily than others. Use the tips above to minimise the chance of spills or stains in your home or office building. However, should a stain occur, contact a cleaning company with proven stain removal expertise to remove the stain and return the area to its previous condition.

For more tips about carpet cleaning or stain removal, visit the rest of our blog

Lipstick in the Carpet: Removing Common Makeup Stains

When you have to get to work or class early in the morning, you don't have much time to get ready. You quickly spread foundation on your face and add some mascara and lipstick. Your rapid getting-ready process is going well-until you accidentally drop your open lipstick tube on the carpet.

On a light-coloured carpet, a dark red lipstick stain definitely stands out. Fortunately, there's a way to remove this and other stains that might happen while you get ready for the day. First, read our general stain removal advice. Then, follow these cleaning tips.

Lipstick Stains

There's a right way and a wrong way to remove a lipstick stain. Rubbing the stain with water may only push the stain further into the carpet.

Since lipstick is composed of a pigment as well as waxes, oils, fats and emollients, you'll need to apply a solvent that can dissolve each of these substances. Some people make the mistake of removing the waxes, oils, fats and emollients, but leaving the colour behind.

The most effective solvent choices for removing all these substances are dry cleaning fluid or methylated spirits (alcohol that's formulated for cleaning).

Once you've applied the solvent, blot the stain with a towel. It's important to use a colour-fast towel, or the towel will lose its original colour. If the stain gets lighter, keep blotting. If not, call a carpet cleaning professional.

A professional will use a powerful product and because they can rinse and extract they will make sure there is no lipstick or product residue.  

Foundation Stains

If you spill foundation on your carpet, you can still preserve your carpet. Just as makeup remover cleanses makeup from your face, it might remove it from your carpet as well. Try dabbing makeup remover on the stain with a colour-fast towel. Choose an oil-free makeup remover so it doesn't leave behind an unsightly oil stain.

Alternatively, you could try a dry cleaning fluid. Dry cleaning fluid typically consists of a chemical called tetrachloroethylene, which effectively cleans delicate fabrics. However, follow the product safety instructions very closely.

If the stain remains, call a professional carpet cleaner right away.

Nail Polish Stains

Another common stain you might see near your bathroom or vanity is a nail polish stain. If you spill a small amount of nail polish on your carpet, try applying nail polish remover. If it seems to work, continue until the stain is completely removed.

Larger stains and stubborn stains should be removed by a professional. Without extraction and powerful products, the polish's pigment might stay behind. A professional's chemicals transform the polish into a liquid and extract both the liquid and the colour pigment.

Shoe Polish Stains

If you polish your shoes before you head out the door, be careful not to spill your shoe polish. If you do, apply dry cleaning fluid or methylated spirits to the stain. To avoid spreading the stain, start cleaning at the outside of the stain and move toward the centre.

Liquid brush-on shoe polishes are especially tricky to remove, so use caution. If you're uncomfortable removing the stain, call a carpet cleaning professional.

When to Call a Professional

You may be able to remove light stains near your bathroom or vanity. But makeup, nail polish and shoe polish contain many different substances, and are very difficult to remove. If you aren't precise, you might even make the stain worse.

If you're unable to remove the stain yourself or don't want it to get worse, call a professional carpet cleaner, who can remove the stain while protecting the integrity of your carpet.