We get many questions regarding which cleaning agents are safe to remove sudden spills or newly found stains. With so many products available promising miracle results, most consumers purchase cleaning agents based on how well they are marketed. My response to that is buyer beware. Many products can be lethal and create permanent damage such as causing carpet dyes to be bleached in appearance. This happens with some of the most heavily advertised products on the market that have household name recognition. Although they’re effective at times, they often cause color loss which appears as a bleached or lightened spot. They’re actually too strong for the textile being cleaned. For upholstery, the problem is magnified since the dyes are more sensitive and over-wetting can easily cause water rings that can be very difficult to remove for some professionals. The safest cleaning agent is warm water. Water is neutral, doesn’t leave any residues which can be harmful or attract dust and dirt like a magnet so that stains appear more quickly, and, is the most cost-effective and most readily available cleaning agent.
A few things should be mentioned to better explain things:
1) Carpets: Always blot spills carefully with white cloths and move inward to prevent spreading a spill. Do not scrub the stain as it will cause permanent texture damage. Many stains are water soluble so water is effective. Also, it’s important not to saturate carpets with water so a damp cloth is often very effective. Spills involving distinct colors should be blotted, and if they don’t seem to clean with water, let a professional handle the stain since the wrong cleaning agent can easily set the stain. Much of this also depends on the sensitivity of the carpet material.
2) Area Rugs: Many area rugs such as Orientals have intricate patterns with different colored dyes. Generally using a white cloth to blot a spill to prevent it from spreading is a great first step to halt the extent of the damage. Because many area rugs are sensitive to cleaning agents, a professional should handle things beyond that. For stains, using an absolute minimal amount of mildly warm water and very gently rubbing the stain will either remove the stain or it won’t respond. Again, a professional should intervene. The same applies especially to colored stains.
3) A safe approach for sudden spills or stains: Gently blot with a white cloth and let a professional do the rest. Upholstery is far more sensitive than carpets and rugs and water stains develop very easily from over-wetting. Some materials are consumer friendly such as ultra suede or micro fibers. They’re also a good choice of material for families with children and pets as they are more responsive to cleaning. But as a general statement, upholstery cleaning should be left to a professional cleaner.
As a final point, obviously cleaning agents are important as stains are removed more easily. A minute amount of a clear cleaning agent such as ivory liquid can be beneficial. Stains that are oil based must be cleaned with solvents which leave residues. Solvents should be used with more caution as they are different from water-based cleaning agents. Whatever cleaning products you purchase, read the label and directions carefully, test the textile in an inconspicuous area to see if there is any dye transfer or other negative effect. Certain carpets such as commercial carpets found in basements can withstand cleaning agents far better than fine carpets such as those made of wool. Much of this requires professional judgment. We’re happy to provide advice on the phone should you call.