Stubborn Stain Removal: Carpet and Furniture

Removing stains from your plush carpet, or from your luxuriously upholstered suite, can be both difficult and frustrating, but life is messy, especially if you have pets and kids!  It’s inevitable that accidents are going to happen from time to time.

The day you bought that fluffy new carpet, you said you’d do all that you could to avoid it from getting marked, but months later, you’ve just about given up. If coffee, fruit juice or wine have been spilled on the floor and furniture, or mud and grass have been trodden through the house, you may be feeling at a loss.

Wine Stain

© gradt / Adobe Stock

Never fear, help is here in the shape of some good old-fashioned cleaning techniques from yesteryear. Carpet and furniture stain removal doesn’t have to be a pain when you know how.

Household tips from the Victorian era reveal innovative methods of using a multitude of natural products. Read on to find out how people have used all kinds of unusual items to keep their home clean, in the days before modern cleaning products existed.


Raw potato

According to Victorian housekeeping books, potatoes have many powers, other than cooking up into a good mash! If your soft furnishings, such as removable fabric covers for settees and chairs, are stained, rub a raw potato on the stains and then put the items in a pan of hot water to soak.

Repeat the process a couple of times and then put the items into cold water and leave to soak further for around one hour. Rinse thoroughly and the stains should be gone.

Scientists say this should work because potatoes contain oxalic acid, which is a colourless crystalline known for its stain-removing properties.


Grease spots

Grated potatoes are also said to be a good way of removing grease spots from carpets. Grate two raw potatoes into a pulpy consistency. Put them into one pint of water in a bowl and let them soak for a while. Then, strain the liquid into a fresh bowl containing one pint of clean water.

After letting the mixture settle for one hour, apply it as you would a modern cleaning product and scrub the stains with a cloth. Again, the oxalic acid in the potatoes should remove even the worst grease stains.

After removing the stains, wipe the spot with a clean, moist cloth to remove the residue and leave to dry. A study carried out by a national newspaper declared the old-fashioned method blew away modern, expensive cleaning products.


Cleaning materials

A book called Starting Housekeeping, published in 1900 by Mrs Alfred Praga, suggested a list of basic cleaning products that every good housewife should have. Please bear in mind, this was way before the days of sexual equality!

She suggests carbolic soap, yellow soap (also known as rosin soap), powdered pumice stone, kerosene or paraffin to remove stains, Benzine to help dissolve fat, resin and grease, turpentine, beeswax and soft soap.

Yellow soap was a popular cleaning product and was often rubbed on stains to dissolve them. It was made of rosin (the residue obtained after crude turpentine was distilled) mixed with potash or a solution of sodium hydroxide called soda lye.

The solution was added to warm tallow soap, which was similar to palm oil soap. Mrs Praga suggested the solution should be one-third tallow soap.

Then, mix the solution in with hot water, beating the products together for 30 minutes while hot. Pass it through a sieve to remove any lumps and leave it to solidify into a hardwearing soap.


Soft drink stains

In modern times, many old-fashioned stain removers are still used. If you spill soft drinks on your carpet, this can be a very tough stain to remove, but it can be straightforward when you know how. Blot the area with a clean, dry cloth or towel to soak up most of the liquid.

Don’t scrub it, but instead, mix a solution of equal parts warm water and white vinegar and add a little liquid detergent. Spray the solution on to the stain and leave it to soak for between ten and 15 minutes. Then, blot it with a dry cloth or towel.


Alcoholic drink stains

The same procedure, but using a different mixture can be carried out if alcohol, including the dreaded red wine, is spilled on the carpet. Blot the affected area with a clean, dry cloth and repeat as necessary to remove the excess.

Then, pour soda water on the stain. Continue blotting it with a clean, damp cloth. Repeat this step as necessary.

Alternatively, if you don’t have soda water handy, you can use a little white wine instead to remove red wine. You can also sprinkle absorbent cat litter on the stain to initially blot up the excess and then vacuum up the litter.


Coffee stains

It’s easy to accidentally tip up your cup and spill coffee as you make your way from the kitchen to the living room. You can use the same procedure as above to blot and clean it up, but with a solution of equal parts vinegar, water and detergent as the cleaning product.

Certain hardier types of carpet, such as Polypropylene, can handle a mixture of 75% water and 25% bleach, but it’s always better to try the solution on a small patch of carpet in a less-visible area to make sure it works for you.


Grass, dirt and mud

It’s inevitable your carpet will become stained, particularly in the hall, as people walk in and out all day long. When your carpet gets stained with grass, this can be one of the most difficult marks to remove.

Try vacuuming the spot first, but using the hand-held extension, as running the regular vacuum over the stain risks spreading it further. Vacuum up the grass and dirt particles thoroughly. Then, mix a solution of a cup of cold water and three-quarters of a teaspoon of laundry detergent.

Using a clean cloth soaked in the solution, blot carefully around the outside edge of the stain. Then work your way towards the centre. Don’t rub it – keep using clean cloths and repeat the process as necessary.

Another idea is to use an off-the-shelf stain remover diluted with water and pour the solution on to the stain. Leave it to soak in for five minutes and then rinse with clean water and blot dry. Leave it to dry thoroughly before walking on the carpet again.


Pet stains

Studies show that almost one-quarter of customers who book professional carpet cleaners are doing so because of stubborn pet stains. Whether you’re toilet-training a new pet, or caring for an older pet who may be incontinent, this can ruin your carpet.

Pet stains are very difficult to remove, not only because of the stain, but because of the odour too. Never use an ammonia-based cleaning product, as dog and cat urine contains ammonia, so this can make the smell worse.

Instead, blot the area with a clean, dry towel – don’t scrub it! Then, apply a carpet cleaning product (one that’s especially for pet stains) to the spot and blot it dry again.

Spray on a solution of equal parts warm water and white vinegar. Leave it to soak in for several minutes and then blot the area dry. Leave it to dry thoroughly and it should be odour-free.

Another suggestion is to put baking soda on the stain. Then, mix three-quarters of a cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide with a teaspoon of mild liquid detergent and pour the solution over the baking soda. Leave to settle for a moment and then scrub the area.

When it’s completely dry, thoroughly vacuum the spot.


Protecting soft furnishings

If you want to try to protect your carpet and upholstery from stains, there are some products on the market that you can spray on that will help to provide a barrier to dirt. These products help repel spills so that they are easier to clean up. A popular one often recommended by experts is Scotchgard Fabric and Upholstery Protector.

Next time you have a spill in your home, don’t throw up your hands in despair. Try one of these simple, old-fashioned cleaning methods to remove even the most stubborn stains!

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