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Removing Floor and Carpet Stains

Stains are inevitable. Whether they came with the house or happened in an unpacking snafu, you'll want to clear them from your carpets and floor as soon as possible. Prepare to battle the most stubborn stains – on carpet, hardwood and tile.

Carpet Stains

Carpeting left behind by the previous owners can present a particular challenge, since stains are from indeterminate sources. Use a store-bought or rented carpet cleaner formulated to remove a variety of stains (be sure to follow manufacturer's directions), or try one of the following remedies:

Water-Based Spills. Believe it or not, club soda works wonderfully. Dribble it on the stain, let it set for a moment, and then blot to remove the stain. If the stain persists, try one of the methods outlined below.

Stubborn Water-Based Spills, Blood, Latex Paint. Mix one-half teaspoon of liquid hand/dish detergent with one pint water, and press with fingers into stained area. Soak stain with clear, lukewarm water and blot. If the stain persists, add water again, fold paper towel, and place over stain with weight. Check towel every five minutes, or until it is stain-free.

Dark-Colored Liquids (Wine, Cranberry Juice). Soak stain with clear, lukewarm water and blot. Apply hydrogen peroxide and blot (this is usually sufficient for food-dye stains). If stains persist, apply hydrogen peroxide again, immediately followed by household ammonia, and blot. (Use only for white or off-white carpets. Test for bleaching first in a hidden area.)

Chocolate, Coffee, Grease, Ink. Apply alcohol or dry-cleaning solvent to the stain and blot dry immediately.

Nail Polish. Apply nail polish remover to the stain and blot immediately with paper towel. Repeat until no stain is evident on blotter.

For pet stains, please read “Cleaning Tough Pet Stains.”

Important Note: After all treatments, brush carpeting and allow the area to dry before walking on carpet.

If all stain-removing efforts fail, you might want to install new carpets. Purchasing new carpeting and padding for your home can be a major financial investment. But with advanced fibers and the stain-resistant properties available, you will have a wide range of cost effective and long wearing carpeting to choose from.

Floor Stains

Treat floor stains based on the materials you're dealing with. Follow the tips below to remove stains on each type of floor.

Hardwood Floors. If your hardwood floors have sustained water damage, you can attempt to repair the damage as follows:

  • Sand with a vibrating-type sander. Start with medium sand paper; then finish with fine sand paper.
  • Vacuum the dust, and then wipe the area with a dampened cloth; use mineral spirits if you're using oil-based stain or water for latex stain.
  • The next step is to stain the sanded area to match the rest of the floor. Finding just the right color probably will require mixing different color stains. Buy two or three cans of stain that are close to the existing floor color, and start experimenting. Be sure to mix only oil-based with oil-based and latex (water-based) with latex.
  • Test the colors on a piece of sanded, unstained wood that is the same species as your floor. Check for a match while the stain is still wet - this will give the best idea of what the stain will look like when it has been covered with polyurethane.
  • When the stain is dry, coat the floor with polyurethane according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Ceramic and Stone Tiles. Scrub the stained area with a mild detergent mixed with water. Avoid abrasive cleaners as they can scratch tiles. Also, don't use acidic or vinegar-based solutions, which can degrade the interconnecting grout. If the tile grout is stained, please read “Repairing and Replacing Tile Grout.”

Vinyl or Linoleum. These surfaces are the easiest to maintain. Simply remove stubborn scuff marks with a dry eraser (like a pencil eraser) or textured mop attachment.

Arm yourself with more house cleaning tips and tricks.

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