How to tackle tricky spills and stains on your rugs, carpets and sofas
PUBLISHED: 15:47 14 February 2018
You've finally got your lounge looking lovely - now the challenge is to keep it that way.
From red wine and coffee to everyday dirt and grime, there are things you can do to help tackle stains, marks and general filth build-up. Add these expert tips to your list of spills and stains solutions...
Rule number one: Act fast
Ideally, you don’t want to leave spillages to soak in - taking quick action is usually the best bet. “Over a sofa’s lifetime, we know that however hard we try, accidents happen and spillages can occur,” says Simon Nicholson, furniture buying director at sofa and carpet specialists ScS (scs.co.uk). “Quick action can help minimise the risk of permanent stains. As soon as a spill occurs, take a kitchen roll or a clean towel to soak up as much of the excess spill as possible, and then consult your manufacturer’s care guide to treat the rest of the spillage,”
Remember: Blot don’t rub
Rubbing a spillage is never a good idea - or you could end up ‘spreading’ the stain. “The aim is to absorb the excess liquid, so remember you only ever blot a stain or spillage. Rubbing will only cause the stain to become further embedded in the fabric,” explains Glen Ball, furniture technologist at Sofology (sofology.co.uk), who offers customers a five-year stain and scratch removal service with their ‘sofashield’ cover. “Use a clean, dry cloth and always ensure that it’s colour-fast. Cotton is best, but if in doubt, tissue paper will do the trick.”
Raid the kitchen cupboards
For a carpet/rug red wine or coffee spillage you’re tackling yourself, some quick action with a homemade remedy might be useful. We’ve all heard about chucking white wine on top of a red wine spillage... the jury’s out on how effective this really is, but lots of people swear by using baking soda, or a baking soda paste (mix three-parts baking soda with one-part water. Apply to the affected area and leave to dry and ‘suck’ up the offending spillage, then vacuum it up - hopefully lifting the stain in the process.)
Another method is to mix a tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with a tablespoon of white vinegar and two cups of warm water. Then apply this to a clean cloth and repeatedly blot the stain, alternating with a separate dry cloth, until the stain lifts.
Know when to call in the professionals
“Everyday stains and spillages are fine to deal with yourself. Liquids like cordials and hot drinks can be removed with a little gentle persuasion,” adds Ball. “Things like red wine and orange juice are better handled by the professionals once you have tried the ‘blot, don’t rub’ approach.”
The experts at ScS also advise seeking help from a professional upholstery cleaning service or visiting an upholstery specialist, who may be able to offer a specialist cleaning kit for stubborn stains, or if the manufacturer’s care guide recommends it. This is especially important with fabrics that are delicate or require specialist care and cleaning methods. And Nicholson adds: “However tempted you may be, never machine wash the [sofa] covers, even if they appear to be removable.”
Be careful about the products you use
This might sound like a no-brainer, but make sure you check that any cleaning products you’re going to try are definitely suitable for your sofa/fabrics. If in doubt, call the manufacturer’s customer helpline, or pop into a specialist store to ask for advice.
The same applies when using substances that might seem completely harmless, like water. “Many people think using water to clean their carpets will mean fresh, bright floors, but over time, the repeated wet cleaning can wash out wool’s natural waterproofing, resulting in the carpet acquiring a hard, crusty feel,” says Peter Hollier, a cleaning expert with home appliance manufacturer Vorwerk, who sell a range of products designed to make light work of deep-cleaning your home (kobold.vorwerk.co.uk). “Water can also cause the carpet fibres to shrink and stretch and the dye to bleed, leaving a less-than-luxurious finish. So, if you are going to clean your carpets with water, it’s important you don’t use too much and you dry the carpet quickly.”
Factor in some thorough deep-cleans
To really keep carpets and rugs looking their best, the experts advise routine deep-cleans twice a year, or when required.
“Carpets collect a lot of dirt and dust over time, from children running in with their shoes on after they’ve been to the park, pets rolling on the floor, and not forgetting the countless times food or drink has been spilt,” says Hollier. Regularly vacuuming your carpets will result in the top layer of dust and grime being sucked out, however, you are leaving behind worn in dirt and allergens that only a good deep-clean can remove,
“So, in addition to regular vacuuming, your carpets and rugs need a deep-clean to remove stubborn dirt that’s become embedded in the fibres. We believe dry-cleaning is the best solution, with a powder-based cleaning agent that you sprinkle on the carpet, massage in and then vacuum away. It might take a little longer than other cleaning methods, but it will ensure you achieve the desired results without damaging your carpet in the process.”
You can often run the vacuum over your sofa too, and the Sofology experts suggest: “For extra TLC, we recommend a weekly wipe down with a slightly damp cotton cloth and a quick vacuum with the soft tip brush attachment.”