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Article is courtesy of the Carpet and Rug Institute

Editors note: Below are general guidelines for spot removal, for specific stain problems go immediately to Carpet and Rug Institute Spot Solver and scroll through their "Select Stain Type". This is wonderful site.

Jump To:

Spot Removal Steps

Difficult Stains

Pet Stains

Water Damaged Carpet

 No one likes it when there is a spill on the floor, but with the help of the CRI, it can be cleaned before becoming a permanent part of the carpet. The information listed below will prepare you to properly deal with spills and keep your carpet clean for years to come.

Spot Removal Steps

Act Quickly! Most carpet available today has been treated with a stain-resist treatment, so many spills

can be removed if immediate action is taken. The longer the delay, the higher the probability of a spill

becoming a permanent stain. Remember, staining is influenced by many factors, and no carpet is

completely stain proof.

 Blot liquids with a dry, white, absorbent cloth or white (no printing) paper towels.

 Do not scrub the area! Scrubbing can cause pile distortion in the affected area. Continue to use a dry cloth or paper towels until the area is completely dry. For semi-solids, gently scrape up with a rounded spoon. Solids should be broken up and vacuumed until completely removed.

If the spot can be identified, locate the substance in the spot removal computer and follow the directions carefully.

Pretest any spot removal agent in an inconspicuous area to make certain the solution will not damage

the fiber or the dye. After applying several drops to the testing area, hold a white cloth on the wet area for

10 seconds. Examine the carpet and cloth for color transfer, color change, or damage to the carpet. If a change occurs, another cleaning solution should be selected.

Apply a small amount of the selected cleaning solution to a white cloth, allow to sit for about 10

minutes and work in gently. Work from the edges of the spill to the center to prevent the spill from spreading. Do not scrub! Blot, absorbing as much as possible, and repeat if necessary.

Continue using the first cleaning solution as long as there is a transfer of the spill to the cloth. It is not necessary to use all of the cleaning solutions if the first solution removes the spill. Be patient! Complete removal of the spill may require repeating the same step several times.


After the spill has been completely removed, rinse the affected area thoroughly with cold water, and

blot with a dry cloth until all of the solution has been removed. Some cleaning solutions will cause rapid

soiling if the solution is not completely removed. Apply a one-half inch layer of white paper towels to the

affected area, and weigh down with a flat, heavy object. Continue to change paper towels as needed.


A dry, absorbent, cleaning compound may be used as a substitute to accelerate drying time.

Acid Substances
Strong acids, such as battery acids and some tile cleaning compounds, if spilled on a carpet, require prompt action to prevent serious damage. First, flush the affected area with water. Sponge up the excess and repeat the process several times until the acid has been diluted and washed away. Finally, sponge the area with a solution prepared by adding one (1) tablespoon of baking soda to one (1) quart of warm water. Rinse again. Dry the carpet as quickly and thoroughly as possible.


Difficult Stains Back To Top

To remove blood, use only cool cleaning solutions to prevent setting the stain. Removal of bloodborne pathogens may require the assistance of a carpet cleaning professional.

Burn damage can be remedied only by reweaving, retufting, or resectioning the damaged area. However, the appearance of an area of charred carpet can be improved by carefully clipping off blackened ends of tufts using small, sharp scissors. Trim surrounding tufts to minimize indentation.

Chewing Gum
Heat gum with an electric hair dryer using caution not to melt the fiber. Allow softened gum to adhere to a plastic sandwich bag and lift from carpet. Apply methyl salicyclate (i.e. Extra Strength Ben Gay) and repeat the process. When gum is fully removed, clean the area with a detergent solution followed by a warm water rinse. Repeat if necessary.

Dye Stains
Many beverages, medicines, cosmetics, foods, and other liquids contain dyes. These dyes may be absorbed into the fibers making removal very slow or impossible. Follow dye spot removal procedures on the spot chart. If removal does not appear to be possible, call your carpet cleaning professional for advice. Sometimes the stain can be hidden by spot dyeing, retufting, or by repairing the affected area.

Fingernail Polish
Use a non-acetate fingernail polish remover. Apply a small amount of the fingernail polish remover to a white cloth, and work in gently - do not rub - working from the edges of the spill to the center to prevent spreading. Allow to remain on the spill a few minutes. Be patient, blotting the area several times.

Lukewarm tap water should be used in most cases to rinse the cleaning solutions from the carpet fiber. Failure to completely rinse the solutions from the fiber may cause accelerated soiling.

Whenever using a cleaning solution on your carpet, make sure you pre-test the spot removal solution (for color transfer to the cloth or damage to the carpet) in an inconspicuous area.

Ink (Ballpoint Pen)
Follow recommended procedures on the Spot Removal Chart to contain the spill using rubbing alcohol as the dry cleaning solvent. Rubbing alcohol (90% isopropyl) can be used as a dry cleaning solvent by applying with a cloth or towel. Do not pour rubbing alcohol directly onto the carpet.

Some mustards contain very strong dyes that are difficult to remove. It may be necessary to remove the stained area and reinsert an undamaged section of carpet.

Rust almost always requires professional service because the chemicals required are hazardous when used improperly. If the stain is fresh, the spot removal procedures on the stain chart may be successful.

Pet Stains Back To Top

 Owners of even the best-trained pets will occasionally encounter pet accidents. Often, the urine is not discovered until long after the accident. The types of damage from pet stains can be diverse and are dependent upon the makeup of the urine. Urine content will change over the pet’s life because of the pet’s diet, medications, age, health, sex, and reproductive cycles. Because of these variations, some urine stains may not be removable.


To treat urine-damaged areas:

  • Blot damp areas as soon as the urine is detected, with plain white paper toweling.

  • Apply a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of a liquid dishwashing detergent (non-bleach and non-lanolin) with one cup of lukewarm water. Do not use automatic dishwashing detergent or laundry detergent.

  • Absorb the moisture with paper towel, rinse with warm water and repeat the application of detergent. Continue rinsing and blotting with the detergent solution and water as long as there is a transfer to the toweling or improvement in the spot.

  • Follow the detergent application with a solution of two tablespoons of ammonia with one cup of water. Rinse with warm water and repeat. Blot dry.

  • Blot the area with a solution of one cup white vinegar to two cups water, and blot dry.

  • Apply a half-inch layer of paper towels to the affected area, and weigh down with a flat, heavy, non-fading object. Continue to change paper towels until completely dry.


Urine can affect the dyes used in carpet, although not all occurrences will result in a permanent stain. Success is dependent upon the content of the urine, the dyes and finish used, and the time elapsed after the deposit. Some urine spots may be immediately noticeable, while others may take weeks or months for a reaction. The dyes may change color immediately after contact with urine. Color can sometimes be restored by treating the area with a solution of two tablespoons of a clear, non-sudsy ammonia in one cup of water. While this treatment is not always successful in restoring color, the ammonia can be effective in removing urine content and reducing objectionable odors.

When urine spots develop slowly and are noticed after much time has elapsed, the dyes and carpet fibers may be permanently damaged. In beige carpet, blue dyes are attacked by pet urine, leaving behind the red and yellow dyes with a resulting stain appearing red, yellow, or orange.

Pet urine, left unattended, can damage carpet in several ways. Moisture can weaken the layers of the carpet, allowing separation or delamination of the backing material. Seam areas can be particularly damaged and can separate.

Another problem, especially with cats, is odor. Unless the cat urine can be completely removed, complete odor removal is unlikely. A number of products are available to combat odor, but may simply mask the odor, and, in times of high humidity, the odor may reappear. Recently, enzymes, available at pet stores and veterinary offices, have been developed that are more effective; but they may be better used by a carpet cleaning professional. If odor cannot be removed, the damaged area of the carpet can be replaced with a piece from reserved scrap. If carpet replacement is necessary, then replacement of cushion and even subflooring may also be necessary.

Some carpet manufacturers have developed backings that resist spills and even prevent the spillage from penetrating the carpet into the carpet cushion and, perhaps, the subfloor. Check with your carpet dealer about these products.

Water Damaged Carpet Back To Top

How can I restore water-damaged carpet?

There is no single procedure for dealing with all flood damage situations. Each situation is different and must be evaluated individually by an expert.

Determine whether the flood water is sanitary, unsanitary, or black water. Only in sanitary conditions should you attempt to clean and restore the carpet yourself. Cleaning professionals should be called in to handle the adverse affects of disease-carrying bacteria contained in unsanitary and black water conditions. If you cannot reasonably determine the water quality, call the CRI information line for assistance.


  • Sanitary -- may include uncontaminated sink or toilet overflows and ruptured pipes.

  • Unsanitary -- any water with some degree of biopollutant contamination, including punctured waterbeds and contaminated toilet and dishwater overflows.

  • Black Water -- water that has come into contact with the ground or that contains raw sewage; this includes, but is not limited to, natural flooding. Unfortunately, carpet flooded by black water must be discarded because of the high-level intrusion of bacteria and other pollutants.

Before restoration can begin, you must identify the source and stop the incoming flow of water from its source. In sanitary water situations, once the water has been stopped, extraction of excess water from the carpet must begin immediately. To reduce the possibility of fungal growth, the carpet cushion should be discarded. In natural flooding or rising water situations, the carpet and carpet cushion should be replaced immediately to minimize possible health concerns.

Immediate Steps:


  • Quickly remove any furnishings that may be damaged by the intrusion and may stain or damage the carpet.
  • Keep traffic over the wet carpet to a minimum. Moisture can weaken the latex backing in carpet, and excess traffic may cause the backing to separate. Once dry, the backing should regain much of its original strength.
  • Use fans to increase ventilation, a vacuum designed to extract water (if available), and dehumidifiers to speed up the drying process (only in sanitary conditions). The carpet should be completely dry within 24 hours after the elimination of the water source, to minimize the growth of bacteria and fungi.

Because each situation is different, consult a cleaning professional to determine whether or not the carpet can be salvaged. Oftentimes, the insurance agent will hire a cleaning professional for the homeowner. The cleaning professional should extract the excess water, clean and disinfect the carpet, or remove it if necessary. Call the Carpet and Rug Institute’s information line, 1-800-882-8846, to find out more about choosing a cleaning professional.

Additional information is available in the IICRC Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration S500-94 document prepared by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification at 2715 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661, phone 360 693 5675.Back To Top<

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