Stain Removal Tips

(Rug Cleaning - part 2)

Let’s look at different cleaning methods and stain removal tips for various types of natural rugs as well as synthetic rugs. These tips will show you how to take care of the most common spots and spills.

Professional Rug Cleaning
The services of a professional rug cleaner should be utilized periodically to ensure your rugs get a complete and thorough cleaning to help keep them at their best. A professional will know the best rug and carpet cleaning methods for the different types of rugs.

It is highly recommended to always let a professional clean certain types of rugs, such as high-quality rugs, hand-made Persian and Oriental rugs, as well as antique rugs.

Here’s a practical rule of thumb to keep in mind: The more valuable a rug is or the more fragile it is, the more you should be inclined to have the rug professionally cleaned.

Many professional rug cleaners offer in-home service for rugs that are too large or too heavy to take in.

Does Your Rug Need Cleaning?
There are telltale signs that let you know if your rug needs to be cleaned.

  • Take a plain white towel and dampen it and then rub it across the surface of the rug. If the towel becomes soiled, you’ll know that the rug needs to be cleaned.
  • Lift a corner of the rug and if dirt comes out when you slap the rug with the back of your hand, it’s time for a good cleaning.
  • Look at the foundation of the rug by gently pulling the fibers apart and if you see dirt in the warp and weft threads of the foundation, then a good rug cleaning is needed.
  • If you have a cat or dog and you catch the pet leaving a mark, there’s a good chance it may have happened before. Clean the rug and get a book about behavior modification for pets.

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Spills happen!
And when they do, its best to take care of them right away. No need for a professional rug cleaner in most cases. Usually, quick action and a few simple steps are all you need to take care of a spill.

Time is of the essence when there is a spill on a rug. Many rugs have a stain-resistant treatment that does not allow the spill to be absorbed into the rug right away, giving you a few minutes to start taking action.

Also, wool fibers have a natural tendency to shed liquid, so quick action can keep the spill from getting worse.

Most liquids can be blotted with a plain white (no printing or design) paper towel if done before the liquid has a chance to be absorbed into the rug. Do not use a rubbing or scrubbing motion, as that will spread the liquid and/or cause pile distortion.

Food spills that are solid or semi-solid (things like peanut butter, jelly, fruit or ice cream) can be picked up with a spoon or the edge of a blunt knife. The remaining stain can be removed using white paper (plain white paper towels, tissue or napkins) to blot and absorb the moisture. Then, if needed, apply a little bit of the cleaning solution as shown below.

Make Your Own Cleaning Solution
(can be used on Wool, Acrylic, Nylon, Olefin or Polyester)

Make a detergent solution for cleaning spots and spills as follows:

  • One teaspoon of a mild dishwashing detergent OR one teaspoon of a neutral detergent (such as liquid Lux, Dreft, or Vel – a brand used for washing lingerie)
  • One teaspoon of pure white vinegar
  • Combine those two things in a quart of warm water

Here is a list of common stains where you can expect to get good results by using this do-it-yourself cleaning solution. Unless otherwise noted, it can be applied to rugs made of wool, acrylic, nylon, olefin or polyester.

First, absorb as much liquid as possible (with a plain white paper towel) and the use a plain white cloth to apply the solution to the spot by dabbing it on. Do not use a vigorous rubbing or scrubbing motion because that will cause distortion to the pile. Work inwards from the edges of the spot or spill. Also, work in the direction of the pile as much as possible.


Catsup / Ketchup

Clay (vacuum before applying solution)



Colored Paper (when color transfers to rug)



Food Dye

Fruit Juice

Furniture Dye

Furniture Polish

Glue (animal glue, but not Duco Cement or rubber cement)
(use solution on glue stains only on rugs made of nylon

Grape Drink


Ice Cream (scoop up chunks with a spoon)

Ink – India Ink, Permanent Ink or Washable Ink

Latex Paint




Plaster (vacuum before applying solution)

Rouge (use solution only on rugs made of polyester)

Shoe Polish (liquid or wax type of shoe polish)



Water Colors

Oxygen Cleaners (“Oxy” Cleaners)
Oxygen cleaners work well for spot cleaning a variety of stains on rugs made from synthetic fibers. One of the nice features about oxygen cleaners is that they’re environmentally safe.

These cleaners (most of them) form oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and soda ash when water is added. It is important to follow usage and dilution directions as listed on the packaging. Rinse the area well after cleaning. Also, test for colorfastness on a test area before working on the problem area.

CAUTION: Do not use oxygen cleaners on wool or silk rugs and avoid prolonged skin contact. This is because soda ash (mentioned in paragraph above) is sodium carbonate and it has alkaline properties.

Do not walk on the recently cleaned part of the rug until it is completely dry. This will help prevent pile distortion.

Dry Powder Cleaners
Dry powder cleaners can be used to remove many surface stains on low pile rugs. The dry powder absorbs the dirt particles and then it can be vacuumed up. This relatively simple cleaning method uses no water. For rugs that are heavily soiled, it is best to use another method or let a professional rug cleaner take care of it.

CAUTION: This is not a good option to use with plush rugs or deep pile rugs because the cleaning residue can be hard to remove from these types of rugs.

Dry Foam Cleaners
This cleaning method involves light detergent foam that is worked into the rug and then vacuumed out when it is dry. This method uses little or no water.

CAUTION: Use extreme care on rugs with loops because looped rugs do not have a good tolerance for the beater bar on a vacuum nor other types of brushing.

To avoid pile distortion, wait until the spot is completely dry before walking on that part of the rug.

Steam Cleaning Rugs
There is some debate among rug experts about using a steam cleaner on rugs at home. The main concern is about using too much detergent or too much water or not operating the steam cleaner properly.

Some of the cleaning agents used with rented steam cleaners leave a residue. So, it is a good idea to first test the cleaning agent on a small area. If any residue is present or if the area feels sticky, do not use that product. Seek the advice of a professional, or better yet, just let them clean your rug.

Cleaning Rugs Made of Synthetic Material
Most of the rugs made with synthetic fibers including polypropylene, nylon and acrylic can be cleaned using almost any method of cleaning. Here are three general tips for cleaning synthetic rugs.

  • On dried stains or dry dirt (not mud), vacuum the rug before using one of the cleaning methods. For some stains, you might want to apply a preconditioning solution to start loosening the stain.
  • Follow the recommendations of the rug manufacturer and pay attention to the directions for diluting and applying any cleaning solution. Sounds simple, but many people seem to ignore this.
  • Do not use laundry detergent or automatic dishwasher detergent. Also, avoid using strong household cleaners that are made to clean woodwork, laminate, linoleum or tile.

Cleaning Wool Rugs
Wool rugs can be cleaned using almost any of the cleaning methods, however, try to avoid excessive heat and agitation. Wool rugs should be cleaned with neutral detergents and then dried right away using adequate ventilation, but no heat. Be cautious around household cleaning products, such as bleach and other alkaline products (like bathroom cleaners) because those items can easily damage wool fibers.

CAUTION: Do not use oxygen cleaners on wool rugs.

Cleaning Cotton or Rayon Rugs
Cotton and rayon are both cellulose fibers and can be cleaned with any of the rug cleaning methods. Excessive drying and/or agitation should be avoided to prevent shrinking. As with wool rugs, use caution with alkaline products.

Cleaning Silk Rugs
A dry cleaning process is the best cleaning method for rugs made of silk. Acids, both natural and synthetic, as well as sunlight can damage silk fibers. It is advisable to consult a professional rug cleaner about silk rugs.

CAUTION: Do not use oxygen cleaners on silk rugs.

Cleaning Rugs Made of Sisal or Other Plant Fibers
Sisal, jute, coconut (coir), hemp and ramie all have characteristics that are like that of cotton. Generally, it is safe to clean rugs made of these materials with any of the rug cleaning methods. As with other rugs, it is best to dry the rug quickly, without using excess heat.

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The Stain Removal Tips are Useful, but Rug Finder is Useful AND Fun!
Click the link above - then go to "Rug Finder" in the menu under "Rugs." Select any desired aspect (style, color, material, size). Narrow it down, one option at a time, until you have a rug that's just right for you!

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