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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Emery


Emery Design Associates, LLC 2016 (Photo Credit Lily Napach)

I will never forget a call from a client early on in my career. She had spilled something on her living room rug, and poured one cleaner after another on it. Between the toxic cleaners and her vigorous rubbing, she created a hole in the rug, and then called me out of the desperate hope that I would have some magical answer. Wish I had one. Still do. However, I did learn from then on to warn my clients that when it comes to cleaning products, less is always more. These days, I make sure to tell everyone as new carpeting or upholstered furniture is being installed, or an area rug is delivered and laid out, if you spill something on it, do not panic! First, go get a clean white cloth, or paper towels, and blot, do not rub, the stain. If you keep at it, you should be able to pick up most, if not all, of the offending material. Then call a professional cleaner and tell them what caused the stain. If you didn't see if happen, and don't know what caused it, you should still call a professional and let them take care of it. They will have a better chance of removing or reversing the stain if they know what caused it. This is no guarantee that the stain will completely disappear, but at least you won't do further damage, and it is highly likely it will be much improved.  

I have two children, not to mention a husband and a cat, and have lost track of how many accidents we have had: chocolate milk spilled on a beige sofa, mixed berry smoothie spilled on an off white shag rug, red wine spilled on a white chair, our long-haired cat throwing up a fur ball on our off-white rug two days after it was installed, etc. It's amazing how much damage every day family living can do. But my kids have now learned what to do and what not to do when something happens, so even if I'm not home, they know to get the paper towels, and start dabbing, and that's it!  

This is the spot where my kids dropped an entire glass full of a mixed berry smoothie, and then cleaned it up themselves!

Once you have dabbed as much as possible, you can also try some seltzer water and keep dabbing. Please note, I only recommend water or seltzer water on carpeting, as some upholstery fabrics will get a water mark which can be worse than the stain. Even some types of carpeting, like sisal, will get water stains which may be worse than the original stain. Usually you can find out the manufacturer's recommendation regarding water, but if in doubt test it in an inconspicuous spot, or do not use it. Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, you may not be able to remove the stain. This happened not too long ago when I received a panicked call from a long time client who already knew exactly what to do, when visiting family dropped some black makeup in a very prominent place on her recently installed light gray bedroom rug. But even the professionals could not entirely get rid of the stain. However, I was able to get a carpet technician to come in and cut out the stained area, and sew in a remnant piece of the same carpet. It wasn't as good as new, but close enough, and the client heaved a great sigh of relief. Save your carpet remnants, you never know when they might come in handy... People with pets should purchase Nature's Miracle, available on Amazon. It helps neutralize smells from accidents thereby preventing a reoccurrence, and also removes stains. Again, read the instructions carefully, and test on an inconspicuous spot first.

Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and receive a small commission if you click through to Amazon from any product images or links I provide, and then order. In fact, I will receive a commission on anything you order in that same transaction. There is no additional cost to you, and I only recommend products that I have tried and tested.

Boots the cat!

For general cleaning and maintenance, you should plan to get your rugs and upholstery cleaned every 1-2 years, depending on the level of traffic in your house. The longer you let dirt accumulate, the harder it will be to get it fully clean.

In my family, we also take some other precautions to help avoid general dirt. We take our shoes off when we enter the house, and ask our guests to do the same. It has quickly become a habit that we don't even think twice about. I have also installed a shoe rack inside the coat closet door so we have a place to put all those shoes rather than piling them up on the floor of the foyer.   Finally, try to remember that everything will be okay in the end, (or at least much improved), and to quote a favorite movie, "if it is not okay, then it is not yet the end". Oh yes, and don't forget not to panic!

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