Cleaning‎ > ‎

Spills, Spots and Stains

What's the difference between spills, spots, and permanent stains?

A spill is a fresh accident.

With today’s stain-resistant carpet, treating spots and stains has never been easier. The key is to act quickly! The longer you wait, the higher the probability that a spill will become a permanent stain.

With most carpet, fresh spills will come out with ease if removal is attempted quickly. Most spills require time to attach to carpet dye sites before you have difficulty removing them. Note: Scotchgard professionally every couple of years will help the carpet to resist absorbing stains. These treatments wear and wash away over time, so periodic reapplication is necessary.

If the spill remains for an extended period a spot will likely develop. A spot will remain visible after the spill has dried and may require more time, expertise, and possibly even specialty stain removal solutions to remove. An ordinary soda spill with high sugar content may fall into this category. If not properly removed, the sugar will continue to attract soil and the spill will reappear. A red drink spill would be a more difficult spot because these drinks use the same dyes that the carpet industry uses to dye its fiber. These spots may require professional assistance with specialty chemicals if not dealt with immediately. They may develop into a permanent stain.



  • Blot liquids with a dry, white absorbent cloth or plain white paper towels (no prints or colors). Use of a printed or colored material may transfer ink or dye to your damp carpet.
  • Start at the outside of the spot and continue toward the center to prevent the stain from spreading. Continue step one until the area is barely damp. Semisolids, like food spills, may need to be scooped up with a spoon. Solid, dried bits can be vacuumed up. Warning: do not scrub or use a brush. Scrubbing and brushes can damage the carpet.


  • Use a CRI Seal of Approval carpet cleaning product. Though these have been laboratory tested, you should still pretest any cleaner on a scrap of carpet or in a hidden area of your carpet.
  • Follow the product’s directions carefully. Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a white cloth and work in gently, from the edges to the center. Blot; don’t scrub. Never use a brush. You may need to do this several times to remove the spot.
  • When cleaning stains and spills, don’t become overzealous. Mix the cleaning solutions according to the directions. In truth, more is not better. Don’t use too much water; try to keep the carpet as dry as possible. And always remember to pretest the product on an inconspicuous spot of carpet.

If you don’t have an approved carpet cleaner handy, try one of these homemade remedies:

  • Use plain water. Surprisingly, water often works better than untested carpet cleaners do.
  • Use a detergent solution. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of a clear (nonbleach, nonlanolin) dishwashing liquid with one cup of warm water. Never use laundry detergent; it may contain bleach or simply be too harsh.
  • Use a white vinegar solution. Mix one cup white (not red wine or cider) vinegar with 1 cup of water. White vinegar (5 percent acetic acid) is sometimes effective on tannins (weak vegetable dyes found in tea and coffee), and it leaves no residue. However, be careful because acids can set some other dye stains.

Permanent stains are…well…permanent.

These may be stains where color is added to the fiber like iodine or betadine, or they may be stains where color has been stripped, as with bleach or acne medications. In some cases, a carpet cleaning professional may be able to bleach this area devoid of color and redye the area. A good redye professional can return this area to its original color with little or no visible color difference.
Some stains may be removed... and reoccur.
Reoccurring stains may be attributed to a number of factors, including the use of detergent solutions that attract soil. Another common reason for resoiling is wicking. Wicking is the evaporation or drawing up of soil/stains from the base of the carpet tufts or from the carpet backing itself. Some stains may be absorbed by the carpet backing and spread. This is a primary reason why you should act quickly in removing any carpet stain.