We’ve all been there. The that cup full of Kool-aid, cherry flavored soda or red wine tumbles over the table and drips, leaving a red stain in your carpet. If it’s your first experience with red coloring, you might think it’s like every other stain and it just needs to be wiped up with some kind of carpet cleaning solution.
You might even ignore it, sopping up the moisture and thinking you would clean the stain out later. Then the time comes when you are on your knees, can of carpet cleaner in hand, scrubbing and watching in dismay as the stain only turns pink and then stays there no matter what you do. You might go buy a new stain removing agent, rent a special carpet cleaning machine, all to no avail.
Red stains in your carpet are almost impossible to get out without the right expertise. You might even find that all your efforts make matters worse, as some cleaning products will cause the red stain to sink deeper into the carpet fibers. Or, you might cause those tight little twists of fibers to fray, leaving a large area of fuzzy carpet that doesn’t match the rest.
There are things you can try that reduce your chances of this happening, but you may find that hiring a professional is more comfortable to you, with less risk. If you want to give it a shot, read on.
Red dye removal from carpet involves more than just spraying and scrubbing. The red coloring will probably lift if you use the right techniques.
First, mix together a solution of warm water and a small amount of dish soap. Don’t add too much, two or three tablespoons in a gallon of warm water should do the trick. Pour the solution over the stain. Get a cheap WHITE towel (it will be ruined after this process, so don’t use your expensive guest towels) and lay it over the stained area. Get an iron and set it to low to medium heat. Once heated, press down on the white towel, allowing the moisture to steam up through the towel.
You will probably start to notice that the towel is turning pink. That means it’s working. The red dye is moving from the carpet and into the warm, wet towel.
Repeat this process until the stain is gone. You might notice that there is some fraying of the carpet fibers with repeated applications, but this might be preferable to you over a bright red stain.
If you have done the steps and still see pink, it’s time to call a professional. Often your local carpet cleaner will know how to remove the stain for good.
The first thing to remember with any stain is to blot, not rub. Physics makes liquids move into the available spaces in dry materials. With gravity, that means down and out. Think about spilling your red wine on concrete. Would wiping it be more effective than laying a towel over it and letting it soak into the towel? Probably not. Wiping would only spread the stain and that means less of it is getting lifted into the towel.
The magic of terry cloth or a good quality paper towel is that it soaks up liquids, even against gravity. These materials are engineered to do that. So, while your spill is attempting to spread down and out, a towel applied with blotting pressure will counteract that movement and pull it back up.
Whether your wine just spilled seconds ago or you have added water to it days later, you want to blot, not rub.
Red wine is essentially dye in a bottle. All the colors in wine are naturally produced, but these colors have been used for centuries for coloring fabric, paint, and pottery. And, if you’ve ever seen a 1,000 year old piece of pottery with red designs on it, you know that this is truly a long lasting dye.
When you have a spill, there are a few things you can try. First of all, avoid dry heat. If the stain is still there and you put your shirt or carpet in the dryer, it’s game over. This is the exact way that dye is set when it’s done on purpose for textiles.
Club soda and Oxyclean both have the same action, bubbling and lifting. They both work great in lifting old red wine stains. The wet heat method we mentioned above also works for dried stains. If the wine has just spilled, pour salt on it and wait. Soon, the salt will turn red and your carpet may be totally clean.
If your stain is not red, consider yourself lucky. Heavily dyed drinks still present a problem, but none are as daunting as red dye. If your spill is dark purple, bright blue, or yellow, many of the techniques we have mentioned will still work for you. Luckily, they are not as difficult to remove.
There are some drinks that might surprise you with their staining power. Dr. Pepper has a lot of red dye in it, even though it appears to be brown. So, after you start soaking it up, what is left is often as pink as any punch. Coffee and cola can do some damage, though diet versions are often surprisingly easy to clean, even after they have dried.
Most of the stains you encounter will really be sticky substances that appear to be invisible, but attract dirt after weeks or months of traffic. If you have a lot of these yucky brown stains, it’s time to get your carpets cleaned. Attempting to attack these on your own will only lead to soap residue in your carpet and more buildup.
Yes, you might be able to get rid of a red stain without calling a carpet cleaner, but you are taking on some risk to your carpet in your attempts to DIY. When in doubt, make the call and get peace of mind.