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How to Clean Your Carpets

Sure, you can get the pros to come in and clean your carpets, but why not do it yourself? Here's how.

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

General cleaning

1. Mix your solution. Pour a quarter cup of mild liquid dish detergent (make sure it’s free of bleach and alkaline) into a gallon of warm water and mix thoroughly.

2. Do a test on a small, hidden part of the rug to make sure the solution doesn’t cause discoloration.

3. Once you know the solution is safe you can move on to the rest of the rug. Work in small areas -- about two to three square feet -- and continue to use either a spray bottle or a sponge to lightly apply the solution onto the carpet. Then, use a medium-bristle brush to scrub the carpet fibers. For stains that won’t come out, try a toothbrush.

4. After you’ve worked in the solution, use a sponge dipped in clean water and lightly wrung out to remove any excess solution from the rug. Keep rubbing until soap is no longer visible.

5. Repeat the washing and rinsing process on your entire carpet.

6. Use a clean, white, lint-free towel to blot your whole carpet dry. Then, use a stiff-bristled brush to fluff the pile back up.

Stain removal

The first rule of stain removal: Blot, don’t rub. Here are some things to try for various types of stains:

Food stains: Try shaving cream first. Spray it on, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then rinse it with a solution of vinegar and water. You can also try blotting on brake cleaner.

Red wine: Blotting on club soda usually does the trick.

Red dye: Found in Popsicles, drink mixes, cat food, dog food, etc., this is best removed with a solution of water (70 percent) and peroxide (30 percent). Test the solution on a hidden part of the carpet first to check that it doesn’t mess with the color. To get the stain out, leave the solution on for 30 minutes, then dry it out and rinse with vinegar and water.

Oil, grease, magic markers: Try DeSolvit, which you can find at a hardware store or janitorial company. WD40 also may work.

Ink: Try rubbing alcohol. After you blot it on, let it sit for half an hour, then blot it again to remove it.

Gum: Freeze it with ice cubes, then chip off all you can with a kitchen knife (use the blunt side). Get the rest out with DeSolvit.

Now it's time to find out how to get the most out of your vacuum.

-- Paula Kashtan