Taking The Pain out of Stains – House Proud, The Toronto Sun

Spills are going to happen. Small children drop food bits as if they’re leaving a trail for others to follow. A guest at your dinner party sloshes a beverage onto your Berber carpet.

However it occurs, there’s no sense crying over spilled milk — or spilled anything else, for that matter — if you have the know-how to remove it.  An American flooring manufacturer has released a free iPhone app that’s a how-to guide for removing dozens and dozens of foreign materials from carpets and rugs. They range from the expected (coffee) to the unexpected (battery acid).

The Shaw Floors Stain Center app has homemade recipes for cleaners that include ingredients like white vinegar, ammonia and peroxide. Some spills call for a vacuum, a scraper or a nail brush. However, the dissolution of many stains simply requires water, detergent, paper towels and patience.  The trick is to blot rather than rub.

The contaminants are arranged in alphabetical order, and many of the removal techniques include first-and second-tier approaches depending on the stain’s resistance.   I decided to try a few of them for myself, and although my inner child loved the idea of sprinting through my living room and flinging condiments and paint on the carpet, my outer adult warned against it. So I purchased a small rug the size of a welcome mat that was not treated with a stain repellent, and set out to try to ruin it.

My experiment began with soy sauce. I dotted the rug with the dark liquid and waited as long as I believed it would take for someone to realize they’d spilled the sauce, confess it to the homeowner and grab the iPhone to find the remedy. This one was too easy. I followed the directions — apply a damp towel with detergent on it and blot — and the stain came right up. A final blot with a wet towel removed the detergent, and the rug looked as good as ever.

It was time to kick it up a notch. I blobbed some bright pink nail enamel on the rug and let it dry. I got a bit distracted when I went off to paint my toenails but finally returned to the test.   The Stain Center says to loosen the dry polish with a paper towel dampened with nail polish remover and slowly work the stain in toward itself. It also cautions that trying to do this too quickly might spread the stain instead of remove it. The technique worked — to a point. About three-quarters of the nail polish came up and off, but a faint pink smear remained. In my view, this isn’t a failure.  If I’m foolish enough to use fuchsia nail polish over my good carpeting, I deserve to be left with a permanent reminder. I have a remedy of my own: a potted plant to cover the remaining stain.

The solution for candle wax removal is truly ingenious. Scrape up as much of the dried wax as you can and place a towel or brown paper over the spot. Run a warm clothes iron over the area, taking care not to touch the carpet fibres. The wax comes right up into the paper or towel.

However, I really wanted to take on a tough spot with the ammonia-and-peroxide mix, so I smeared a little hair dye on the rug and waited a bit.

The guide suggests weighting the dampened towel with something heavy, so I employed three hardcover Stephen King novels. Two hours later, the stain had vanished and it was another victory for hand-held technology.

This app makes me feel armed and ready for any of life’s little hazards, and the experiment serves as a reminder to only apply nail polish over a hard surface or suffer the consequences.