Carpet cleaners

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Get rid of stubborn stains.

Do you have dirty footprint stains on your nice clean carpet? We found a home recipe carpet cleaner that blew the store cleaners away. We also tested liquid, powder and foam carpet spot and stain removers. See how they fared against red wine, oil and dirt, a mixture of tomato and soy sauce and coffee.

From our test

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Types of stains

No matter what you’ve spilt, there are two types of carpet stains.

Fresh, which are no more than a few hours old, and set-in, which may have been in the carpet for days, weeks or even months. Some cleaners are designed to tackle one type but not the other. There are also cleaners recommended by the manufacturer for both types.

Foam and powder cleaners typically come in a pressurised can while liquid cleaners are often in spray bottles. There are also cleaners that are worked into the carpet with an applicator brush. Once the cleaner has done its job, some need to be blotted away with a clean cloth, while others need to be vacuumed up once the carpet is dry.

Where to start

  • Treat the stain as soon as possible.
  • First, remove as much of the stain as possible. For liquid stains, blot up as much as you can with a clean dry cloth.
  • Use light dabbing motions to blot away as much of the stain as possible — don't scrub (it can damage the carpet pile and leave matted fibres).
  • Dilute the stain with cold water and continue blotting until the stain fades. Don't saturate the carpet — if the backing becomes wet it can create new stains or even grow mould.
  • Candle wax, crayon and gum are easier to remove after being frozen with ice. To keep your carpet dry, put the ice in a watertight bag before applying.
  • Always first test the cleaner on an inconspicuous patch of carpet to check it won't affect the colour. Do this even if the instructions don’t mention it.
  • Large or stubborn stains may need multiple applications or professional carpet cleaning. Some stains permanently change the carpet's colour, and are untreatable. These include types of dye (such as hair dye), chlorine bleach, mustard with turmeric, acid or alkaline cleaners, and plant fertilisers.
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Home recipe

We included a home recipe in our test that wiped out the competition. The recipe of dishwashing liquid, white vinegar and water scored an astounding 80% and was the top carpet cleaner in our test. It cleaned all our stains well, and was particularly good at removing oil/dirt and sauce stains.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water

How we test

We use three test methods to test cleaners based on their application and removal methods, while also following any additional instructions on the packaging.

We tested on stains including red wine, oil and dirt, a mixture of tomato and soy sauce and coffee. We applied the stains to 100% wool carpet squares and let them set for a few days. We took reflectance readings of the carpet squares before and after cleaning to assess how much of the stain was removed. Each cleaner was tested four times per stain. The average of the reflectance readings is calculated.

Spray and applicator brush cleaners

Method A:
We apply 5ml/g of cleaner to the centre of the carpet square. The carpet is left for a set time, as specified on the packaging. We then gently rub/blot the cleaner into the carpet with a clean damp cloth for 30 seconds. The carpet square is then left to dry.

Foam spray and powder cleaners

Method B:
We apply 5g of cleaner to the centre of the carpet square. We then gently rub/blot the cleaner into the carpet with a clean cloth for 30 seconds. The carpet is left for a set time, as specified on the packaging, then the carpet is vacuumed.

Method C:
We apply 5g of cleaner to the centre of the carpet square. The carpet is left for a set time, as specified on the packaging, then the carpet is vacuumed.

Safety first

Cleaners are a dangerous household product, but carpet cleaners can be one of the worst.

Some carpet cleaners come in highly flammable cans with butane and hydrocarbon gases, while others produce chemical or powder clouds that shouldn’t be ingested. Most carpet cleaners contain cleaning agents that can cause skin irritation. We recommend wearing gloves and a mask when using carpet cleaners and ensuring the area is well ventilated by opening doors and windows.

Always keep your cleaners away from children — ideally in a high or locked cupboard.

If anyone swallows cleaning product, immediately rinse out their mouth with water and phone your doctor or the National Poisons Centre (0800 POISON).

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