A good quality carpet could last for many years with proper care and maintenance.
The first thing to know about stains is that the longer they sit, the more difficult they are to remove. But what are the best methods for different types of stains? Memorize the following tips and you'll be ready the next time accident strikes. And always test each method on a scrap of carpet or in a far corner of a closet to make sure it won't harm the carpet:
Food and Drink Stains
Start by scooping up what you can into a paper towel using a blunt instrument like a spool. (If the spill includes an excess amount of liquid, a dry/wet vacuum should be employed.) Then use a clean, white absorbent cloth or paper towel to blot-never rub-with warm water. Press down firmly to remove as much moisture as possible. Repeat until no stain appears on the cloth.
If the stain is stubborn and won't come out, make a solution of one quart of warm water and one teaspoon of mild non-bleach laundry detergent (the liquid kind). Don't use dishwasher detergent. Apply this solution to the stain, let it sit for about five minutes and blot up excess moisture. Rinse with warm water and again remove the moisture by blotting. Repeat until there's no more detergent in the carpet. This is important because any residual detergent may cause soiling.
Always scoop and blot. Here again, most stains clean up with warm water. Next use the detergent solution as mentioned above. After all the detergent is removed, apply a solution of two tablespoons of white vinegar to one quart of water. This will neutralize the odor.
Blot up all excess moisture, as mold can easily grow under damp carpet. To be sure all the moisture is removed, place a clean, white absorbent towel on the spot and place some type of weight on the towel. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Repeat the process with another, dry towel if necessary. When the carpet is completely dry, vacuum or brush the pile to remove any dents the weight has made in that spot.
Scoop and blot, and then apply a non-oily polish remover. Blot with a clean, white absorbent cloth. Remember to test the nail-polish remover on a scrap of carpet first. Some carpets will lose color. If this is the case, have a professional carpet cleaner take care of the problem.
Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, an interior designer in Naples, Fla., is the author of Mystery of Color.