systematically with carpet stains
There are basically four kinds of spots:
1. Water stains that have left
rings are often complicated by the
presence of binding materials if the area is attached to another
2. Those resulting from a coloured liquid, which has stained the fibres
like dyes or some inks.
3. Those resulting from liquid containing corrosive elements (urine,
wine, food colouring, rusty water, blood and sweat) that have attacked
the fibres and discoloured them.
4. Solid deposits, e.g. wax, paint, food grease, glue.
The first three groups will need a high proportion of water to remove
them, helped by the addition of a detergent, bleach or a reagent of
some kind. The fourth group will need organic solvents.
The solvents and reagents that form the basis of a spotting kit can be
divided into four groups, each containing related substances.
Group 1 Non-water miscible solvents: Hydrocarbons or chlorinated
hydrocarbons, like mineral spirits, trichloroethylene, d-limonene.
Group 2 Water-soluble solvents: Glycols, such as ethanol;
isopropyl alcohol or glycol ethers, such as 2-butoxy ethanol (butyl cellusolve);and ketones like acetone.
Group 3 Neutral detergents, such as ammonia, oxidizing
agent/bleaching agent, rust remover.
Group 4 Protein-based detergents or digesters.
Trials should be made in a set pattern with the group, which seems
most likely to provide the answer. If the one group gives signs of
being effective then another from the same group would be the next
Many deposits, especially old paint or glues, swell and become sticky,
but will not go into solution. As they swell they can be scraped off the
surface with a metal spatula, but the residue will always be left
Gather a selection of solvents, reagents, white towels and
several small containers in which solvent can be poured. Apply
solvent or reagent with the towel if any scrubbing has to be done or
with a dropper or brush if reaction alone is needed. Always pre-test
for colour fastness.
Using a reagent
A reagent is used to remove rust stains, blue copper stains, dye
stains, bloodstains, etc. Once the work has been accomplished, it's
important to wash or rinse with clean water to remove the reagent.
The problem is to avoid creating a stain that is lighter than the
surroundings. Because pH is a critical factor in many reactions, it is
best to apply to a dry area to restrict the area that is affected by the
pH of whatever is being applied by dilution. A swab soaked in the
reagent can be placed on the stain and then covered with a small
piece of plastic to prevent it from drying.
With coloured fabrics, there is a danger of not simply bleaching the
dye, but of changing the colour. Reds can turn blue in an alkali and
orange in an acid. Sometimes this effect is reversible but not always.
Always pre-test on a small inconspicuous area.
Removing solid deposits
Try to scrape away as much of the solid as possible before trying to
dissolve or soften it. Use a non-staining spatula. Wax can be partially
removed with heat, by placing absorbent paper above and below and
applying a warm iron. However, when wax is simply sitting on top of
the fabric, this can drive it further in. Scraping followed by a
hydrocarbon solvent, is safer. Place absorbent paper below any area
being treated and change it as soon as it becomes soiled.
One useful trick is to use two ingredients that have different
properties but are miscible together, one being more volatile than the
other. For instance, when water is used, isopropyl alcohol can be
sprayed around the edge of the area. This will have the effect of
drying out the water more quickly and helping to prevent ringing. The
same can be done with mineral spirits and isopropyl alcohol.
Feathering out also helps by keeping the perimeter of the wetted
area on the move outward, with gentle strokes across the surface of
the fabric from half dry white towels.