Do the over-the-counter carpet spotters I see on TV and in the supermarket work?

Thanks for an excellent question. A brief answer would be: Yes, some do, but rarely with the kind of success you see on TV.

Our favorite TV commercial is where a little boy spills a full plate of spaghetti and sauce on a white carpet. (Who would let a four-year-old go marching around on white carpet, balancing a plate of spaghetti?)

Mom comes calmly in with a spray bottle of X carpet spotter and in a moment the spaghetti and sauce, the big red spot, and even the plate all seem to have miraculously disappeared into the sponge.

An excellent tip is hidden in this commercial. The mom arrives to treat the spot moments after it occurs. That is one of the most important things to know about carpet spotting. The faster you can get to it, the better your chance of success.

Many potential spots can be blotted up with no spotting agent at all if the person would just blot up the spot immediately after it occurs.

Two important rules:

  • Blot, never rub the spot.
  • Pretest all cleaners in an inconspicuous place before using them in an open area.

When an accident occurs, begin by removing as much of the solids as you can. A plastic dustpan or a spatula can be excellent for this. For small areas, the dull side of a spoon is terrific. Then begin blotting in a circle around the edge of the spot. Don't start by spraying something on it (like they do on TV). Keep turning the blotting towel so you always have a clean surface working on the carpet.

Gradually make the circle smaller and smaller until you have gotten to the middle. Repeat this procedure. (Use clean towels or paper towels, as needed.) As long as you are getting some of the spot into your towel, there is no need to spray anything on the spot. When you have removed as much as you can, it's time for a cleaning agent to help. Sometimes you only need a little water or a little club soda.

If you find you need the aid of a chemical cleaning agent, follow the directions on the container. Use and blot with small amounts. Too much liquid added to a spot will rinse the problem down deeper into the carpet. Remember, the lady on TV works for the company that makes and sells the product. She sprays like she's putting out a fire, but you don't have to do that. Use just enough to get the job done.

Three things to be careful of:

1. Some cleaning agents can harm carpet fibers and carpet dyes. When the bottle says to pretest, you aren't looking to see if it works. You're looking to see if it pulls the color out of the carpet!

2. Discard old spotters you may have at home. This makes sense. If the only spotter you have at home is old spotter, that's what you will have to use if a spill happens.

3. Spotters can create spots. Many of them dry to a sticky residue that causes new soils to be attracted to the carpet. Blot out all the spotter. If you think there might still be a little in there, apply and blot a little water or club soda to remove the rest of the spotter.

Ask us.

If you have a question about spotting your carpet, ask us about it. Knowing the construction and age of your carpet, we can make a solid recommendation. We can tell you what works and what doesn't. We can also tell you how to use the product and what to watch out for.

Articles in this newsletter are for general information. Call (650) 525-1100 for free consultation on specific items.

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