How to Remove Stains and Perform Other Repairs on Your Carpet

Every carpet is subject to wear, and few survive without experiencing an accident or two. Most of the problems we’re apt to have won’t necessitate calling a professional, nor is it likely that the whole carpet will need to be replaced. Spot repairs are relatively simple, requiring a few basic tools (and more sophisticated equipment can always be rented for the project, to save money).

There’s a couple ways to anticipate carpet problems in advance and plan for them. If you do, at some point, put in new carpet, you might consider keeping a few strips of the old around. This can help in a pinch, as you’ll see. Also give some attention to basic care: vacuum at least once a week; and, if possible, remove your shoes or boots when you’re indoors and walk around in your socks. This does more than just keep carpet looking pleasant; it also promotes its longevity, because accumulated dust and dirt are major culprits in the grinding down of its fibers.

In the event of spills, the most crucial thing is to respond quickly before stains can set in. Cold water, applied with a wet cloth, can work well for a bloodstain – especially if it’s fresh. Always remember to blot your carpet, not scrub it. Blotting is a motion that lifts stains, while scrubbing will more likely grind them deeper in. If you’re dealing with wine and/or food stains, white vinegar can usually remove it without altering the color of your carpet. For stronger stains (as well as accompanying odors, such as those from a puppy accident or a cat’s spray) you might want to resort to enzyme stain removers, which are available at most pet shops. Saturate the stained or smelly area with enzyme (be sure to follow the label’s instructions) and allow it to completely dry – this may take several days.

What if a stain stubbornly refuses to budge despite any of these treatments? What about burns from a cigarette, or an ember that popped out of the fireplace? In these cases, you’ll probably have no choice but to cut out the portion of carpet with the visible blemish and put a new – and, ideally, identical – piece in its place. This is when it can be handy to have some remnants of the former carpet (and also a reason why it’s advantageous to get new carpet that matches the colors and patterns of the old). Baring that, you can resort to a trusty landlords’ technique and replace your stained or burned carpet with a patch cut from a dimly lit and rarely seen area in a closet. You can then replace what you take out of the closet with carpet swatch, which is available at any carpet store.

To perform this transfer task, you’ll need a utility knife or carpet cutting tool (this resembles a large cookie cutter), seam adhesive, some double-sided carpet tape (you can find this at any home improvement store), and an iron if the kind of tape you have is heat activated. It’s a good idea to clean the carpet beforehand, as this will make worn or stained areas stand out more. If you use a carpet cutting tool, make sure that it’s large enough to cut out a patch that’s bigger than the damaged area. Proper use of this tool involves pressing it down and then turning back and forth, in a circular motion, while applying pressure. You’ll want to go about two inches passed the edge of a stain or burn. If you’re using a utility knife, push it between the carpet fibers so that only the backing is cut. Once you’ve done this, use your cut patch as a template for cutting an identical patch from the closet area.

When you lay down your carpet carpet tape, make sure that it comes up no higher than the edges of the good carpet. Place your patch in the hole and make whatever adjustments will allow its pattern to blend seamlessly with the surrounding area. The patch and the carpet at its edge can then be bonded with the seam adhesive.

Small burns won’t require such an extensive operation: you can usually trim them off with small sizzors.

Sometimes old carpet will pull away from its seams. This is a sign that the old carpet tape under the seam is no longer adhesive. It will have to be removed and replaced with adhesive tape (either double sided or heat activated). Cut a strip of tape that’s long enough to buffer the entire lifted edge. Then firmly fasten both seam edges to the tape. Heat activated tape becomes sticky when heated with an iron (you can use a clothes iron, or rent a seam iron). In this case, move along with one hand behind the iron, pushing down each portions in its turn after it’s been heated.

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