carpet stain removal Melbourne

Carpet Cleaner Top 5 Don’ts

As a carpet cleaner I have seen it all, the good, the bad and the ugly….

Over the years as a carpet cleaner,  I have seen some pretty funny things put on carpet to try and remove stains. Some work and some are just plain, ridiculous and cause more damage than the original stain!

There is plenty of information out there about what you should put on stains of all kinds.  Some of it is good advice backed up by sound scientific principals and chemistry. Some, however, is complete fiction and could quite possibly have a horror story ending rather than the “happily ever after” most people are looking for!

Here are the top five home remedies to be avoided if you want a happy ending to your red wine nightmare.

1. SaltCarpet Cleaner salt on red wine

Why is it that whenever someone spills red wine, the first thing they do is reach for salt? This remedy has been passed down through the ages and probably had more to do with convenience than science.

In the past (and present), both wine and salt were consumed with most meals.  So salt was often  the closest thing available to throw over a spill.  The aim being to absorb as much of the liquid as possible.

 It sounds logical, until you consider the fact that salt is the ingredient we throw into dye baths to help bond dye to fabric fibres! By piling up a heap of salt on a wine stain, all you are doing is aiding the natural dyes in the wine to penetrate the carpet fibres.  Thereby creating a permanent reminder of your clumsiness!  

The best first action for red wine is to absorb as much of the liquid as you can.  The best way to do this is by using clean white towels or paper towels NOT salt!  Do not panic – remember you can always call a professional carpet cleaner for advice.

2. White wineCarpet cleaner - white wine on red wine

We have all heard the one about pouring white wine over a red wine spill. I believe this also comes from the fact that where there is red wine, there is usually white wine.  So if you spill the red, then try to dilute it with whatever is closest and not as colourful – white wine!  

There is some science behind this method.  Both red and white wines are acidic and acids can be used to dissolve acids. However there are lots of other ingredients in white wine as well. So white wine is probably not the best first choice when it comes to stain removal. 

White wine probably will not cause any further staining, however it will be a very smelly mess and not nearly as effective as some other acids which are odourless when they evaporate, e.g. white vinegar.

The second step when dealing with red wine stains is to dilute the remaining liquid as much as possible without causing any further damage.  I would suggest adding a little cold water (preferably misted on using a spray bottle) and dabbing with a clean dry white cloth.  Repeat as often as necessary until there is no more colour transfer from the stain onto the cloth.  

You could also try adding 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts cold water to the spray bottle.  If in doubt call a professional carpet cleaner for advice!

3. Baking Soda (Bi Carb Soda)Carpet cleaner - baking soda on red wine

While baking soda is something that can be helpful in removing some stains, it can also leave behind a white powdery residue.  This residue is very difficult to remove.  I have read many blogs and articles that recommend using a a baking soda paste on food stains and pet stains.  However not many mention that you also need to use an acid with the baking soda to create the right chemical reaction to remove the stains.  

When you combine an acid such as wine or vinegar and baking soda, you get a chemical reaction which creates carbon dioxide gas.  It is this reaction that helps remove stains, the combination of a base and an acid dissolved in water.  This process does work, however you have to let the paste react and then dry on the carpet.  The dried paste attaches to the carpet fibres and can be very difficult to remove.  Vacuuming is often not enough.  You have to gently scrap the dried paste off the carpet with a blunt knife, without damaging the fibers. Is all the mess worth it when there are other carpet cleaner methods available that do not leave a residue?

4. Corn Flour (starch)Carpet cleaner - corn flour on stain

This is one of the more “out there” methods I have witnessed!  Why anyone would apply corn flour to a wet carpet stain, I will never know.  As with the baking soda, corn flour can be very messy and difficult to remove from carpet.  

Corn flour is very absorbent when it comes to greasy stains on leather furniture.  This is because it is very fine and can get into tiny cracks and crevices that other products cannot.  By all means use corn flour to remove grease, but don’t mix it up into a paste and lather it on your carpet.  It is just too difficult to remove and there are many other remedies out there that do not require so much work!  

Because I am a qualified carpet cleaner, I had no trouble removing the ink stain for this customer, however the corn flour took a lot more effort!

5. Vanish and other supermarket “carpet stain removers”Carpet Cleaner - vanish on red wine

I cannot say it strongly enough – never use these products on your carpet to remove stains, until you consult a professional carpet cleaner for advice. These products often contain bleach which can remove the stains.  However, unfortunately, they also often remove the colour from your carpet fibres. So you’re left with light coloured patches all over your carpet.

Professional carpet cleaners also used bleach, in some situations.  However we know what strength bleach to use and how to rinse it from your carpet.  The longer the Vanish type products stay on your carpet, the more damage they can do.  There is no easy way to rinse them out of your carpet completely, without the right carpet cleaner equipment.

A final word of advice from your local carpet cleaner

Never panic! Always follow these 3 steps when dealing with most food and drink spills;

  1. BLOT – remove as much liquid/solid as you can by blotting or scraping the spill immediately
  2. DILUTE – Using a spray bottle filled with cold water, mist over the stain to dilute
  3. BLOT – remove as much of the water as you can with a clean dry towel (always dab/blot – never rub!)

If the stain remains then call a professional carpet cleaner, such as Black Gold Carpet Cleaning.  We can offer advice and quotes over the phone, any time, day or night!

Black Gold

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Read Comments

Carpet Cleaning Perth

07 Oct 2015

Excellent blog,

you have made a very informative content worth reading and educative too. people will find this blog very useful.. keep the good work going..

Patricia Deakin

24 Mar 2024

Used vanish carpet cleaner to clean where my dog had been sick.It took all the colour out of carpet,now looks awful

Geelong's Cleanest Carpets

21 Jul 2016

Spot on with some of the worst carpet cleaning tips out there! Our clients are often surprised to learn that a lot of ‘home remedy’ stain removal tips that they find online should be avoided… Some only realise this a little too late hence they get us in for professional carpet cleaning.

Black Gold

21 Jul 2016

Thanks for your comment, I agree – we have been to so many jobs where the situation was made much worse by DIY stain removal. You cannot believe everything you read – especially on the Net!!

Sally F

21 Jul 2016

Spot on (excuse the pun) about possibly the worst advice for carpet cleaning home remedies!!

Black Gold

21 Jul 2016

Thanks Sally. I am always amazed at the misinformation that people provide online…most people don’t understand that there is actually a science behind stain removal.

Stamford Carpet Cleaning

01 Feb 2017

Spot on article…really well written. Someone actually took the time to do research and write a great one.


02 Feb 2017

Thanks Stamford Carpet Cleaning – we always try to be informative!


08 Jul 2017

Thanks Mararito – fabric softner is a new one for me! I thought I’d heard it all! Hopefully articles like this one will help balance out some of the more “unconventional” recommendations.

Springfield Carpet Cleaners

16 Feb 2018

Great Article Therese!!! Keep up the good work!

Black Gold

17 Feb 2018

Thanks glad you enjoyed it!

Joe Verstappen

28 Oct 2020

One thing we have seen customers do is completely cover the area with rice. This is the same method people use when their cellphones get wet, the logic is there I guess.

Black Gold

29 Oct 2020

Rice?! Wow that is a new one – what a mess that would make. I do not recommend this!

Henry D.

13 Nov 2020

This list is on point

Kamrujjaman Hridoy

26 Nov 2020

Thanks for the tip to add a rug by our entryway to collect dust. My husband and I want to have our carpets cleaned so our home looks its best when we host a dinner party next week. I’m glad I read your article and learned how to prolong the results of the carpet cleaning!

Toby Ryan

08 Dec 2020

It helps a lot when you mention how you should use white vinegar in order to remove wine stains without leaving behind odors. My sister accidentally dropped a glass of red wine on her living room carpet when her son accidentally bumped into her while he was playing last weekend, and she would like to take care of the stain before she sells her house next year. I think it would be best for her to find some supplies that can help her clean her carpet.

Darrien Hansen

05 Jan 2021

Thank you for explaining how you can remove stains more efficiently by using a combination of baking soda and vinegar and removing the paste with a dull knife. My nephew recently spilled peanut butter on my living room’s carpet flooring, and I need to find a way to treat the stain before I host a dinner party this weekend. I will rely on an expert that can get the job done for me.

Elle Jones

29 Mar 2023

Your advice to use white vinegar to get rid of wine stains without leaving odors behind is very helpful. Last weekend, while her son was playing, my sister dropped a glass of red wine on the carpet in her living room and would like to get rid of the stain before she sells her home the following year. Finding some tools to help her clean her carpet, in my opinion, would be best for her.

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