Carpet Spot Cleaners

Friday, 26 May 2006

Carpets + kids and/or pets = frequent stains. With numerous products to choose from in the cleaning aisle, how do you know which one will work without trying them all? We find out more about carpet cleaners and put a variety to the test.

The Basics

  • To get the best results out of your carpet stain remover, you need to buy a product for the type of carpet you have. If you don’t know what your carpet is made from, cut a few loops of pile off somewhere inconspicuous, then carefully light them with a match. Nylon melts and forms globules; wool chars.

  • Carpet spot removers come in a variety of forms including liquid trigger sprays, aerosols, sticks, creams and dry powder formulas.

    • Trigger sprays and aerosols are the most common. The cleaners are supposed to penetrate the carpet, break up the dirt and stains from fibre to allow it to be lifted and blotted away. Most contain chemical solvents that dissolve the dirt or stain without added soap and water. Some products may require you to rinse with water or vacuum after they’ve dried.

  • Always read the label to make sure it’s safe to use on your type of carpet.

  • Many labels will say the types of stains the product is recommended for, including chocolate, grape juice, wine, motor oil, ketchup, pet stains, ink, beer, jelly, soy sauce, and spaghetti sauce. But just because your stain is listed, doesn’t mean it will come out.

  • Always test a cleaner somewhere inconspicuous first, to make sure it doesn’t change the colour.

Other Considerations

  • Most types of wall-to-wall carpets available today are treated with stain-resistant and soil-resistant chemicals, so you may be able to blot up a lot more of the spill than you think.

  • Some products claim not only to help remove stains but to protect against dirt and help prevent future stains from setting deep into the carpet. Some also claim to neutralize odours, such as those associated with pet urine stains.

Be Aware

  • Before you start cleaning, be sure to read your carpet warranty before you use any stain remover or cleaner. Some warranties are void if you don’t use cleaners approved by the manufacturer. Pour a little bit of cleaner into your hand. If it feels sticky or tacky to the touch, beware. Our experts say that sticky carpet cleaners can actually leave a residue that can attract dirt!

  • Ingredients and health concerns to be aware of:

    • Ingredients are not listed on the label because they are considered to be proprietary information or “trade secrets”

    • Many contain chemical solvents similar to those used by dry cleaners

    • Keep any cleaning product out of reach of children

    • Spot removers may contain the following chemicals, all of which are considered by some experts to be harmful to health and the environment: p-hydroxybenzoic acid, oxalic acid, naptha, benzene, perchlorethylene or trichlorethylene (TCE), sodium hypochlorite, hydrofluoric acid, aromatic petroleum solvents, aliphatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons, other petroleum hydrocarbons

    • Be sure to wear gloves when using these products. Some experts do not recommend using these cleaners around children, especially toddlers who spend a lot of time crawling around on the floor

    • Be sure to use these products in a well ventilated area and try not to breathe the fumes

Usage Tips

  • Get rid of as much of the stain as you can before applying stain remover. Scrape up semi-solids or grease with a blunt knife or spoon• Soak up liquids with clean cloths or non-printed paper towel. Be sure you only blot (don’t rub), by pushing firmly on the cloth with fingers, and then turn and change cloth frequently

  • Always test spot remover product on an inconspicuous area of carpet before treating

  • to make sure it won’t damage carpet further or worsen the stain

  • To help prevent the stain from spreading, try to work cleaning products from the outside edge of stain, inwards

  • Use as little of the product as necessary; don’t soak the carpet

  • Always read the label carefully before you start using the product.

  • Don’t rub the carpet too hard as this may damage the pile and/or leave matted or tangled fibres; use a blotting or light rubbing action

  • Some products may require you to rinse; avoid over-wetting the carpet, because excess water will seep into the padding and backing and can damage the carpet

  • Experts often recommend covering with paper towel, weighing down with heavy object to soak up remainder of cleaning product and stain overnight

  • Repeat if necessary; many stains take time to respond to a cleaning formula and may even need a second treatment.


We tested five popular cleaners on some common household stains (red wine, coffee, oil-based salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and pet urine) to see how the cleaners worked on smell as well as stains:

  • Folex $9.99
  • Shout $4.99
  • Prosolve $4.99
  • Resolve $6.99
  • Nature Clean $6.79

Spot Cleaning Test

  • After a lot of spraying and a ton of elbow grease, we found that no product worked on all the stains.

  • Overall, Folex and Shout did the best job.


Because Folex is non-toxic and has the least offensive odour, it gets our top vote!


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