Brilliant carpet cleaning hacks and tips – from parents who’ve been there

We’ve rounded up some top tips from experienced parents and cleaning experts to help keep your carpet looking (and smelling) super fresh no matter what the kids throw all over it…

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What was once a glorious carpet now looks like a baffling and troubled piece of modern art. The kids have arrived and they’re leaving their mark.

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The little ones in the house have (literally) thrown a variety of challenging stains at your poor, unsuspecting carpet and you don’t have a clue what to do ?

Fret not: we’ve got tips on how to get rid of pesky stains and smells caused by your kids being sick, getting nappy cream / play dough / mud / slime everywhere and the odd red wine spill (we know you probably need a glass sometimes, right?)

Plus – general cleaning advice on how to get stains out in a jiffy…

Common carpet stains and how to get them out

First off, we should say that one of the best starting points to know how to deal with stains is understanding the type of carpet you’ve got – and choosing well in the first place. 

Flooring experts Carpetright have a great buying guide on their website which includes a really handy breakdown of what to think about when you’re choosing a carpet and some options to go for.

They suggest considering basics like:

  • whether you’re going to go for a natural or man-made fibre (eg sisal versus polypropylene)
  • what colour to choose (plain, bright, dark, pale, patterned)
  • which style to go for (twist, Saxony, velvet, Berber)
  • which pile length to go for (short or deep).

Of course, however carefully you choose – if you’ve got kids around – there will almost certainly be a few messes and spills beyond the general ‘arts and crafts’ ones (best to always put something on the floor for planned ‘make and do’ activities or better still – get them to do it on a table.)

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Hopefully though, our guide will help minimise the damage and keep your well-chosen carpet looking lush for longer.

So here are some classic family household stains – and how to see the back of them.

SICK / PUKE

Alas, when you’ve got kids the odd puke stain is inevitable – and always lands somewhere difficult to clean.

The smell of sick can really linger in carpets, too – a truly unpleasant reminder of last night’s dinner.   

So – how do you get rid of it? First off, clean up the mess with not too much water and a towel – and be sure to blot not rub.

To get rid of the smell, forum mum Sshh suggests using an extra ingredient: “Bicarbonate of soda. Generously sprinkle and leave overnight if you can. Hoover it up. Should get rid of the whiff.”

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And LyndaB found after much trial and error – that the same thing worked for her: “Maiya was sick in the night on Tuesday. She didn’t make any noise so we didn’t discover it until the morning!

“She just threw up out the side of the cot bed and went back to sleep.

“I have cleaned it with soap and water, fragrance disinfectant wipes… and just attacked it with a mild solution of bleach. It still stinks!!!

“….Bought some bicarb of soda and it’s totally cleared away the pong (I used two tubs).

“The first I sprinkled over the clean carpet, left for 2 hours and then hoovered. That got rid of 99% of the smell. I sprinkled the other tub over before bed and then hoovered it up this morning.

“Smell all gone. Even got right down and sniffed the carpet close up!!”

Kim Woodburn, star of How Clean Is Your House?, confirms that baking powder is a must have carpet cleaning product: 

“With children in the household, it often proves challenging to keep carpets looking and smelling fresh.

“For general deodorising where no stains are present, sprinkle some baking powder over the carpet using a flour sifter.

“Rub it in with your hands to make sure all of the area is covered. Leave it for an hour and then vacuum the whole carpet.”

PLAY DOUGH

It would be lovely if, after a session of play dough fun, your little ones popped the stuff back into its pots and away.

But what happens more often than not is you get gorgeous globs of the stuff trodden into the carpet everywhere.

What to do? On the MadeForMums Facebook page, Bridget B suggests: “I used an ice cube like with chewing gum.

“And when the play dough was frozen I was able to slowly pull it up from the carpet.

“However I had to trim some “fluffy” [stuff] off the carpet…but I did it with manicure scissors and you couldn’t see it after.”

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So some good tips for getting rid of play dough are:

  • A bag for the ice can make the freezing easier and less messy in case it starts to melt. 
  • Remember to be gentle with your carpet as you try to remove the play dough.
  • Use a blunt instrument like a butter knife to ease the play dough from the carpet and take care not to spread or make the stain larger. 

NAPPY CREAM

Ah, this thick, creamy, designed-to-stick substance is one of the hardest things to get out of your carpet – and one that toddlers get their hands into oh-so frequently.

Luckily, we’ve got more helpful tips from mums on our forum. ColaBottlesareyummy says: “Daft as it may sound, have you tried baby wipes or soap/shampoo?

“I use babywipes to clean everything, and they do get [nappy cream] off bottoms, as does soap!! Good luck.”

Jon Bell, Owner of London-based Wizard Cleaning has some further words of advice: “The rule with staining is to scrape up the excess and then blot with a damp towel and then a dry towel,” he tells us.

“Get off as much as you can. You can spot clean, but it can make it worse.

“The key is not to rub. Stain removers can make it worse as you’ve rubbed rather than blotted.

A blunt instrument is the best thing to use. Scrape up any excess. Then call the professionals!”

“Use your common sense. It’s a chemical reaction. Always blot it up, preferably with water.”

SLIME

Ah, the joy that is pots of slime everywhere! Whether it’s called unicorn poo, monster’s snot or something else entirely – it’s basically sticky, gooey stuff in impossibly garish colours that can get everywhere – especially on your much-loved carpet.

If you can, it’s a really good idea to have a rule that it’s only to be played with in carpet-free rooms like (generally) the bathroom or kitchen.

But if it does get on your carpet, what should you do? If it’s gone hard, you can follow the same steps as for getting play dough out of your carpet: freeze it and use a blunt knife to scrape it off.

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Another thing to try is to soften the dried slime using vinegar – two thirds vinegar to 1 third warm water – and gently brush it away with a soft-bristled brush.

To try and lift the colour of the stain a bit, lots of mums on our forum, like mybutler, recommend lemon juice: “This works wonders but lemon is a natural bleach so be careful if your carpet is a strong colour.”

There’s definitely no need – as mum Nadia on our Facebook page said, to ‘get a new carpet’!

TRAINER SCUFFS/MUD STAINS

As your kids get older, it’s likely the play dough and puke stains will be replaced with trodden-in mud and other similar marks.

A good tip straight off the bat to avoid dirty trainers making their mark is to have a mat right inside the front door and getting your children into the habit of giving their shoes a good wipe and, preferably, taking them off in the hall.

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But if dark marks like mud – or spills like coffee – do happen, there is action you can take to make sure they don’t ruin your carpet forever.

Forum mum Monkey_Nuts has this advice: “Mix some (about the same amount as you’d use for a washing machine load) biological washing liquid, fabric softener and  bleach with water in a spray bottle.

“I was given this recipe by a carpet cleaning man, it’s worked loads of times for me, with coffee [stains] too.

RED WINE

After so much talk of cleaning all we want to do is sit down and have a nice glass of wine. Then the inevitable happens…

That’s right. We’re all familiar with that moment of panic as the glass falls in slow motion… Even more devastating when it’s all you’ve been looking forward to after a long day with the kids.

No1 Carpet Cleaning advise on their blog: “First off you need to try and blot up the stain right away: the longer you let the red wine sit in your carpet the harder it will be to get rid of the stain. 

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“Use an up-and-down motion and don’t try and rub it side to side as this will just force the stain deeper into the carpet fibres.

“Try and keep the stain as contained as possible by blotting from the outside in to avoid it spreading as you blot dry.

“Pour white wine over the spillage to dilute the colour, then dab with a sponge. Cover the stain with salt and vacuum once dry.”

Jon from Wizard Cleaning adds some additional words of wisdom on how to deal with a red wine spill: “Don’t just chuck a bottle of white wine on your carpet. Use your common sense.

“It’s a chemical reaction. Always blot it up, preferably with water.”

Is there anything else I can do to protect my carpet?

Yep. A popular tip among parents is to cover your carpet under a high chair – particularly helpful during the wonderful yet messy time that is weaning. 

On the MadeForMums forum porkchop gives the following advice: “I’ve got a shower curtain. 

“It’s folded in half when down and then when we’re done I take it outside and shake it off.  

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“Then I give it a wipe, and once a week I stick it in the machine on a 30-degree cycle.”

Also, during potty training or if you want to leave your little one nappy-free – old sheets, towels and shower curtains are helpful to protect the carpet. 

Any more tips?

There are a few useful things to remember if any mishaps do happen that threaten to ruin your flooring:

  • Act fast
  • Be gentle
  • Blot don’t rub
  • Try to keep the stain contained and don’t spread it
  • Freeze sticky stains
  • Use a blunt instrument to remove thicker build up
  • If you’re watering down a stain, be liberal and blot away excess water after cleaning

And while you’re doing all these things, try and stay calm, too  – something which  will hopefully be easier now you know what to do to get your carpet in tip-top shape again ?

Carpetright offers range of familyfriendly flooring: check out their website for more information and to find a store near you

Pics: Getty

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