It's fairly simple to take care of many spills that might occur at your home, if you have all your ducks in a row that is. In this post we are going to talk about some items to have on hand to help simplify clean up.
I break down spill clean up into four steps: initial extraction, dilution, residue removal, and final rinse. Initial extraction refers to removing as much of the spill as possible before applying anything to it. Dilution is applying water and extraction until you no longer see visual improvement. Residue removal is where we use our chemistry to remove the remainder of the visual spot. Finally you want to rinse again with fresh water to remove any product that has been applied for spot removal. There are exceptions where one of more of these steps may be skipped, but these are the four basic steps to spill clean up.
Initial extraction can be performed in a few ways. For liquid spills you should have white terry cloth towels on hand or a small wet vacuum. Paper towels can be used, but on larger spills towels or the wet vacuum are the greener options. For solid spills a spoon is actually a very effective tool.
Dilution is ideally performed with a small sprayer filled with clear, warm water, and the same means of extraction used initially. This step removes the majority of the remaining contamination. Since most things you would spill are water soluble, water is the best thing to remove them. It is important to not completely saturate the carpet in this step as you do not want to push soil deeper into the backing of the carpet.
Residue removal, in many instances, can be performed with chemistry you already have in your home. Isopropyl alcohol and Hydrogen Peroxide should already be in your home, they work well on a variety of different spots and spills while also being safe on the majority of fibers. We do not currently recommend any over the counter products, see our blog post Over the Counter and DIY Spot Removers: Be Careful for more information. The terry cloth towels can be used in this step to agitate the carpet fibers as well. Note that you do not want to scrub natural fibers during spot removal, this includes wool, cotton, and silk, as they will fray very easily and leave you with a distorted, fuzzy area of carpet.
The final rinse is very similar to dilution, except you are making sure to also remove any chemistry you may have applied as well. It is very important to make sure that you leave any affected area as dry as possible at the end of your clean up so that the material is able to dry in a reasonable amount of time.
Laundry detergent can also be used in the residue removal step, but you want to be very careful not to overuse it as it can cause rapid re-soiling if the detergent is not fully rinsed. Laundry detergent is meant to be flushed with a large volume of water. If you are going to use laundry detergent you would want to mix just a drop or two per gallon of water, just enough to give the water a slightly soapy feel. This is an amount of detergent you are then able to fully rinse away, and if you need to you can simply perform multiple applications rinsing after each one.
*Please note that items are linked as examples and do not constitute a recommendation for a specific item.