The Best Stain Removal Tips & Tricks
Spilling things on your RV carpet is annoying, but often inevitable. Sometimes the messes will leave lasting stains, which are unsightly and might even leave a foul odor in their wake.
Even if you attack the stain with water and soap, sometimes it’s still not enough to make it fade. But no matter what’s on your carpet, there’s a stain removal technique that’s bound to get the job done.
If you’re trying to remove carpet stains in your RV, it’s important to first identify what kind of stain you’re dealing with. For instance, most day-to-day spills can be cleaned with gentle soaps or vinegar, whereas stubborn ones might require bleach or ammonia. Meltable solids like chocolate or wax will be easier to clean if you cool them down and scrape up the large chunks.
It’s not the end of the world if you accidentally knock over a drink or have to deal with a pet potty training accident. As long as you act fast and use the right tecniques, stains won’t last forever. Below, we have a full guide that will help you identify the best stain removal method to use for your situation.
General cleaning tips
Although stains come in all shapes, sizes, and types, there are a few general rules that you can follow to minimize the damage.
- Clean the spill as quickly as possible.
- Absorb excess moisture with paper towels.
- Avoid scrubbing/smearing the stain (if possible).
- Research the proper materials and technique for each type of stain.
If you do these things, the stain will be smaller and more manageable by the time you’re prepared to attack it. If you let it sit for too long or spread it around in your attempts to clean it, the stain will ultimately be harder to get rid of.
How to approach RV carpet stain removal
1. Chemical solutions
If you deal with a lot of carpet stains, you probably already have some type of stain removal spray on hand. These are easy to find in stores and are useful for treating a wide variety of stains. Most of them are designed to separate the spill from the carpet fibers and neutralize any odors. These powerful cleaners are ideal for most pet-related messes.
The main thing to be aware of with these cleaners is that you should only use the recommended amount for each mess. If you use too much, it might leave a residue behind. Over time, this could create crusty and discolored patches across your carpet, and nobody wants that! Some of them also create a strong chemical smell that’s not always great for people with sensitive noses.
Some good chemical carpet cleaners include:
- Zep Premium Carpet Shampoo
- Rocco & Roxie Stain & Odor Eliminator for Strong Odor
- Hoover Oxy Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo
2. Gentle soaps (laundry detergent, dish soap, vinegar, etc.)
If you want to use the things you already have around your RV, you’re in luck! Lots of gentle soaps and everyday ingredients can be used to remove even the most stubborn stains. These are mainly effective against water-soluble stains, but they’ll do a decent job for just about anything.
Laundry detergent is one of the best options for RV carpet stain removal because it’s designed to clean fabric fibers and leave them better than ever. Just make sure you’re using a non-bleach product because you don’t want to leave any discolored spots behind. Vinegar also works, but it does leave a bit of a smell.
Combine 1/4 tsp of laundry detergent or vinegar with 32 oz of water and pour it onto the stain. Blot it away after a few minutes and repeat until the stain fades. A combination of 1 tsp dish soap, 1/4 tsp vinegar, and 1 quart of water can also be used for the same purpose. Warm water works best for all of these mixtures.
These mixtures can be used to treat stains that are formed by liquids such as fruit juice, milk, soda, or urine. It’s also effective against mud and dirt, so try some of these techniques the next time someone walks through your RV with their dirty shoes on.
3. Bleach or ammonia
The methods above work for most stains, but sometimes you need to bring out the big guns to tackle the truly difficult substances. Bleach or ammonia are both very powerful cleaners (when used in the proper amounts), but you should NEVER mix these two. When they’re combined, they create mustard gas, so only use one or the other.
You also need to see whether or not your carpet will be damaged if you use harsh cleaners like these. Make sure you research the materials and weave of your carpet before you pour bleach onto them.
If you do opt for this method, combine one part bleach with five parts water and apply it directly to the stain. As an alternative, you can mix one tablespoon of ammonia into one cup of water and do the same thing. You should always use cold water for these mixtures because it’s more effective.
Bleach or ammonia mixtures are particularly effective against stubborn stains as well as substances with a particularly strong odor. You might want to try this option if you’re dealing with a stain that comes from vomit, coffee, tea, or wine. It’s also effective on blood stains, but you can usually just use hydrogen peroxide instead.
It’s pretty rare to use ice as a form of stain removal, but there are some situations where it comes in handy. For instance, if you accidentally dripped some candle wax onto the RV carpet, it would be hard to remove the residue with soap and water. The warmer the wax gets, the more it melts into the fibers.
You can use ice to deal with stains that come from chocolate, wax, gum, or any other semi-solid material. Ice helps it harden up, thus making it easier to break apart and pull out of the carpet. Then you can use a blunt object to scrape it away. There may be some small pieces left behind, but these will either fade with time or will get picked up by your next round of vacuuming.
5. Steam cleaners
Finally, carpet steam cleaners are usually your last resort for stubborn stains. You can either take your RV in and get it professionally serviced or purchase your own portable steam cleaner. These use a mixture of water and carpet cleaning soap to pull out unwanted stains. Steam cleaners are quite effective because of their combination of heated steam and high-quality cleaners.
Most RV carpet stains don’t require this level of cleaning, but it’s good to know that it’s an option. Small models are great for spot treatment, wheras larger models can be used to clean large swaths of carpet all at once. Even if you don’t have heavy stains, it’s nice to deep-clean your carpet once in awhile.
Some good steam cleaners for RVers include:
- Ivation IVASTEAMR20 1800W Canister Steam Cleaner
- BISSELL Little Green Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner
- Wagner Spraytech C900054 905e AutoRight Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner
Extra tip: Freshen up carpets with a dry powder
Sometimes you may not have deep-set stains or feel like your carpet is dirty enough to need a steam clean. But if you’re in the weird in-between phases where you need to freshen things up a bit, try applying a dry powder to the carpet. This provides a better cleaning than a simple pass with a vacuum, but it doesn’t require as much effort as the other methods listed above.
Aunt Fannie’s Carpet Refresher is a wonderful product that’s great for cleaning away the surface layer of dirt and grime. Simply mist the carpet with water, sprinkle this powder over the top, and gently work it in with a bristle brush. Wait for 15 minutes, then vacuum it up. Your carpet will be cleaner and fresher with minimal effort!
How to prevent/minimize stains in the future
Of course, there’s no way to completely prevent stains from occuring. They’re accidents, so they’re hard to prepare for. However, you can take a few preventative measures to keep your carpet in good shape. Some helpful ideas include:
- Remove shoes when you’re in the RV
- Use rugs in your campsite and in your RV
- Vacuum regularly
- Keep drinks in non-spill containers
Track your RV maintenance
Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.