Stain Mishaps

So many of our clients call us after they self-treat a stain or spill and ask for help. Many times, the product they used causes more damage than just letting the stain sit.

Every cleaner has their own trade secrets, tricks and favorite products for stain removal. I know a guy who uses brake cleaner to remove grease stains. Toxic, and not our style, but effective. Another acquaintance of mine uses a product for wine that you can’t get in California – not a problem, he has a residence in Nevada. We stick to more natural approaches, but those also include some trade secrets of our own.

My point is that each cleaner has their own techniques and arsenal of chemicals, so what works for one blogger may not lead you to a preventative solution that works alongside what your cleaner is going to do. Just like you consult with your pharmacist before mixing prescription drugs, make sure you consult your cleaner before self-diagnosing and treating your stains.

My most recent experience with this was a customer who called because they spilled ink on their couch. They proudly informed me that they immediately sprayed hairspray on the stain. You see, they “Googled” it and learned that hairspray will prevent the ink from setting (this was news to me.) Unfortunately Google didn’t ask them what the cushion fabric was, so they sprayed hairspray on a very old silk couch cushion. Yikes! The ingredients in hairspray are not pretty and definitely not for silk. You can see the ink and hairspray in the photo below.

The required process to undo this mess was not pretty – an initial stain treatment to get the hairspray out, then a second treatment to remove the ink. We were able to remove the hairspray – mostly, and we were only able to remove about 50% of the ink. A double process on an already old and deteriorated silk fabric caused further deterioration (all of which we advised our client ahead of time.) Ink on Silk is virtually impossible to remove, but the hairspray made it much worse.

Below is some quick advice about what to do when you spill something and what we have seen that is a big no-no.

The first thing you need to do is identify your FABRIC TYPE!!


  • Soak up liquid with a white towel by blotting lightly
  • Keep it moist if you are going to call in your cleaner
  • Call your cleaner for the next step – even if you don’t want to have them come out.


  • Dump baking soda or other powder on it
  • Spray it with hairspray
  • Use off the shelf urine treatments
  • Use Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Use any household cleanser
  • Throw paper towels on it and step on it or otherwise rub it in

We are experts in our field, so don’t hesitate to call us for help. It doesn’t cost anything to pick up the phone, but you could ruin your sofa, area rug or carpet if you don’t!

Fun facts:

Decaf coffee is full of dye – a caffeinated spill is better!

Cheap wine is full of dye – drink high quality wine if you are planning to get sloppy!

Powders mixed with water make paste – so any powder you use on a stain will be difficult to remove later from all the nooks and crannies in fabric and carpet fibers.

Many color safe fabric treating products out there are only truly color safe if they are rinsed out completely – this is near impossible without a professional grade extraction system (or giant washing machine.)

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