The Big 3 Holiday Spills

With holiday entertaining in mind, we thought the following tips may be of interest to you. It seems that when food and beverages are served, spills on your carpet and rugs often follow. If you’ve dealt with the resulting spots – during or after a holiday gathering – you’re in good company. Our top three holiday spills and cures are listed below.

Spill #3 – Gravy
People often ask: How does gravy get on the floor anyway? Doesn’t everyone pay attention when passing the gravy boat?

Gravy somehow finds its way to your carpet and area rugs, and gravy has edged out whipped cream to make it onto our list of holiday spills.

Spill #2 – Coffee
Coffee and “holiday party jostles” go together like cream and sugar, so coffee drips are almost expected. We have two cures for coffee spills, one for coffee and one for coffee with cream.

Spill #1 – Red Wine
Between making toasts, friendly hugs and general high spirits, spilling wine seems to be a part of every good holiday get-together. Red wine can leave a permanent stain on textiles, caused by both naturally occurring color and added dyes. (White wine spills are just as common … they just don’t become obvious until they become sticky and darker as they start attracting soil.)

Knowing what to do can help alleviate your holiday gathering “carpet spill stress”. Here’s what you need to know:

Gravy and whipped cream spills share similarities in how they are handled:
  • Spills with a heavier consistency like creams, butter or gravy can sit on top of the fiber for a short time before soaking into the carpet nap. If the spill is still on the nap and not in the nap, work from the edge to the center using a dull knife, spoon or spatula to get under the goo and remove it before it sinks in.
  • Keep transferring what you pick up to a container or disposable towel. Removing semi-solids in this way will make removal of what’s left a lot simpler.
  • Apply warm water. At this point making the last of the spilled residue thinner makes it easier to remove.
  • Blot up the warm water and residual gravy using absorbent paper or cotton towels.
  • If any residue remains, mix a mild detergent solution: ½ teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent in one cup of warm water.
  • Apply the mild detergent solution.
  • Blot until you no longer detect a transfer of moisture.
  • Apply warm water to rinse.
  • Blot.
At this point you may want to fold a pad of whitepaper or cotton towels and place them over the spill, then add weight. Change absorbent pad as necessary. Just make sure the weight will not transfer color to the carpet as water is drawn into the toweling.

If the gravy has dried, use the same dull-edged tool to break the residue up and vacuum. Sticky residue can be treated starting with the addition of a mild detergent solution.

  • Blot until there is no more liquid being absorbed into white, absorbent paper or cotton towels.
  • If coffee color remains, apply warm water.
  • Blot up the warm water using paper or cotton towels.
  • If color remains, use the detergent solution noted above (½ teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent in one cup of warm water).
  • Blot until you no longer detect a transfer of color and moisture.
  • If color remains, mix 1/3 cup of white vinegar with 2/3 cup of water to make a mild acidic solution. The acid solution can work to make the stain less visible.
  • Apply the mild acid solution.
  • Blot.
If the coffee contains cream, it may be necessary to apply a protein-dissolving enzyme. Enzyme products are available at most supermarkets; make sure the product is appropriate for the fiber content of your carpet. Apply the enzyme product, blot, apply water to rinse, and blot again.

Red Wine
  • As with coffee, blot the spill to remove as much liquid as possible.
  • Skip applying water and go right to applying the detergent solution.
  • Blot, apply water, and blot again.
  • If the stain remains, mix 1 tablespoon of household ammonia with a 1/2 cup of warm water. Ammonia can help release coffee dyes from the carpet fiber.
  • Apply the ammonia solution to the coffee stained area.
  • Blot with white absorbent paper or cotton towels until you no longer detect a transfer of color and moisture.
  • Apply the mild acid solution (1/3 cup of white vinegar with 2/3 cup of water) and blot. The acid solution can work to make the stain less visible.
  • Apply clear water and blot.
Heard the online tip about getting red wine out using white wine? It can work, as wine contains acetic acid. Wine is just a lot more expensive than white vinegar.

Additional tips for all carpet/rug spot removal:
  • For removing spills on any rug or carpet, remove as much of the spill as possible before adding water or cleaning solutions. For these stains and those that have sat for a while, professional help will be needed. Call us today or visit our website at
  • With all stain removal, think blot, don’t rub. Rubbing a spot can distort the fiber, so even if you get the spill out you could be left with a texture-distorted, fuzzy area.
  • A small trigger sprayer can be used to apply any of these solutions and will help control the amount of liquid being applied to your carpet.
  • If you happen to have a wet-vac or home carpet spotting machine, you can use it in place of blotting. Most of these machines are more efficient at putting water down than they are at picking water up, so spend more time using the vacuum than adding water.


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