Does a stained, worn, or just plain lackluster floor have you feeling down (or—heaven help us—embarrassed to have company over)? You’re in luck, because today I’m presenting some ideas for ways to fix your floors (whether they’re carpet, wood, or vinyl) in a flash.
The best thing you can do for carpet is vacuum it regularly—this keeps dirt and stains from becoming permanently ground in. In the unfortunate event that surface stains do occur, try these general techniques:
• Blot—don’t rub—liquids with a clean white cloth or paper towel. If that does the trick, rinse the spot with water and blot again until it’s dry. If it doesn’t work, repeat or move on to one of the heavier-duty steps below.
• For spills that are semi-solid (think peanut butter), remove what remains on the carpet with a rounded spoon. Then blot with a clean cloth or towel as above.
• Add a few drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid to a cup of water and dab it into the carpet. Blot, rinse, and repeat if needed. It works especially well on greasy stains (like on greasy pans—surprise!).
• Try a commercial carpet stain remover. But take care to check the label—not all carpet cleaners work on all types of carpets. And you wouldn’t want to create an even bigger mess by using the wrong kind of cleaner! (Plus, carpet stain removers can have icky chemicals—if you want to avoid those, move down the list for more solutions using everyday items that are already in your home.)
• Many stubborn stains (think red wine) require creative techniques if you’re going to get them out. Here are some solutions for removing specific types of stains. Find out more carpet cleaning techniques. (Oh, and in regard to red wine, I can attest to the fact that some panicked blotting with soap and water, followed by white vinegar and more water does the trick—it worked for my mom and me when we shattered an entire unopened bottle of wine on the carpet!)
• If you miss addressing a stain until it’s dry, try clipping it off with scissors.
If the problem is a burn mark or tear, the solution won’t be quite as quick—but it’s still doable on your own if you have carpet pieces leftover from installation. Carefully cut out the damaged area (cutting the base of the carpet, not the pile). Then cut a piece from the carpet scrap using the removed piece as a pattern. Vacuum any fibers that came loose in the cutting process, then secure the new piece by hot-gluing the carpet edges or sliding double-sided tape under the carpet. Press the piece down with a heavy object until it’s set, use a carpet tractor tool to hide the seams, and no one will be the wiser for it!
Fixing wood flooring on your own requires a bit more work than cleaning carpet, but it can be done. (Or, if you don’t want to go to the trouble, how about leaving those minor stains, nicks, and scratches alone? Think of it as adding character to your rooms!)
• Conceal small nicks and scratches with color putty sticks.
• Repair scratches with steel wool and a solvent (try mineral spirits), then refinish the floor.
• Remove stains by sanding off the old finish then pressing the spot with a cloth soaked in an oxalic-acid crystal and water mixture (let the cloth sit on the stain for an hour). You may have to repeat this process. Then, once the stain is gone, neutralize the acid with vinegar and apply a matching oil-based stain to the bleached area. (Warning: Wear gloves for this process!)
• Pry out and replace a strip of damaged floor, rather than replacing the entire floor. If you’re not sure how to do this, you’re in luck. As I was writing this post, an e-mail message popped up on my screen from This Old House. Included in the message: the link to a video on patching strip flooring. How fortuitous is that?
• Learn more about repairing hardwood flooring.
VINYL OR LINOLEUM FLOORS
Kitchen spills and the like are easy to wipe up on vinyl floors, but if moisture is present beneath your sheet-vinyl flooring discoloration can occur. Plus, drop a heavy or sharp object and you may be looking at a nasty cut or gouge. Try these solutions.
• Use good old water (it might be all you need!), an all-purpose cleaning solution, or a water-based cleaner and polish for regular cleaning. Whatever you do, don’t use solvent-based cleaning product, waxes, or oiled mops, which will damage the vinyl.
• Get rid of black heel marks by spraying WD40 on a towel and lightly rubbing the marks. Voila! They’re gone. Be sure to rinse the floor with sudsy water afterward because the WD40 will make the surface slippery.
• To remedy linoleum floors that still look dirty, you might need to strip and wax them.
If those stains that signify moisture are present on your floor, you’ll need to remedy the source of the problem. And, unfortunately, you may have to replace a portion or all of your flooring. Here are some fixes for damaged vinyl or linoleum floors:
• Fix torn vinyl by spreading new glue under the torn section and pressing it back into place. Cover the damaged area with a weighted board for no less than 24 hours.
• Replace a section of vinyl flooring by choosing a replacement patch that matches the size of the damaged piece.
• To replace a vinyl tile, first make sure you have a replacement tile. Blast the tile that’s damaged with a hair dryer until it heats up. Then use a large chisel to lift away the tile and remove any adhesive that’s left with the chisel or putty knife. Affix the new tile to the floor and you’re set.
• Get answers to all of your vinyl floor cleaning and repair questions.
Check out this site, which will fill you in on how to fix all sorts of flooring problems. And these how-to stories cover everything you need to remedy flooring problems in older homes. While I’m at it, here’s one more resource for floor cleaning pointers.
The Home Know-It-All