GIMME SHELTER- Couch cocktail: Apply alcohol, soda to stains

Kevin Barnard, Rudy's Rug & Carpet Cleaners

Q: Help! After applying a greasy ointment to a road rash he got in a bike accident, my son plopped down on my upholstered couch. How do I remove the oily stains?

A: Upholstery is really tricky to clean. People are always bringing us stuff they have tried to spot clean themselves, and there's not much we can do. That's because people tend to panic and put everything under the kitchen sink on it. Not only do they spread the stain throughout the fabric, they end up discoloring the entire piece. 

"I cleaned it with soap but it looks dirtier," they'll say, not realizing that the soap they used can actually re-soil the fabric if it's not applied and rinsed properly.

Before you get started, find out what kind of fabric you're dealing with. If your upholstery is bright white cotton, linen, or silk, you might want to consider a professional cleaner. These light colored natural fibers can be very difficult to spot clean. However, you can be a little more aggressive with synthetic fibers. 

As a rule, upholstered fabrics are delicate, just like your own clothing. If you're not careful washing out a stain on your shirt, you can end up leaving a permanent water ring. Same thing applies with upholstery.

If the stain has been caused by a base, such as a greasy ointment, use rubbing alcohol to break down the stain. If the stain is an acid, such as vomit, the sodium in club soda will break it down. And here's the trick: to avoid leaving a water ring, don't just concentrate on the stained spot– work the alcohol or club soda over the entire area where the stain is located. 

After the alcohol has evaporated or the club soda has dried, use a small amount of dish washing liquid and warm water and wash the entire area around the stain again. Next, repeat all of this using very clean or distilled water to remove the excess soap. 

Finally, it's important that no moisture be allowed to remain in the fabric. Leave the piece in a dry spot or suck the moisture out with a vacuum. 

Kevin Barnard