Bleach is a go-to, must-have cleaner and disinfectant for so many areas of the houses, it's only natural to reach for it when cleaning up. But before you start using it to clean fabric, find out how to clean carpeting using bleach.
What Is Bleach?
Everyone has heard of bleach, and you probably have a bottle of it somewhere in your home. But what is bleach, exactly, and how do you get stains out of carpet using bleach?
You probably think of bleach as a chemical compound that comes in a bottle, because that's the most common way it is found. However, there is no chemical or element known as bleach.
Bleach is actually an agent that removes color from fabric, hair, skin, paper, and other materials. It can even remove the color from wood.
Many chemical formulas in both liquid and solid form can be bleaching agents, and bleaching agents are actually extremely common. Teeth whiteners all have bleaching agents in them.
The sun was the primary bleaching agent used until deep into the 1700s, in fact. The first commercial bleach was a powder combining chlorine and lime.
In all forms, the main characteristic of bleach is that it removes color, all color, from any object. Many different chemicals can be used as bleaching agents, but most of the time you'll be using a standard bottle of commercial bleach (which often contains chlorine) or a cleaning formula containing another bleaching agent.
It’s a common sight around the house and a good way to disinfect and clean many areas of the home. Bleach gets stains out of white clothing and apparently, out of teeth as well.
However, you shouldn’t bleach clean carpet stains unless you’re ready to live with the consequence. By its very nature, bleach will remove color from what it touches and that includes the stain, the carpet, and anywhere else the bleach goes.
When to Use Bleach to Clean Carpet
Can you use bleach on carpet? Yes, but should you?
When should you bleach clean carpet? Only when you have absolutely tried everything else.
Unless your carpet is already white, bleach will create noticeable discoloration. The area where the bleach was used will be white, and this will stand out on carpet.
On a very light or white carpet, a bleach spot will not be as noticeable as a dark stain. On darker carpet, a bleach spot will very much stand out and may be more noticeable than the original stain.
Also, bleach will not remove mold from carpet. Bleach can be used to remove mold from tile, bathroom fixtures, and other hard surfaces, but it is not a viable way to get mold out of carpet.
There are special formulas that remove mold from carpet, so don’t make bleach your first choice if you suspect you have a mold problem. However, you should treat any potential mold immediately because breathing these spores is bad for your health.
How to Clean Carpet Using Bleach the Right Way
Can you bleach carpet? Yes, but don’t just grab the bleach and rush into this option.
If you have a stain that just won’t go away and you’re going to bleach it out, there is a correct way to do this.
Start by prepping the carpet. Vacuum the carpet and, if needed, use a dull knife to loosen up caked-on grime on the fibers themselves.
Prep yourself as well. You should wear gloves and eye protection, because bleach is an irritant.
Also, make sure you have plenty of ventilation. It's best if you can open at least two windows but you can also create air flow with a fan, such as a table fan or ceiling fan.
Bleach can cause burning in the skin and damage to the eyes and soft tissues of the body, so be careful when working with bleach and wear the proper protection. You also don’t want to breathe in the fumes, so make sure your work area is well-ventilated.
Work slowly and with precision when learning how to bleach carpet or how to bleach a rug. If it splashes on your or anything nearby, your clothes and anything else the bleach splashes on can and probably will lose color.
Mix one cup of bleach into a gallon of water and pour this solution into a spray bottle. Shake up the solution to mix it before applying it to the carpet.
Only use a diluted mixture to bleach clean carpet. Never use concentrated bleach on your carpet.
This is like your own homemade carpet cleaning solution with bleach, and it’s very easy to make. Just remember to stick to a simple formula of bleach and water without adding extra ingredients, as ammonia and bleach have a violent chemical reaction when combined.
Bleach already has some level of toxicity, so don’t start adding extra formulas to it because you never know how these ingredients will react together and you don’t need even bigger carpet problems than you’re already working with.
You have some options here for treating your carpet. If you already have white carpet, spray the stained area thoroughly, and only the stained area, and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
If the bleach is going to create a noticeable color difference in the carpet, you might consider spraying the entire carpet to get a more uniform result. This increases the size of the project, but it will make the bleach spot less noticeable on the carpet.
Doing this, however, will lighten and whiten the entire carpet. You will also need to keep all pets and people away from the bleached carpet and the entire area nearby, as there will be a lot of fumes that might burn the eyes and throat and you don’t want bleach from the carpet tracked anywhere else in the house.
Can you bleach carpet in just one section? You can, but unless the entire carpet is white you will be able to easily see this much lighter area of carpeting.
Spray the carpet with plain water and then shampoo it using a carpet shampooer. Use a brush on the stained area of the carpet to remove the stain.
Wear socks while you’re moving around on the carpet and make sure they’re white, as the dampened bleach carpet will make other socks lose their color and may even bleach the color out of shoe soles, too.
Spray the carpet with water again and then remove the moisture with the carpet shampooer, this time without applying any more carpet shampoo. Carpet cleaners have a suction function that removes excess water.
Let the carpet dry for at least 24 hours. You can speed the process up with good air circulation, such as turning on some fans to ventilate the room and get a lot of airflow.
Examine the stain. If it has not fully faded, treat just this spot with bleach and let the bleach sit for 30 minutes before you shampoo and rinse this area of the carpet.
Bleach should only be used as a last resort. There are lots of other tricks you can try to clean carpet without resorting to this option, with is the last step before you replace the carpet.
Before you bleach clean carpet, try a DIY method to remove a stain from carpet.
Cover the stain with baking soda. Mix one cup of white vinegar with one cup of water and mix in a few drops of dish soap.
Spray the solution directly on the baking soda, which should foam and turn into a paste-like consistency. Let this sit and soak for about 20 to 30 minutes and then break up the baking soda with a vacuum.
Clean the rest of the baking soda from the carpet using a damp cloth and then clean the area with plain water and a clean cloth.
You can also try specially formulated spot cleaners—mixtures that are designed to remove stains from fabrics of all types without also removing the color.
Repairing Bleach Spots
So what if you clean your carpet with bleach and you end up hating the bleach spot it leaves behind? All is not lost, actually.
You can repair bleach spots, but it is a pretty tricky business. You'll need to dye the carpet and that is not a small DIY job.
How to Clean Carpet Using Bleach
There is no way to really clean carpet with bleach, but you can bleach out the stain and the color under the stain. As long as you work with bleach carefully and practice safety, you can remove stains and color from carpet using bleach.
Cleaning Carpets with Bleach FAQs
Can you bleach carpet?
Can you use bleach on carpet? Of course…but make sure you want to.
It is possible to remove stains and color from carpet using bleach. The bleach can also remove bad odors from the carpet because of its disinfectant properties that kill odor-cause microbes.
Will diluted bleach damage carpet?
You never want to use concentrated bleach on your carpet, but even diluted bleach will take the color out of your carpet. Concentrated bleach can also eat holes into the fibers and damage the carpet, so you definitely need to dilute it before putting it on your carpet, no matter how bad the stain might be.
The bleach-to-water ratio for cleaning carpet is about one cup of bleach to one gallon of water. This is a good general ratio to use, your first step in knowing how to bleach carpet.
How do you get stains out of carpet?
There are many ways to get stains out of carpet, with bleaching being the very last one you’ll want to try. Baking soda, vinegar, retail formulas, you have a ton of options when you’re trying to learn how do you get stains out of carpet without using bleach.
Can you put bleach water in a carpet cleaner?
Carpet cleaners, or carpet shampooers, should only be used as clearly stated in the directions for the machine. These cleaners use special formulas to clean carpet, and you should not add different chemicals or formulas, like bleach, as this might damage the machine.
Use carpet shampooers only as directed and use them only with the approved cleaning formulas. Also, don't use a homemade carpet cleaner with bleach...nor any other machine meant to clean carpet.
How long do you leave bleach on carpet?
Bleach should be left on carpet for at least a few minutes so it will actually bleach the stain, but you don't want to leave it on there for more than 30 minutes without rinsing and shampooing it.
The longer you leave bleach on the carpet, however, the more fumes will be released into the air. The bleachy smell will travel throughout the house and potentially make all people and pets uncomfortable.
Open as many windows and turn on as many fans to circulate air as you possibly can while the bleach is sitting on the carpet and during the entirety of this DIY project.
Does bleach stain carpet immediately?
Bleach can start to remove color from fabric on contact. The initial reaction is immediate, but over time, it will be even stronger.
This is why you much work carefully with bleach. If it comes into contact with your clothing, it will take the color out of your clothes as well.
You’ll want to wear old work clothes while doing this, items that can be damaged by bleach without causing you any grief.
Is it OK to clean carpet with bleach?
Can you clean carpet with diluted bleach that will be weak enough not to remove all color?
No. Bleach by design removes color from fabrics, and when you're using it to get rid of stains, it will remove color from whatever is beneath the stain right along with the stain itself.
Can you use color safe bleach on carpet to remove stains?
Color-safe bleach does not contain chlorine, which is the main ingredient in commercial bleach and a strong bleaching agent. As the name suggests, color-safe bleach is designed specifically so it won't remove color the same way standard bleach formulas will.
Because it's color-safe, this is not actually bleach. It's really just a fabric cleaner that can be safely used on carpet and other fabrics to treat stains, and like any other cleaner, it doesn't always work to completely remove stains.
Color-safe bleach is made with hydrogen peroxide, which does not have the same bleaching strength as regular whitening bleach.
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