The same rules apply to wool and synthetic rugs and carpets, but synthetics resist stains better.
- Most spills: Quickly blot with a paper towel. If the substance is liquid, pour on a small amount of soda water―the bubbles will help the soil rise to the surface. Blot, then apply a carpet shampoo or stain remover, following the manufacturer's instructions. Or mix a teaspoon of clear dish-washing liquid with a cup of water, brush it on with a clean cloth or paper towel and then blot.
It's hard to remove marks from flat-finish paint, so use semi-gloss when possible.
- Crayon, ink, pencil, furniture scuffs and most marks on painted walls: Start by dusting the wall thoroughly. Apply a thick paste of baking soda and water with a sponge and rub gently. (Scrape off crayon first with a plastic spatula.)
- Grease spots: Tackle with household cleaner, like Spic and Span, diluted in water. Washable or scrubbable wallpaper (vinyl or plastic): Clean with water and a small amount of dish-washing liquid. Apply with a sponge, rubbing in a circular motion. Rinse with a damp sponge and pat dry with a clean cloth.
Never oversaturate the fabric you want to clean with water or a cleaning solution―it could leave a stain.
- Most spills: Check the furniture's care label, which usually carries a symbol indicating the proper cleaning approach. "W" means you can use a water-based cleaning agent (try Woolite Fabric & Upholstery Foam Cleaner) or a dish-washing liquid solution (see "Carpets"). "S" means you can spot-treat with a dry-cleaning solvent (such as Afta; www.guardsman.com), but never use a water-based cleaner―it can damage the fabric. "WS" means you can try any of the above treatments. "X" means that no cleaner is safe; vacuum only.