From Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Eve, we get a boost in Rug 9-1-1 calls because of spills from red wine to soda to food to pet puddles. Here are some tips for your holiday “accidents.”


Wool has a natural repellency to both water and oils, so anything that spills on wool will be “suspended” for the first seconds, so blotting it with a cotton towel is the quickest and safest remedy.

It’s important to not SCRUB the area, just simply press and BLOT it.

If the spill has penetrated the fibers, and you are not blotting it all away, then you need to get the spill area a little bit wet again. This should be done with club soda and a sponge. Take care to just get it damp and not soaking wet. The club soda will help “suspend” the spill elements and help you blot out a bit more into the towel.

If you are afraid you have not got all of the spill out and are worried that you may have damage to the dyes (if it’s a pet urine stain) or possibly attract bugs (if it is a sugary spill) or are worried that the dyes in the rug may bleed on you (if the rug is colorful), then you will want to pack the damp area with something ABSORBENT.

Two good choices that you likely have in your pantry already are table salt and also good ol’ corn starch.

Corn starch to absorb a spill

Expect to create a little bit of a mess with your chosen absorbent compound. You want to have enough to absorb the moisture up into it, and to pull the “spill” out away from the fibers and into that powder.

It can take hours and perhaps as long as a day to fully absorb the moisture (and the spill) into the corn starch completely. When it is done, this area will feel hard to the touch. At this point of hardness, it’s time to remove it. You basically crack it apart with a spoon, and scoop away the chunks, and then vacuum up the remaining powder.

What I like about corn starch is that it is great at absorbing problems, and it has no adverse effect on the dyes or the fibers. Often we get rugs in where other things have been placed on the spills, and have caused permanent damage.

Pile of corn starch on a spill.

Some items to NEVER put on a wool or silk rug to treat a spill are: baking soda, bleach, Resolve, Oxyclean, Simple Green, or any over the counter detergent or spot remover meant for SYNTHETIC wall-to-wall carpet.

Most household cleaners for carpet are designed for use on synthetic fibers like nylon, olefin, and polyester. These are essentially plastic petroleum products. They can take aggressive heat and chemicals, whereas natural fibers like wool and silk cannot.

With baking soda specifically, since that often is seen as a “safe” household remedy to absorb things, the problem is it has an alkaline pH. Wool rugs have acid dyes, and also do not like alkalinity, so this can cause yellowing of the wool that cannot be reversed.

Even a solution approved for wool, like Woolite, when used as a “spot remover” can bleach out wool rug dyes if too concentrated.

The safest bet is those safest two choices, corn starch and salt. Or, to get to the spill right away with that cotton towel.

So if you plan on having company, and don’t want to worry about the spills that may happen, make sure you add these extra things to your shopping list to keep handy in case you have a Rug 9-1-1 moment.

Happy Holidays!