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WET-DRY VACUUM A WHIZ AT GETTING OUT CARPET STAINS

Carpet stains? Mike Rasnick, owner of Esquire Carpet Care, has probably seen them all. For starters, he tells his customers to invest in a wet/dry vacuum cleaner.

"Ninety five percent of all stains can be removed simply if you use a wet/dry vacuum and follow correct procedures," he says. Work from the exterior of the stain toward the center. He suggests buying a canister-type unit. With this method, he says, often all you need to use is water."Water is a miraculous substance remover; it will remove probably 85 percent of all stains. For oil-based stains, we recommend a simple solvent, like lighter fluid." Another good solvent, he says: carburetor cleaner.

("Always test in an inconspicuous spot first" is the mantra of the carpet cleaning industry.) Unbeknownst to most folks, fiber carpet is really "extremely durable," he says.

Pet urine? A cinch. Blot up as much as you can, then take a cup to 11/2 cups of water mixed with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Pour it right on the carpet, says Rasnick. Rub it around. Then suck it right up with the wet/dry vacuum hose.

Here's another Rasnick tip: If you spill coffee or tea on your carpet, spray it directly with shaving cream, rub it in, then wet vacuum it up.

You won't have a tannic acid stain.

Do the same thing with wine or orange soda.

If using water mixed with a mild acid (lemon juice or vinegar) doesn't work, use one tablespoon of dishwasher soap per quart of water. Never pour a straight soap solution on your carpet, he says (except for shaving cream, which you suck right back up).

Dried soap in carpet is a superdeluxe dirt attractor. It's the equivalent of washing your hair and not rinsing it. Always suck up whatever solution you use on your carpet.