Accidents happen. It’s not uncommon for blood to make it onto household carpets, whether it’s a child with a nosebleed, an animal with an injured paw or a more serious injury.
The science of blood stains
Removing blood stains can be tricky. This is because the main component in red blood cells, apart from water, is haemoglobin. This is a protein that binds to carpet fibres and isn’t soluble in water.
In the body, haemoglobin contains iron molecules. These bind to oxygen and give blood its colour.
When blood lands on a carpet, it looks red. As it dries, the haemoglobin breaks down and iron and oxygen are released. This causes the blood to change from red to dull brown.
Blood is notoriously difficult to remove. Even at crime scenes that appear clean to the naked eye, forensic scientists find blood residues. Scientists have recovered blood traces from hundreds of years ago.
Don’t despair though. If you know what you’re dealing with, it’s possible to remove visible blood stains from a carpet.
What to remember about blood stains
It helps to know what not to do. Remember that heat will fix a blood stain, setting the protein (like heat sets egg white) and making it harder to remove. So don’t use hot water.
Also note that cleaners like soap and dish-washing liquid are lipases, designed to remove fat and grease. They won’t help remove a protein-based stain like blood.
It isn’t always possible to treat a blood stain straight away. Injuries take priority over carpets. However, the sooner you try to remove a blood stain, the better.
Safety guidelines for removing blood stains from carpet
South Africa has a high incidence of HIV infections, as well as potential for hepatitis B infection from contact with contaminated blood.
Although HIV doesn’t live long outside the body, infected blood has the potential to infect someone. Laboratory tests show that the virus loses most of its ability to infect (90% to 99%) within several hours of being placed on a surface.
Hepatitis can survive outside the body for longer – up to seven days – and is capable of infecting someone during this time.
Always wear protective gear, such as gloves, a mask and goggles, when dealing with a blood spill.
Cleaning equipment and any protective items should be sterilised after use. Wash in a mild bleach solution.
Steps for cleaning blood out of a carpet
It’s recommended that you leave any blood spills larger than five centimetres to a professional cleaning team that knows how to deal with large amounts of blood.
Never use undiluted bleach or chlorine directly on the carpet. You might permanently damage the carpet fibres.
1. Blot or, if dried, loosen with a brush
To remove a blood stain that’s still wet, start by using paper towel or absorbent pads to blot up as much blood as possible. To keep the stain from spreading, work from its borders inwards. Avoid scrubbing. This will grind the blood into the carpet.
If you’re dealing with dry blood, use a cleaning brush to break up and loosen the blood particles. Don’t be too rough. You might damage the carpet fibres.
2. Spray with clean water and blot
Spray the affected area with clean, cold water. Then blot up as much liquid as possible.
3. Apply cleaning solution and blot
After spraying with water, spritz the affected area with an appropriate cleaning solution. The most effective options are one part hydrogen peroxide to one part water or one tablespoon of ammonia mixed in half a cup of water. Always test a hidden corner of carpet for colour fastness first.
A safe alternative for most carpets is one third white vinegar to two thirds water. For a pure wool carpet, stick to a small amount of a non-alkali detergent mixed in water.
Leave the cleaning solution to sit for a minute and blot up with an absorbent towel. If necessary, repeat the process once or twice more.
4. Rinse and cover with a weighted towel
Spray the affected area with water and blot again to remove the cleaning solution. Cover with an absorbent towel or several sheets of paper towel. Add a weight, such as heavy books, on top of the towel. Leave for several hours to absorb the remaining liquid.
5. Air dry and then vacuum
Finally, remove the towel and leave the carpet to air dry. Once dry, vacuum to lift the carpet pile and restore its original texture.
Professional carpet cleaning services in the Cape
There’s no guarantee when it comes to completely removing blood stains from carpet. Especially in the case of old stains that have already set, some residual discolouration may remain. It helps, though, to have the right equipment and know-how.
Typically, the best bet for completely removing carpet stains is to trust to professional carpet cleaners.