Friday, Apr 18, 2014
Damara Hutchins

What lies beneath our feet

Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 3, 2013 at 09:46 AM

Every year when the Christmas parade comes to town, I realize three things: (1) it is painful to sit for long stretches; (2) I'm running out of time to finish my shopping; and (3) it's time to clean the carpets again.

Since my carpets are probably as old as I am, the stains are beyond tenacious. Usually, I pay a carpet cleaning company to come in and deal with our nastiness, but this year I decided to go ahead and do it myself.

After I moved all of the furniture out of the way, I experienced a bit of nostalgia while I surveyed the numerous stains in their naked, unobstructed state. There was a large splotch (normally covered by the area rug) from the time my son vomited red Gatorade in the middle of the floor. There were soda stains and orange juice stains and a stain that looked like green wax. I reminisced about the innumerable times I yelled at my kids for bringing food into the living room and recalled continually being mad at myself because I can't seem to keep my coffee inside my cup.

Once I finished my trip down memory lane, I drove to a local hardware store, bought a bunch of chemicals, and rented a beast of a machine named Eileen. Yes, its name was really Eileen and I know this because it was decaled across the front. When I hear that name, I can't help but think about the 72-year-old waitress who worked the graveyard shift at the Clock Restaurant about 20 years ago. She was as tough as nails and everyone was a little scared of her, so I figured this mechanical version of Eileen would easily meet my expectations.

I purchased enough cleaning agents to shampoo a 1,500 square foot house and, since I only had about 700 square feet of carpet to clean, I figured I was set to go. I began by liberally spraying several of the most stubborn blemishes in the living room with spot remover while completely neglecting to follow the instructions on the side of the bottle cautioning me to test a small, inconspicuous area before going all nuts.

Once that was done, Eileen and I made our way to my son's room. I loaded her with two gallons of soapy water and got busy. After thoroughly soaking about five square feet of rug, I ran out of the sudsy mixture. Fearing I would have no soap left at that rate, I took a quick glance back at the directions and revised my strategy.

The first time I emptied the foul water, I felt ill as I witnessed the murky, debris-filled gunk pour into my kitchen sink. By the looks of it, my family is living above something akin to the La Brea tar pits. If only we could unearth an intact mammoth skeleton, we'd sell it for big bucks and pay someone else to deal with our grime-crusted rug.

By the time I made it back to the living room, the spot remover had really gone to town. I now had several super-clean carpet freckles sprinkled across the floor. I pondered why the company didn't make the cleaner out of the spot remover since it seemed to work so well.

When I finally finished, my floor had gone from looking like a calico cat to resembling a slightly dirty camel, so I suppose I experienced some degree of success. I hosed off Eileen, thanked her, and took her back to the store. Maybe next year, I'll go ahead and get that laminate floor installed.

Damara Hutchins can be reached at


Part of the Tribune family of products