Folex: The Viral Carpet Spot Remover Works Wonders, But Can't Do It All

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For most social media influencers, the challenge is to find 11,000 ways to take a selfie without admitting that's what you're doing. However, for housecleaning influencers you must find a way to take 11,000 selfies set in every perfect and spotless room of your home. These cleaning influencers — called nutty things like "cleanfluencers" and "CleanTok influencers" — can't very well pull in thousands of dollars per post with videos featuring wine-stained rugs and stray marker the kid left everywhere. No, their spaces must be photo-ready at all times, and that means finding the best products to help their audiences achieve something next to godliness in their own homes.

One of the more popular, and perhaps unexpected, products to ride the social media wave recently is a $6.65 carpet spot remover called Folex that's been around at least since the late 1960s. Folex has members of the sanigentsia like Raven Elyse, Amber Elise, and possibly other Elises searching desperately for messes to spray the stuff on. A tour through the #folex hashtag shows TikTokkers using Folex to clean wine stains from carpet, grime from car interiors, wine from sofas, ink from pants, wine from carpeted stairs, pet stains, beer from a $3,000 couch, and lots more.

The results were usually striking. We obviously had to check it out ourselves, so we ordered a bottle and started staining more things than usual in preparation for Folex's arrival.

An overview of Folex and what it promises

Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of carpet spot removers can be had on Amazon for $10 to $20. Many of them are rated as highly as Folex's 4.5 stars, but few claim spot removal miracles while also boasting about being water-based, non-flammable, odor-free, and lacking VOCs, solvents, and petroleum products. (We grew momentarily alarmed when a search for the active ingredient in Folex turned up a deadly organophosphate found in an unrelated defoliant also called Folex.) The company that makes Folex is secretive about its specific ingredients, but the safety data sheet and California ingredient disclosure show it to use essentially harmless ingredients at least as far back as the 2013 SDS. (The fact that Folex used to be pink, but later the company removed the colorant, probably accounts for the two different data sheets.)

So what do these harmless ingredients promise to do? The bottle itself says it's instant and is "the solution to your stain." The Amazon product description adds that there's no "rinsing, vacuuming, or waiting to see results." Reviewers seem to agree. One calls it "basically a miracle," and another puts it on her "list of holy grail products you must own." One user did complain that, once the cleaned stain was dried, it appeared to have been simply spread across a larger area by Folex, and a few mention furniture being discolored by it. We'll come back to that.

Testing Folex on carpet

We got started on our stainfluencer act by spilling some wine on a beige rug with medium-length pile. Unfortunately, we'd consumed all the wine while watching a bunch of videos about fake Rolex watches (hashtag, apparently: #folex). Fortunately, we were able to get our hands on some beet and cherry juice, and we poured 1/2 tablespoon of each on the rug. We gave the incipient stain a few minutes to soak in, but not enough time to fully dry, and then tried spraying the beet juice down with Folex. Even without blotting or scrubbing, the beet juice appeared to not appear all of a sudden ... but then reappeared when we ran our hands over the spot. It seems we hadn't put on enough Folex, because the juice that had soaked down into the fibers was still visible. Somewhere we'd seen the advice to agitate the stained spot with fingers to make Folex penetrate, so we sprayed on more Folex and tried that. The rest of the beet juice stain disappeared.

We repeated the test with the cherry juice, and it disappeared with the first application and agitation. In both areas, the rug appeared slightly lighter than in others — possibly a sign the carpet wasn't colorfast or that the rug was dirty to begin with (we bought the rug at a thrift store for these tests). Brushing the carpet lightly with our hands blended the cleaned area in so that any potential discoloration wasn't noticeable.

Testing Folex on fabric

Energized by the juice-on-carpet results, we pulled out two bolts of cotton cloth and stapled swatches of each to plywood. On the lighter of these we drew two lines with each of a standard Sharpie (red), a Sharpie Pro (blue), a Sharpie Industrial (black "super permanent ink"), and a china marker (black). The shorter lines were applied with a bit more force, which made for a darker (and presumably more difficult to clean) line.

The initial spray of Folex had no impact on the stains. We blotted them with an absorbent cloth, which also had no effect. We scrubbed with the cloth, and a few of the lines lightened slightly, but we noticed that the disappearing ink was reappearing nearby. The Folex appeared to be spreading the stain out a bit. One TikTok Folexfluencer had used a brush, so we retrieved a nylon brush and scrubbed lightly, to no avail. We then scrubbed harder, and even harder, until the brush started losing some of its fibers and the fabric was showing signs of wear.

Next, we put some of each juice on the darker piece of fabric. At first it just beaded up on the fabric, possibly from sizing in the cloth. We rubbed the juice in and were left with two light stains. Folex seemed to make quick work of these, but we couldn't be sure since the fabric was wet. We dried it with a heat gun, and saw no signs of the juice.

Is Folex worth keeping around?

Finally, we went back to our sacrificial rug and made a mark on it with a basic Sharpie, going over it several times. Then we cleaned it with Folex. It took a little effort ... certainly more than the juices. Before long the mark seemed to have disappeared. After the carpet dried we revisited it and decided that there might be a hint of black at the edges of the cleaned area, as if perhaps the ink had been spread out or pushed to the edges. But there was no way anyone would ever notice it. So, on carpet Folex was impressive and worth having around if you're as prone to spilling wine as TikTok's cleaning spillfluencers seem to be.

It was impressive in other ways as well. The stuff is entirely without color or odor, and the absence of harsh chemicals is definitely a plus. However, it's hard to say how much of the social media hype is deserved and how much is about making a video interesting. To be sure, some TikTokkers put forth more effort than you'd expect from a miracle. So in some circumstances, perhaps Folex is just a mediocre cleaner. That seems to be the case with our marker-on-fabric tests.

Still, the results were impressive in spots ... and Folex is a spot remover, after all, not necessarily a cleaner. Maybe we'll get lucky and find out it's also an influencer maker. If so, we're gonna need more wine.