Scotland’s other national drink gets a carpeting

Removing Irn Bru stains from household furnishings can be heavy work. Picture: Rob McDougall
Removing Irn Bru stains from household furnishings can be heavy work. Picture: Rob McDougall
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IT IS Scotland’s favourite drink, quaffed by thousands every day to quench thirsts, ease hangovers and assert national identity.

But fans of Irn-Bru have been warned there is a hidden danger – to their homes.

Irn-Bru has been identified as the worst substance to spill accidentally on a carpet and more difficult to clean up than even permanent marker pens and red wine.

The luminous orange tipple has come top of a list of hard-to-remove substances, living up to its tough-sounding advertising slogan of being “made from girders”.

So difficult are Irn-Bru stains to remove, the drink is now used as the benchmark test for new employees working for some firms which operate in the textile cleaning business. The range and combination of colourants that give the drink its distinctive hue are believed to be to blame.

The next most troublesome stain is caused by spilt curry, which often contains similar colourants. Third place on the list goes to blackcurrant cordial, with red wine down in sixth place and marker pen in tenth.

Ian McCormack, a leading expert on stain removal with carpet and upholstery cleaning specialists ServiceMaster Clean, said: “Irn-Bru is not only the most popular soft drink in Scotland but is also the hardest to clean up.

“We found that Irn-Bru is really difficult to remove, perhaps adding weight to the makers’ claims that it is made from girders. It really is tough.”

Famously, the beverage contains no less than 32 flavours, including liberal amounts of sugar and caffeine. But the precise make-up of its ingredients has been made to an original secret recipe dating back to 1901, known only by Robin Barr, the former chairman of the drink’s makers AG Barr, and two other people, one of whom is his daughter, Julie, the company secretary.

Although every ingredient has been approved by the Food Standards Agency, it’s staining qualities have not previously been put to the test against other obdurate substances.

Sidney Friend, a Lanarkshire-based cleaning technician who has worked for ServiceMaster since 1993, believes the particular combination of colourants in the soft drink is the most likely to blame. “It’s more or less the colourants that make it so difficult to remove,” he said. “It just goes straight into the carpet and you can’t get it budged, but we’ll probably never know for sure because of the secret recipe. You just wonder what it does to your insides.”

Friend, 46, said that since cleaning techniques to rid gloss paint stains from carpets had improved significantly in recent years, Irn-Bru has become the liquid of choice among unscrupulous individuals looking to fool their insurance firms.

He explained: “I’ve been to a few houses where I’ve been thrown out of the house because I could get Irn-Bru stains out. They weren’t normal claims, shall we say, but fraudulent, and clients have not been happy when they weren’t able to get a new carpet.

“One woman had around ten Irn-Bru stains around her home, and by the time she made me a cup of tea, I had three of them out. She was none too happy, and she physically lifted me out the house. She was a big lady.”

Last year Irn-Bru’s distinctive colour came under threat when the European Commission proposed drastically limiting Sunset Yellow (E110) – a key part of the recipe alongside another colourant, Ponceau 4R (E124), following a review of how children are exposed to the additive. However, legislators decided to cut the level to 20mg, the same already used by AG Barr.

A spokeswoman for Irn-Bru’s manufacturer said: “Irn-Bru fans will be glad to hear that if they have a mishap in the home with their favourite soft drink then both our own consumer care department and ServiceMaster can help them with advice on how to get their carpet cleaned.”

» mmclaughlin@scotlandonsunday.com