Discovering a stain on your plush carpet can trigger a slight panic. Even more if it’s an expensive or brightly colored carpet. Depending on the stain, it can be close to impossible to remove.
We’re here to help you get rid of the toughest stains. Stains can range from food spills to pet urine spots. But to remove stains, you need to figure out what caused it. The removal method will depend a lot on the cause of the stain.
Know Your Stain
Knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step to successful stain removal.
There are three main types of stains, which are made up of various chemical compositions and can vary in color:
Water-based stains usually stem from liquids such as beverages and food. Such stains aren’t the toughest to get rid of, depending on the drink.
Remove these stains using a water-based solution. If you need something more potent, a carbonized or oxidized solution will help to break up the area.
Carbonized cleaners are most often used to remove grease stains from cooktops and grills, rather than stains from carpets. However, they’re still highly effective on carpets.
Oil-based stains can be hard to remove from carpets; you also have to be careful how you handle them.
To remove oil stains, a water-soluble cleaner works best. These can be alkaline cleaners, and even baking soda is effective at removing this type of stain.
However, before applying any product, blot the stain out as much as possible, but without rubbing the blemish in.
You might need a bucket for this bit…
In order to remove these stains effectively, you’ll have to introduce some good bacteria. Enzyme-based or enzymatic cleaners are a good option here (1).
Finding the Best Carpet Stain Remover
One cleaner might be the perfect solution for your neighbor, but it might not work for you. There are many reasons for this. Examples include carpet weave, stain type, the source of the stain, the carpet’s age and many other factors.
Here are a few things you should understand before you choose a carpet stain remover.
1. Types of Stain Removers
Some stain removers are labeled “professional strength.” These are highly potent and contain harsh chemicals. However, some stain removers are reserved for professional use only. These must be handled with care and only used in ventilated rooms.
Nothing stops you from using one of these, but you need to know how to use them. If in doubt, consider one of the other types below.
Oxygen-based cleaners become activated when exposed to the stain and oxygen. They’re excellent for colored stains.
The oxygen creates a reaction that breaks down the color molecules. That reaction between the cleaner and the stain will continue as long as there are molecules and oxygen.
Examples of stains best suited for this cleaner are red wine containing artificial color and pet vomit (if the food contained colorings).
Enzyme cleaners consist of live enzymes (bacteria), which feed off of organic matter found in the stain. This could be any organic-based stain, as we mentioned above.
The enzymes will keep feeding until the stain is gone and will slowly die, as they don’t have any more food.
2. Clear Directions
When dealing with carpet stains, you must follow the directions. Using the wrong cleaner, or doing it the wrong way, could ruin your rug or carpet.
Some stain removers require you to do some work on the stain beforehand. This might include blotting out the stain if it’s wet.
After working on the stain, directions usually vary between products. You might be directed to leave the solution to soak for up to an hour. Others should be removed within a few minutes. Products with a short reaction time tend to be stronger. If the chemicals are left for too long on the carpet, they’ll cause damage.
If, after your first attempt, you don’t reach the desired results, you can give it another round, repeating as needed and as stipulated by the directions. You might find one that can be repeated immediately, while others require hours or even days between treatments.
Note though that products requiring a longer reaction time might not be the best for families with young children. You should keep clear of the area to avoid exposure — strong odors might also be present.
How you work the stain may also vary from product to product. Some will instruct you to start from the edges of the blemish and work your way in. Others require you to agitate the solution into the stain.
It’s also important to look at how the cleaner is removed once finished. Some require rinsing, while others don’t. You might find solutions that require vacuuming, although this isn’t as common.
3. Drying Time
Odors and chemical evaporations are typically destroyed during the drying time. So most labels will caution you to keep the area clear during this time.
We also recommend that you consider the location of the carpet before choosing a product.
If it’s in the living room where there’s lots of activity, a long drying product won’t be suitable. Here, you should go for a product that can be applied, treated and removed within minutes.
You can hurry the drying process in several ways. For example, using a dehumidifier in the room will help keep moisture at a minimum. Using a fan or air conditioning unit to give a better air circulation will also help.
4. Odors and Residue
Stain Remover Odors
Stains can often be followed by an unpleasant odor that also needs to be treated.
Fragrances like citrus are often used in cleaners due to its effectiveness in covering up other odors. This is only a good option if you like the smell of citrus. Be careful if you have pets, though, as cats, especially, dislike the smell of citrus!
Products labeled as “safe around children and pets,” can still have a pungent odor. Natural stain removers might also have a smell that resembles chemicals.
So when choosing a product, we suggest you read customer reviews to see how they found the odor. Overall, in most situations, it is best to choose a product labeled as “low odor.”
Spending the time and effort to remove a stain on your carpet only to find residue can be frustrating. Some products might leave a sticky film that attracts dirt and dust, making the carpet look dirty.
Others dry sticky if not rinsed. This can cause the threads of the carpet to stick together.
As with any product for carpet, do a spot test somewhere inconspicuous. Then check for a residue afterward.
Spot Test Tip
How to Fix Restaining
A stain will often seem to be gone forever, only to reappear when the area is dry. This typically happens if the stain went all the way through the carpet and into the backing. Every-day tasks like vacuuming could bring such stains back.
Vacuuming or activity in the area will make the fibers move, gradually causing the stain to rise. Unfortunately, the only thing to do is to treat the area again.
It doesn’t mean your stain remover is insufficient, though. Often, the deeper the stain is, the more solution is required. So, check the instructions as to the amount to use; if there’s no guideline, use as much as possible.
The Best Carpet Stain Remover Reviews of 2020
Now that you know more about the different types of stains and what to look for in a product, it’s time to reveal our list.
After researching ingredients, methods and reactions to different stains, we found the best carpet stain removers on the market. We’ve taken into account advice from industry experts and all the major factors needed to determine a high-quality product.
1. Genesis 950 Concentrate
If you need a strong stain remover, this is it. Genesis 950 is tough on stains and odors but safe in homes with children and pets.
This concentrate removes stains around the house, and can be safely applied to carpets and upholstery. The formula is versatile and also works for cleaning areas in your car. This is excellent for families with pets that often travel in the car.
Because it’s a concentrate, you have to dilute it with water. But, don’t worry, the manufacturer gives full instructions on how to dilute it to suit the task.
Why We Love It
Living in a house that is prone to stains, you may find yourself with multiple cleaners for each task. However, this 5-gallon jug-of-wonder can be used around the whole house.
It’s highly effective at removing stains from carpets and upholstery. But, it can also be used to remove stains in the bathroom and kitchen. The formula will quickly kill and eliminate mold and mildew.
Making a ready-to-use solution is quite simple. Amerikal Products provides detailed instructions to suit the task you’re facing.
The brand recommends that you mix a portion of the concentrate with water in a spray bottle, which will make the application easier. It also doesn’t require soaking for long, but you do have to rinse it off.
Low in VOCs
Despite being a concentrate, Genesis 950 is low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are usually found in cleaning products, are terrible for the environment, and can also contaminate the air you breathe.
Genesis 950 contains only regulated toxins, to abide by the standards set by State and Federal regulations.
Excellent for Pet Mess
Whether you have a new pup who uses the carpet, or a kitty going crazy in the litter, this cleaner can help.
It effectively cleans up urine, feces, vomit and more, by breaking down the molecules. The concentrate will also eliminate any unpleasant odor caused by a pet.
Keep In Mind
The odor is rather strong, which is something a few customers complained about. However, other customers found that once the smell was gone, it left a fresh scent in the house.
|Types of Stains||Pet stains, mold, mildew, drinks, foods|
|Working Time||30-60 seconds on carpet|
|Manufacturer||Amerikal Products Corp.|
2. Zep Instant Carpet Spot Remover
For the instant removal of spots and stains, this Zep foam will do the job. It’s a professional-strength formula in a 19-ounce can.
You can use it on carpets, rugs and other soft areas. It works effectively at removing grease, dirt, oil, food, drink and pet stains. We like that the formula quickly foams as it’s applied, limiting the need for scrubbing.
It’s a potent formula, so Zep advises that you take the correct precautions. Always wear protective gear such as goggles, gloves and long sleeves. Make sure the room is well ventilated as well.
Why We Love It
Having a product that acts fast means you can get the cleaning done in no time. This formula digs deep into the carpet to remove stains effectively. It’s even useful on older stains that are usually close-to-impossible to eliminate.
Works on Multiple Stains
Because the formula can be used to remove multiple types of stains, you can use it all over the house. It will effectively eliminate those greasy food stains from the kitchen rug. Plus you can say goodbye to the dirt and oil on any lounge or hallway carpet.
Requires No Scrubbing
All you need to do with this product is to locate the stain, apply the foam and blot until the stain is removed.
You won’t have to worry about clearing the area for the day. Several customers said they used the product in a high traffic area and were pleased at how easy it was to use.
Keep In Mind
You must take the right precautions when using this product. Zep recommends that you use protective gear and keep the area well ventilated until the spot is dry.
|Types of Stains||Pet stains, drinks, food, grease, dirt, oil|
3. Shout Urine Destroyer
Families with a new addition will soon come to know that puppies love a soft carpet. This can often become the private throne for a pup who isn’t yet trained. Luckily though, cleaners such as this one from Shout assure us that no stains have to be permanent.
The product uses oxygen to target the stains and remove them quickly. It cleans deep into the carpet so you won’t have to deal with restaining.
Why We Love It
Urine is sometimes the most challenging type of stain to deal with. Not only will it leave color and odor, but if the area is exposed to sunlight, it could worsen.
Whether it was your new pup or toddler who had an accident, this product will help. It removes stains and deodorizes.
The formula acts deep inside the fibers of the rug or carpet. This will bring out the stain from within, eliminating every trace.
Easy to Use
Shout recommends that you blot excess fluid from the stain. Then, saturate the spot with the formula and leave to soak for three to five minutes. They recommend that you leave it to dry naturally and then vacuum the area.
Keep In Mind
Might Require a Second Treatment
If the stain or smell is very tough, you might have to repeat the treatment until it’s entirely gone.
|Types of Stains||Pet stains, urine|
|Working Time||3-5 minutes|
4. Arm & Hammer Carpet Cleaner
To remove tough stains, you’ll need a tough formula. This product from Arm & Hammer uses a unique OxiClean formula to kick stains out of your carpets. It can also be used on other soft surfaces such as rugs and upholstery.
Why We Love It
Loved By Parents
Many parents have expressed their love for this product. Most of them find it easy to use for quick spot cleaning. The OxiClean formula quickly breaks up the stain and removes it from deep within the carpet.
Easy to Use
You can use it for quick spot cleaning, or add it to your favorite deep cleaning machine. This makes it super easy to clean larger areas in a short time. You won’t have to get down on your knees to scrub.
Covers up Odor
Stains can quickly leave behind an unpleasant odor that can be tough to get rid of. The oxygen-powered formula acts fast as it covers and eliminates the aftermath of various spots.
Keep In Mind
Unless you use a deep cleaner, you will have to use some good old elbow grease. A few customers found this to be inconvenient compared to other products.
|Types of Stains||Tough stains|
|Working Time||Not specified|
|Manufacturer||Arm & Hammer|
5. Rejuvenate Bio-Enzymatic Carpet Stain Remover
If outside elements somehow always make their way inside your home, this cleaner could be suited to you. The non-toxic formula will quickly break up stains like mud and grass from carpets and upholstery.
It’s easy to use, as all you have to do is point and spray. The pH-neutral formula is gentle on fabrics while being tough on stains. It’s free of acids and other harmful chemicals.
Why We Love It
Simply spray and agitate slightly using a sponge or cloth and the formula will quickly dissolve tough stains. It works effectively at removing wine, chocolate, mud, grass, pet stains and more.
If the stain is old or extra tough, Rejuvenate recommends that you apply the product and cover overnight with a damp cloth.
It’s difficult to find effective eco-friendly stain removers. However, this formula has a neutral pH level and is free of phosphates, solvents and acids. The product is Green Guard certified, which proves its low chemical emissions status.
Can Be Used on Upholstery
Pillows are often challenging to clean, and stains always seem to find their way onto the surface. Using this spray, you can apply a small amount that will dissolve oily stains, proteins and starches.
Keep In Mind
Might Require Several Treatments
A few customers noted that they had to repeat the treatment a couple of times before the stain was completely gone.
This isn’t a huge negative and is common with many cleaners.
|Types of Stains||Pet stains, grass, mud, chocolate, wine|
|Working Time||15 minutes|
6. Bissell Woolite Formula
If you need a new solution to your stain-problems, this oxy-based cleaner is highly effective. It can remove various stains left by pets, but will also eliminate other tough stains such as coffee, soy sauce, gravy and motor oil.
The product is easy to apply using the sprayer, and it instantly works as it comes in contact with the stain. Of note is that it’s safe to use in areas where children and pets frequent. You can use the spray to remove stains from carpets, sofas, rugs, and upholstery.
Why We Love It
Rejoice! Bissell has found a way to discourage dogs and cats from urinating on the carpet.
Pets often mark their territory using urine. This can be troublesome, especially when it’s on the living room carpet. However, the oxy-based formula works efficiently at removing any scent left by your pet.
Eliminates Tough Stains
The formula digs deep into any carpet and lifts the stains. It works effectively on urine, feces, blood, tea and makeup. Many customers loved the fast-acting formula, saying stains like coffee weren’t as worrisome.
Leaves a Fresh Scent
After removing the stains, the product will leave the area smelling fresh again. This can be crucial for pet-families who often find their home smelling like their pet.
Keep In Mind
Tough Stains Require More Time
Bissell states that it only requires 30 seconds to remove most stains. However, the brand also says that tougher or older stains need to soak for one to two hours.
|Types of Stains||Pet stains, fruit juice, makeup, coffee, soy sauce, motor oil|
|Working Time||30 seconds|
7. Black Diamond Stonework Carpet Cleaner
Old stains can be nearly impossible to remove. But, the formula used here is both fast-acting and tough on stains. It can remove stains caused by coffee, grease, dirt and pets.
Stains don’t always happen on the carpet — a spilled cup might splatter on your sofa and shirt. Fortunately, this formula is safe for use on multiple types of fabrics such as wool, cotton, microfiber and more. It’s also effortless to use for small and more prominent stains.
Why We Love It
This product is suitable for multiple locations around the home; not just great for carpets. Remove stains on the upholstery or even your clothes.
The professional strength of this compact sprayer works wonders on tough, old stains. It digs into the surface and dissolves the stain with excellent efficiency.
It’s biodegradable, phosphate-free and hypoallergenic. Therefore, it is safe to use in family homes, or even if you have pets.
Keep In Mind
Crucial to Follow Directions
You must test this product out in a small corner or hidden spot before applying it. Several customers said it had a bleaching effect that stripped the color.
You also shouldn’t scrub the product; lightly blot, instead.
|Types of Stains||Pet stains, dirt, coffee, wine, grease|
|Working Time||Not specified|
|Manufacturer||Black Diamond Stoneworks|
Detailed Comparison Chart
|Product||Best||Quantity||Types of Stains||Scent||Working Time||Manufacturer|
|Genesis 950 Concentrate||Professional Strength||5 gal.||Pet stains, mold, mildew, drinks, foods||Not specified||30-60 seconds on carpet||Amerikal Products Corp.|
|Zep Instant Carpet||Working Time||19 oz||Pet stains, drinks, food, grease, dirt, oil||Not specified||Instant||Zep|
|Shout Urine Destroyer||For Pet-Families||32 oz||Pet stains, urine||Oxy fresh||3-5 minutes||Shout|
|Arm & Hammer||Oxygen Cleaner||64 oz||Tough stains||Not specified||Not specified||Arm & Hammer|
|Rejuvenate Bio-Enzymatic||For Mud||32 oz||Pet stains, grass, mud, chocolate, wine||Not specified||15 minutes||Rejuvenate|
|Bissell Woolite Formula||Permanent Stain Remover||22 oz||Pet stains, fruit juice, makeup, coffee, soy sauce, motor oil||Fresh scent||30 seconds||Bissell|
|Black Diamond Stonework||For Old & New Stains||1 quart||Pet stains, dirt, coffee, wine, grease||Not specified||Not specified||Black Diamond Stoneworks|
The Reality of Stain Removal
When you buy a product to remove the stain from your carpet, you, of course, want it to work straight away. However, this is not always the case. No matter how potent the formula is, if the stain is tough, it might require a second round.
It’s essential to keep this in mind: even the best carpet stain remover might struggle with certain spots. A good product, however, will work fast and dry without a residue or chemical odor.
Are you struggling to keep your carpets clean? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.