Facebook
When you shop through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. This educational content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

How to Clean Carpet Stains

Updated
Make even the toughest carpet stains disappear.

Carpeted floors add a certain luxury to a home. However, carpeted floors also come with a few anxiety triggers, such as muddy paws and sticky fingers. Stains will inevitably happen.

But, fortunately, you don’t have to go into panic-mode just yet.

Knowing how to clean carpet stains, you can effectively remove any blemish before it creates a permanent mess. There are many methods, products and home remedies to discover, so let’s get started.


Homemade Carpet Stain Remover

While there are many commercial products available, you might want to consider making your own. It’s great because you know exactly what the recipe contains. Plus, it’s cheaper — and just as effective!

Baking Soda and White Vinegar

Baking soda and white vinegar are probably two of the most popular natural cleaners. Baking soda is a mild abrasive and is excellent at targeting tough stains (1). White vinegar is acidic and easily cuts through grease and dirt.

1. Mix

Start by combining:

  • Two cup of warm water.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar.

You can mix them in a bowl or in a spray bottle. If you do not like the strong scent of vinegar, add a few drops of lemon essential oil.

2. Apply

For the application, you can use a cloth to blot or a spray bottle. If using the bottle, spritz some of your homemade solution directly onto the stain and leave it for up to 15 minutes. With a cloth, dip it in the solution and blot the stain.

3. Blot

Use a damp cloth to blot the stain away. Keep a clean, dry cloth close at hand to dry the area when the stain begins to lift. Alternating between the damp and dry cloths will help to prevent oversaturating the area, which might damage the carpet.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Dish Soap

When removing stains on a carpet, we highly recommend that you avoid using bleach. Instead, try the milder version: hydrogen peroxide.

1. Combine Ingredients

Combine equal parts of three percent hydrogen peroxide and warm water in a bowl or spray bottle. Add a squirt of dish soap and mix. If you don’t have dish soap, you can use non-bleaching laundry detergent.

2. Apply to Stain

Using a spray bottle, spritz the solution onto the stained area and allow it to sit for five to 10 minutes.

If your carpet is colored or dark, test the solution in an inconspicuous area first. Hydrogen peroxide can cause discoloration or a slight bleaching effect (2).

3. Blot

Use a cloth to blot the stain until it lifts. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing as it can cause the stain to move further into the carpet.

White Cloths Only

When using hydrogen peroxide, we recommend that you only use white cloths. If you’re using colored cloths, the color can be transferred from the cloth to the carpet.

4. Dry

Dampen a cloth in clean water and begin to blot the area to remove any leftover solution. Alternate between a damp and dry cloth until the area is clean and dry.

Club Soda

For newly spilled beverages, such as wine, we like to use club soda. It quickly helps to lift the stain from the carpet.

1. Act Fast

If you want your fizzy drink to work its magic, you need to act fast. Start by blotting out as much of the spill as possible using a clean cloth.

2. Add Club Soda

Pour the club soda directly onto the stain, but be careful not to oversaturate the area. Allow the soda to sit on the stain for a couple of minutes.

3. Blot

Blot the stained area using a clean cloth. If needed, you can add small amounts of club soda between blotting. Keep going until the stain is gone.

4. Rinse and Dry

Dampen a cloth in warm water and continue to blot the area. This will remove excess soda. Once you’re done, allow the carpet to air dry.

Synthetic Carpet Stain Remover

If you want to use commercial products, that’s totally cool.  These can be great for heavy-duty, stubborn and old stains.

  • Time: 35 minutes.
  • Difficulty: Easy.

What You’ll Need

  • Paper towels.
  • Dull tool.
  • Vacuum cleaner.
  • Carpet stain remover.
  • Spray bottle or bowl (optional).
  • White cloths.
  • Distilled water.

1. Treat the Stain

Before you begin to apply any cleaner, you must clean up as much of the stain as you can. If it’s a fresh spill, remove any solid material with a paper towel. Then use another paper towel to blot up as much as you can.

If the stain is old or dry, you can use a dull tool to scrape off excess solids gently. Use a vacuum to remove any crumbly parts.

It’s important to get rid of any solids or excess moisture from a stain. Going straight to applying your cleaner can cause the spill to go deeper into the carpet.

Dampen a cloth and lightly blot the stain, working your way from the outside towards the center. Avoid scrubbing, as this will only work the stain further into the carpet.

2. Apply the Cleaner

There are a wide range of effective carpet stain removers available on the market. However, before choosing one, we recommend that you consider what type of carpet you have.

We highly recommend the Genesis 950 Concentrate. It’s a highly potent cleaner that you have to dilute. However, it works wonders on any type of stain, from beverage spills to pet accidents.

After choosing your cleaner, apply it as directed on the label. Some products need to sit on the stain to work, while others can be applied and removed instantly.

If you’re using a concentrate, dilute it as directed. We prefer to do this in a spray bottle since it makes application easier. You can make a large batch and save it for stain emergencies in the future.

But before using a new product to clean your carpet, test it in an inconspicuous spot. Leave the product on the spot for as long as recommended on the label. During that time, look for signs of discoloration or damage. If you notice any, discard the product and find another.

Warning

Do not use any product that contains bleach unless you have a white carpet.

3. Clear the Area

While you’re treating the stain, keep children and pets out of the room. Stain removers can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other harmful ingredients (3).

4. Blot

After the recommended time is over, use a white cloth or paper towel to blot the stain. The stain should be nearly gone — a bit of blotting will help to get the last pigments out.

If the stain is persistent, apply more of your cleaning solution as you go. Keep a clean cloth close at hand to blot between applications.

5. Rinse

Removing the stain remover is crucial. For this, we prefer to use distilled water because it’s free of minerals.

Apply a small amount of water to a cloth and dab the area. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry the area by blotting the moisture. Then finish off by vacuuming the area to restore the fibers of the carpet.

Removing Common Carpet Stains

Removing stains from your carpet can be tricky, but identifying the stain can quicken the process. Different stains require different removal methods. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of stains:

Water-Soluble

Stain Examples

Soda, Jelly, Fruit, Alcoholic Beverages.

Water-soluble means the stain is water-based. These are generally the easiest stains to remove from a carpet. For the best outcome, treat the area quickly. This will prevent the spill from soaking into the carpet.

Start by blotting the stain using a cloth or paper towel. If the spill is still fresh, this should remove it.

Protein-Based

Stain Examples

Dairy, Bodily Fluids, Blood, Meat Juices.

Protein-based stains are a little trickier to deal with — these can leave a stubborn spot behind. You should never use warm or hot water to treat this type of stain. Warm temperatures will set the stain quicker and make it darker. It will also be more difficult to remove.

Instead, use cold water and an enzyme cleaner.

Oil- and Fat-Based Stains

Stain Examples

Cooking Grease, Lipstick, Petroleum Jelly.

These types of stains are probably some of the most difficult to remove from a carpet. Synthetic carpets can be even more challenging to deal with. This is because the stain often grabs onto the petroleum in the fibers.

Manufacturers are aware of this issue, and many, therefore, will treat synthetic carpets with a special coating. The coating prevents fat- or oil-based stains from settling, making removal easier.

To remove oil-based stains, cool water and dish soap is the best combination. Use a white cloth to blot the stain until it’s gone.

How to Remove Common Carpet Stains

Tea or Coffee

Due to the dark color of coffee and tea, you’ll need an effective cleaner. For this, we prefer to mix two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with one tablespoon of dish soap.

After blotting the stain, apply the solution. Use your finger to agitate it a little and rinse using water and a cloth.

Dirt

Dirt is best removed when dry, so stay patient and wait for it to dry completely. Use a dull tool to scrape off any crumbly material before vacuuming.

Apply a cleaning solution such as dish soap and water, and leave it for 10 minutes. Blot the area using a clean cloth or paper towel.

Wine or Juice

After blotting the wine spill, pour club soda directly onto the area. Blot again using a clean cloth. You may have to repeat the process if the stain is still there.

Urine

If your pet or toddler had an accident on the carpet, use an enzymatic cleaner. These are available online or at your local pet supply store.

Apply the cleaner as directed on the label. If the urine was from your pet, it’s crucial you remove all traces as pets tend to return to the same spot due to odors.

Butter or Margarine

Remove any solid materials. Sprinkle the area with baking soda and leave it to sit for up to six hours. Vacuum the area thoroughly and finish off with rubbing alcohol on a cloth.

Wax and Gum

Wax and gum might seem like big troublemakers on a carpet, but they’re easily removed. For both stains, you can try to apply ice until frozen and hard. Then use a dull tool to scrape it off gently.

For wax, you can also try to use a paper bag and hot iron. Place a corner of the bag on the wax and carefully iron the top — move the bag slightly after each stroke. Check the bag between ironing to make sure the wax is coming out.

Blood

As we mentioned above, never use hot or warm water. Treat the blood stain with cold water or club soda immediately. Then use a clean cloth to blot and repeat until the stain is gone.

If cold water isn’t working, try hydrogen peroxide on a white cloth. Dab the stain and leave it for five minutes. Blot with a damp cloth to rinse.

Ink

For ink stains, anything with alcohol can work. Dampen a white cloth in isopropyl alcohol and dab the stain until it lifts. You can also try nail polish remover, hairspray or vinegar.

Kool-Aid

Blot the spill using a dry towel or cloth — never rub or scrub. Combine white vinegar, dish soap, and water in a spray bottle and apply it to the area. Leave the solution for up to 10 minutes and blot with a clean cloth until the stain is gone.

Lipstick

Start by scraping off solid material using a dull tool. Apply some rubbing alcohol to a sponge and dab the stain until it lifts. Finish off with a clean cloth and blot until the area is dry and clean.

Ketchup

First, remove any remaining ketchup from the carpet by scraping it with a butter knife. Next, combine one tablespoon of dish soap with two cups of cool water. Sponge the stain and blot using a dry cloth. Repeat if necessary.

FAQs

Is Professional Carpet Cleaning Worth the Money?

Knowing whether professional carpet cleaning is worth it depends on the carpet stain and the extent of the carpet that needs cleaning. Because most carpet cleaning companies charge per visit, it might be worth getting as many carpets cleaned in one hit.

However, if you only have minor carpet stains, it might not be worth the extra expense.

What Stains Cannot Be Removed From Carpet?

The type of stains that cannot be removed from carpet includes blood, coffee, vomit, oil-based blemishes, and grease. Also, ink, paint, and tea are a challenge to remove.

Why Do Stains Reappear on Carpet?

Stains reappear on carpet when wicking has occurred. This is when the stain has soaked through to the carpet backing and reappears when the carpet gets wet or walked on.

Is It Better to Shampoo or Steam Clean Carpets?

It is better to steam clean carpets because the heat and steam get deep into the fibers, giving a more comprehensive clean. It also means that you aren’t using harsh chemicals, which is better for your family and the environment.

Does WD-40 Remove Carpet Stains?

WD-40 does remove carpet stains as long as they are minor. WD-40 is a water displacer rather than a lubricant, so the formula gets to work lifting the blemishes from carpet fibers, making it easier to scrub clean.


Expectations vs. Reality

When removing stains from your carpet, it’s important to be realistic. Most stains can be tricky to remove, and they often require several tries. However, you should stay patient and repeat any treatment until you reach your desired results.

Always use white cloths on light-colored carpets to avoid any color being transferred from the cloth to the carpet. Treating a spill as soon as it happens will give you the best outcome. Never leave a stain, as it will soak into the carpet and become nearly impossible to remove.

Feedback: Was This Article Helpful?
Thank You For Your Feedback!
Thank You For Your Feedback!
What Did You Like?
What Went Wrong?
Headshot of Amy Anthony

About the Author

Amy Anthony

Amy is a stay-at-home-mom, seasoned writer, and a home cleaning and organization aficionado. Amy enjoys having an absolutely spotless home and has worked hard to develop strategies to keep it that way, despite having 2 kids and 3 dogs!