5 easy ways to remove stains from your carpet

You can often clean up carpet stains with common household items.

Key tips to remember

  • Clean your carpets regularly
  • Go after most stains as soon as they appear
  • Scrape away any leftovers with a dull knife
  • Keep plenty of clean white rags for blotting
  • Use baking soda, vinegar and peroxide for extra help

If you’d like to know the best ways to remove stains from carpet without calling in the professionals, you’re reading the right article. Even if you manage to avoid stains, carpet is a great place for dirt, dust, grime and bacteria to gather, and regular vacuuming won’t quite cut the mustard. However, you may be surprised to learn that you can deal with many stains without purchasing any fancy carpet cleaners composed of creepy-sounding chemicals. Armed with the knowledge of what caused the stain in the first place, along with a few typical household cleaning items you may have at home, you can attack stains and aim for their weak points.

Remember, it’s always good to go after a stain as soon as you know it’s there, and before it has time to dry and set in. Also, don’t hesitate to try vinegar and baking soda for carpet cleaning. It’s true, you really can eliminate most carpet stains with baking soda and/or vinegar, though no method is infallible, and old stains must be rehydrated before removal. Read on, fear not, and before you give up on carpet, rip it all up and call the hardwood floor specialist, consider these stain removal ideas that just might save your carpet and your money.

5 easy ways to remove carpet stains

If you have carpet in your home, sooner or later you’ll have to deal with spills and stains. Before you do, however, go ahead and get into the habit of cleaning your entire carpet on a regular basis with a rental carpet cleaning machine, available at many grocery stores. If you take the time to do this at least twice a year, you’ll be amazed at how much cleaner your carpets will be. 

Before we get into the specifics of what you should do for particular types of stains, we’ll go over our five guidelines for spot-cleaning carpet stains and carpet stain removal in general, so grab your baking soda & vinegar and check out these simple tips.

  1. Get rid of the leftovers: Most stains leave leftovers. Scrape off all this extra junk around the stain with a dull knife. If the leftovers are liquid, blot them with a clean, white cloth. Resist the urge to scrub. Be gentle. Keep doing this until no more color is absorbed.
  2. Try water and dish soap: If you’re not sure of the stain’s origins, a cup of water at room temperature mixed with a few drops of dish soap is a safe way to make another attempt at stain removal. Get the stained area wet but not soaking. Rub gently with a soft rag.
  3. Add vinegar: For a slightly stronger solution, combine two cups of room-temperature water with a tablespoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap. Use the same method of a soft, white towel or rag, gently apply the solution to the stain, and then blot it repeatedly with fresh water.
  4. Add baking soda: This time, sprinkle baking soda on top of the stain, and then spray with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water with a few drops of added dish soap. The stain will foam up and then harden. Break it up and then vacuum the area to remove.
  5. Try a stain remover: If you still aren’t having luck, it’s time to try the hard stuff. Pick a carpet stain remover product and follow its directions in a hidden area of the carpet, but make sure you don’t get anything too wet. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before you touch anything.

10 common carpet stains and how to remove them 

Pet stains

The best method for removing pet stains is to choose a carpet cleaner that contains enzymes, which kill bacteria and eliminate the odors that come with it. After removing and discarding any leftovers, spray the cleaner over the affected area thoroughly, blot any wetness until it is merely damp and then gently rub the stain remover solution in with a clean, white rag. 

If the stain is already dry when you begin, it will need to be rehydrated with a spray bottle of clean water before using the enzymatic carpet cleaner. White vinegar is also a good odor neutralizer to try at this point.

Blood stains

As with any stain, a blood stain should be treated as promptly as possible with the application of club soda or cold water. Use the blot method with a clean, soft, white rag, repeating the process until the stain disappears into the rags. 

Another option is to mix a couple teaspoons of grease-fighting dish soap into a spray bottle of cold water. After soaking the stain, blot, rinse and repeat. Combining these methods and repeating them several times as needed, should work to remove the stain effectively.

Red wine stains

Battling red wine stains begins with the blot method we’ve described. Even if you don’t have clean, soft, white rags on hand, your goal here is to capture as much of the wine from the carpet as fast as you can, so if paper towels are all you have on hand,  use them instead. 

As your next step, try spraying a little club soda on the stain, and continue to blot. If you don’t have club soda, use cold water. With patience, repeating these steps should yield results, but if you’re still having trouble, there are carpet cleaning products you can try that are designed specifically for wine stains.

Coffee or tea stains

To remove coffee or tea stains, begin with the blot method to get as much of the liquid out of the carpet as possible. Next, mix a tablespoon of white vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap with two cups of warm water. Use those clean, soft, white rags to add this mixture. Alternate by blotting with a dry rag. 

Next, you can try sponging the whole area with cold water, blotting until dry, before mixing two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with a tablespoon of dish soap and applying it to the stain. Rub this in with your fingers, let it sit for a few minutes, and then blot repeatedly with clean, wet rags followed by clean, dry rags. If none of these methods work, try one of many products designed specifically for coffee and/or tea stain removal.

Dirt, fat or urine stains

Dirt is perhaps the only stain you want to allow to dry before you attempt to treat it. First scrape off the leftovers, then vacuum, then use a solution with dish soap like those described above and apply the blot method. Fat-based stains from foods like butter or gravy respond well to a sprinkling of baking soda left on the stain for approximately six hours, followed by a vacuum and the blot method, this time with rubbing alcohol. Urine stains require an enzyme-based cleaning product.

Candle wax or chewing gum

Once candle wax has hardened into your carpet, you can break it up with your fingers, being careful not to rip the fibers it has adhered to. After it’s sufficiently broken up, vacuum the remnants and try treating the spot with a dry-solvent carpet cleaner, followed by the blot method. 

If it’s gum you’re dealing with, get as much out of the carpet fibers as possible with your fingers. Then put ice cubes in a sandwich bag over the gum to harden it. After it has hardened, use a dull knife to chip away at the gum until you’ve managed to remove it completely. Vacuum the remnants and treat any remaining stains with a dry-solvent carpet cleaner.

Carpet stain prevention

While no stain-prevention plan is foolproof, there are steps you can take to keep your carpets as clean as possible. This includes cleaning the carpets throughout your house at least twice a year, or even quarterly, with a machine you can rent fairly easily from your local grocery or home improvement store. Other steps include requiring residents and visitors to leave all shoes in the mud room or outside the house. Install doormats inside and outside all entryways, and clean them often. And remember that some stains just won’t cooperate, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Some stains are tough to beat and will require professional help.

Now that you’re in the mood for cleaning, check out our tips for a magical spring cleaning, and if you’re still wondering about professional help for anything around the home, check out our post on when to DIY vs when to call a pro. Thanks for stopping by!

The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.

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