How to Clean a Carpet Stain

A plate of spaghetti dropped onto carpet.

Walk into any house in America, or anywhere else for that matter, and you are pretty much guaranteed to find at least one room in the home that has carpeting. You will find it in bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, kids play rooms or anywhere else you might find a floor. And they pretty much all have one thing in common: stains. My mother, in her bizarre and infinite wisdom (I love you Mommy) even had carpet installed in her kitchen. She has since seen the error of her ways and had it taken out. But not before it took quite a beating. The myriad of things that were dropped, spilled or splattered on that carpeting could have fed the NFL.

So why do we do it? Why would we plaster the most abused surface in our homes with something that has such a high propensity for attracting stains and looking like a college freshman’s “abstract” art? Well…it’s comfy, it keeps our delicate little feet safe from cold hard floors and…it looks luxurious. That is of course, until it doesn’t. All it takes is one little carpet stain and: Voila! Luxury becomes doody. To help you avoid that doody, this article covers a very simple homemade carpet stain remover recipe and its application. With it, you will learn how to remove carpet stains naturally, with ease and you won’t have to put the rest of your carpet through the rigors of a complete cleaning. Before following the carpet stain removal steps below you will want to read the proper cleaning instructions suggested by the manufacturer of your carpet for removing carpet stains.

Steps to Carpet Stain Removal

  1. forrest gump running fastGet to the stain as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean putting it off until you have more energy or even simply waiting for your guests to leave. Get on it. Now. Your guests will understand. Whoever spilled might feel a little embarrassed that you’re cleaning up after them, but they’ll feel even worse if you wait and the stain sets. Speed is key here folks, the longer you wait, the more time the stain has to spread to adjacent carpet fibers, and the harder and more time consuming the carpet stain removing process becomes.
  2. blotting up liquidBlot up as much of the excess liquid as possible. If it is indeed a spill from some sort of pretty colored liquid you’ll need to get that soaked up. Grab yourself a hefty pile of plain white cotton towels, or, if you don’t have white cotton towels, plain white paper towels, although wasteful, will do in a pinch. Place one towel at a time on the wet spot and apply pressure. In the beginning, you should be able to apply enough pressure with your hands to soak up most of it. Towards the end, you might want to stand on the towel. Continue to do this until there is no more transfer from the floor to the towel. Make sure to only blot, rubbing weakens the carpet fibers.
  3. pouring on club sodaFirst try drizzling or spraying plain water or club soda onto the carpet stain. Using just room temperature water or club soda will usually do the trick for most spills. Simply drizzle or spray the water or club soda over the carpet stain. You will want to get the entire stain wet, but not saturated. Try hard to not drizzle beyond the stain itself. If using club soda, let it fizz for about 10 seconds. Now, using more of your cotton or paper towels, repeat the same blotting process as before. If, after this, the stain is still slightly visible, reapeat the process as needed. hint: you can also use a wet-dry vac to suck a lot of the water up.
  4. pouring vinegar with waterFor a more stubborn or older stain, mixing water with white vinegar makes a great carpet stain cleaner. Using a very simple 2/3rds cup water to 1/3rd cup white vinegar solution will give you a little more solvent power than water alone. Use this mix in the exact same manner as listed above. If the carpet stain you are cleaning is greasy, you might want to consider adding about a teaspoon of either dish detergent or laundry detergent to the mix. If this is the case, rinse with water and blot when you are done. Residual soap can attract dirt. If the carpet stain is dry and chunky, scrape the chunks off first and get them out of the way.
  5. wiping towards the centerClean towards the center. It is very important that you start working from the outside and clean towards the center. Otherwise you will spread the stain. Using a fresh or at least well rinsed cotton towel or paper towel (bear in mind that paper towels crumble), press down firmly on the carpet stain with your finger tips at the outer edge of the carpet stain and start rubbing inward. Do this all around the stain until it is clean. If you didn’t get it all on the first go around, don’t be afraid to hit the spot again with your vinegar/water/soap stain remover.
  6. blow drying carpetMake it super dry. Once you are all done cleaning carpet stains, get the spot or spots dried up as quickly as possible. Wet carpet attracts dirt. Not only that, but the longer you leave it wet, the more wicking will occur. There’s a good chance that you won’t be able to get absolutely all of the stain out. Some of it will be down below the surface fibers that you are cleaning. If it stays wet, the carpet fibers will wick some of the original spill back up to the visible surface. So, blot it as much as you can, put a fan on it or even hit it with a cool blow dryer. (hint: you can also use a wet-dry vac to suck a lot of the water up.) Get it nice and dry. Now that you know how to remove a carpet stain you better get to it…ASAP.

Variations on Carpet Stain Removal

The method above should work well for cleaning coffee stains, tea stains, wine stains, grape juice stains and things of the like. It is always recommended to spot clean carpet stains whenever possible to avoid having to clean the entire carpet. The reason for this is simple. Carpet cleaning is tough on your carpet. The fewer times you have to do it, the more life you will get out of it. Besides that, most carpet stain cleaners aren’t terribly environmentally friendly. Many of them contain petroleum products. Besides that, carpet stain removers often leave a residue on your carpet that has a tendency to attract more dirt and grime. That fact alone should be enough of a reason to clean carpet stains with the household products I’ve mentioned. And just in case your stain is a little nastier than most, here are just a few other ideas for getting rid of those carpet or rug stains. Keep in mind that you should always try these methods first on an inconspicuous patch of carpet just in case some discoloration occurs.

  • Peroxide. Adding about a quarter cup of peroxide to the mixture above works well not only for cleaning up spills with red dyes (Kool-Aid, etc.) but also for cat urine and dog urine. If you want a little more in depth course on those two just give ’em a click.
  • Rubbing alcohol. For really sticky stains, try using some rubbing alcohol. There’s no need for dilution. Wet the corner of a plain white cotton rag or towel and go for it (but not until checking for color fastness). Try using rubbing alcohol for cleaning ink, oil, tar, hair dye, and lipstick.

swedry cleaning kitsSwedry is an environmentally safe and organic carpet cleaner that works very well for many types of carpet stains including petroleum based stains. Swedry permanently removes soil from carpet and traps detergent residue.

spray bottle of seventh generationThe folks at Seventh Generation (my own personal favorite brand of cleaners) have a great and entirely natural carpet cleaner. Seventh Generation Carpet Spot and Stain Remover removes odors as well as stains. Not only is it easy to find, it’s also reasonably priced.

spray bottle of simple greenSimple Green Carpet Cleaner is a highly effective and clean rinsing organic carpet cleaner that works on a variety of stains including coffee, wine, chocolate, grease and blood. This product is also available in large jugs for use in large carpet cleaning machines. You can find bottles of Simple Green at Amazon