How to Clean Vomit

A girl holds her mouth and stomach trying not to vomit.

You can’t imagine what a difficult article this is for me to write. I have, without question, the weakest stomach of anyone you have (or have not) ever met. Naturally, the number one worst bodily fluid for my gag reflex is vomit. If I see vomit, smell vomit, or come into any sort of contact at all with vomit, I vomit. Or at the very least I gag profusely and leave the vicinity of the vomit as quickly as possible. It doesn’t even matter what type of vomit it is. It can be human vomit, cat vomit, dog vomit, Martian vomit, bird vomit . . . it makes no difference. Remember the barf-o-rama from Stand By Me? I still have nightmares.

The one thing my vomiphobia has done for me (and you) is to force me to learn how to clean up vomit and to do a damn good job of it. It takes me awhile, and I have to walk away from the puke a few times in order to hold down my lunch, but if I don’t do a good job of cleaning vomit, I will know it and it will relentlessly taunt the contents of my stomach until I clean it properly. I’m a pet owner, so the situation arises all too often. With pets comes pet vomit. I also happen to have young nephews. And I tell you what, those kids are little carrier monkeys. I love ’em, but I swear every time I take care of them, there’s at least one of ’em that’s projectile vomiting. Turns out kid vomit is wayyy more disgusting than dog vomit or cat vomit. Luckily, though, the methods I’ve learned to clean vomit will work for any vomit variety. The main section of this article will be dealing with getting vomit out of carpet. The bottom and right sections will have a few ideas on how to remove vomit from other surfaces. So grab your latex gloves and let’s start cleaning up vomit.

Steps to Cleaning Vomit

  1. fake pile of mega pukeStart with the big chunks. This is by far, for me at least, the worst part of removing vomit. If the vomit is still wet, I generally start with some paper towels and very gently, so as not to rub it into the carpet further, scoop the chunks out and drop them in the garbage. It also works well to use a couple squares of cut-up cereal or soda box as scoopers. This way you can use one square to scrape the chunks onto the other. Many people recommend using a spoon or a spatula (hamburger-flipping type) to remove chunks. Since I know I would never be able to use that utensil again, I choose not to. Just make sure to always work your way from the outside in so as not to spread the vomit stain.
  2. spray bottle and ragShower the vomit with love. Once you’re all done gagging and puking from the previous step, you will have to continue to remove vomit. Sorry. This step is noticeably less disgusting than the last. Get a spray bottle, fill it with cold water (or, better yet, club soda), and spritz down the vomit goo. Now, take a white towel and start blotting and dabbing the puke. Spray with water and dab with the towel repeatedly until the puke is up. Make sure to use a clean section of towel each time. You may need more than one towel. Just make sure it’s a towel (or two) you don’t care about.
  3. cleaning suppliesClean puke with your very own vomit cleaner. Grab a mixing bowl, pour 2 cups of warm (not hot) water in it, and stir in 1 tbsp of table salt. Once the salt is dissolved, mix in ½ cup of white vinegar, 1 tbsp clear dish or laundry detergent, and 2 tbsp rubbing alcohol. This isn’t an exact science, so just estimate. Now grab a clean kitchen sponge, dip it in your vomit cleaner, and press it into the vomit. Do this several times so there is cleaner all over the stain. Grab a new old towel and blot just like before. This will be repeated, also like before, as often as necessary until no more vomit is being transferred to the towel. Each time you blot with the towel, you will be removing vomit. Have an extra towel or two on hand.
  4. stepping on towel to increase soakingRinse away the sins. Alright, we’re getting there. Now it’s time to really see how your vomit carpet turned out. Grab a glass measuring cup, fill it with warm water, and flood the area of the stain with it. Using yet more clean/dry towels, blot up the water. It works best to set the towel down and walk around on it. Rinsing is important because you want to make sure to get the detergent out of the carpet. Detergent has a tendency to attract dirt. You probably don’t want that. Do this twice and see how it looks. If you’re satisfied, go to the last step. If not, march on to the next one.
  5. jug of carpet cleanerBring out the big guns. This step is usually only necessary if you’re cleaning puke that has been on the carpet for awhile. So, if after everything that has come before there is still a bit of a stain on the carpet, mix yourself up about 1 tbsp of ammonia with 1 cup of warm water. Grab the kitchen sponge you were using before, rinse it out in the sink, and start dabbing. And, yes, you will need more clean towels. This is actually about the point where I have to break down and use paper towels. Anyway, dab and dry just like with the vomit cleaner. Once the stain is gone, rinse and dry like before. Make sure you try the ammonia first in an inconspicuous spot on the carpet to check for colorfastness.
  6. box of baking sodaOdor control. Alright, now you know how to clean up vomit. The last thing you need to do is to make certain there won’t be any lingering vomit smell. This is easy. All you gotta do is grab a box of good ol’ fashioned baking soda and start sprinkling. Don’t be shy about it either. Dump a bunch of the stuff on there. Once it’s down, work it into the carpet with your fingertips. The carpet will probably be a bit damp still, and the baking soda will get clumpy. That’s OK. Let it sit on the carpet until it is completely dry. This will take several hours, possibly even overnight. Once completely dry, vacuum it up, pat yourself on the back, and relish in the knowledge that you now know how to clean puke.

Clean Vomit with a Commercial Vomit Cleaner

If you want to know how to clean vomit from carpet (or any other surface) with a little bit more ease, you’re in luck. While the method above does work extremely well, it is time consuming. There are a number of products available that will help you to clean vomit a little more quickly. Basically, what you’ll be looking for, whether you’re cleaning cat vomit, dog vomit, or human vomit, is an enzymatic vomit cleaner. The enzymes in these cleaners actually break down the stains and often support the growth of good bacteria that will do the same. Stop into any janitorial supply shop, pet shop, or any online vendor, and pick something up that is clearly marked “enzymatic.” I strongly recommend the use of Simple Solution, Capture Pet Stain & Odor Neutralizer, Complete Pet Stain and Odor Remover, and Nature’s Miracle. They will all work well for human vomit or pet vomit.

Upholstery. Perhaps the easiest way to clean vomit from upholstery is through the use of a spot remover like the Bissell SpotBot. Most spot cleaners come with an upholstery attachment. They work great but they’re expensive. Otherwise, after scraping up all the chunks, a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water works well too.

Hard surfaces. To clean vomit from hard surfaces, like wood floors, linoleum, laminate, cement, walls, etc., all you really need is hot water and soap. I would also recommend throwing a little vinegar in the mix. The stuff is a great natural antibacterial and odor eliminator.

Clean Vomit Naturally

bowl of baking soda pasteBaking soda paste. This method works well for cleaning vomit from clothing. After scraping off the chunks, make a thick paste of water and baking soda (think toothpaste). Smear the stuff onto your vomitous ick, work it in, let it sit for a minute, rinse it out, and wash as you normally would. Just make sure that the stain is gone before putting your clothes into the dryer. You don’t want to bake the vomit stain in.

bags of cat litterCornstarch, baking soda, or litter. If you want to know how to clean vomit from hard floors easily, it doesn’t get easier than this. Just dump any one of the three items mentioned onto the vomit. Use lots of it, let it sit for a few minutes to soak up all the liquid from the vomit, sweep it up, and trash it. Afterwards, spray the spot down with vinegar and water, and wipe it down.

bottle of simple solutionSimple Solution Natural Stain & Odor Eliminator.This is my favorite organic mess cleaner of all time. Not only does it work like magic for cleaning up vomit, it’s ridiculously easy to apply and use. It’s also completely natural and biodegradable. It is made with corn-based ethanol, plant-based cleansers, and, to top it all off, natural bio-cultures. You can order a bottle of it from Amazon if you need.