Remove Tough Stains From Your Carpet With These 10 Helpful Tips

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated March 18, 2022
dog running around the house on carpet
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Spills are a part of life, but that doesn’t mean you have to love when they happen. Knowing what to do when little messes occur can help keep your carpet looking pristine for longer. Whether you knock over your morning cup of coffee or your puppy has an accident in the living room, these tips will help you remove tough stains from your carpet in no time.

1. Blot Spills on Your Carpet ASAP

You’ll want to address spills as soon as humanly possible to prevent them from heavily staining your carpet. When your kiddo accidentally knocks over their juice box, come running armed with a handful of paper towels to blot up the excess liquid before it all sinks into the fibers of your carpet. This tactic may not remove the stain from your carpet completely, but it will minimize its impact and make the actual stain removal part a lot easier.

Wiping or rubbing stains will only make them worse because you’re essentially pushing more of the pigment into the fibers of your carpet. Gently blot to remove as much liquid as possible.

2. Remove Excess Solids

Getting rid of excess solids is just as important as removing excess liquids to remove stains from your carpet. Remove food residue, or whatever other solids are sitting on top of your carpet, directly after a spill. Scrape off what you can with a spoon or butter knife. Once you blot away liquids and remove excess solids, you can get started on addressing the stain itself.

3. Pour Water Over Water-Soluble Stains

Most of the stains you see on your carpets are probably water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water. Diluting this type of stain may lift it entirely or make it easier to remove later on with a special stain remover. 

Pour a small amount of cold, clean water on the stain and blot it with a cloth. Then go in with a cleaning solution before rinsing and drying it.

Water-soluble stains can come from:

  • Berries/juice

  • Soda

  • Urine and feces

  • Food coloring

  • Washable markers or paints

  • Mud

  • Alcoholic beverages

4. Clean With Water, Vinegar, and Dish Soap

woman spraying cleaning solution on carpet
Photo: LightFieldStudios / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Mix 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and another tablespoon of dish soap. Apply a small amount of this solution to the stain on your carpet using a clean towel. Let it sit for a few minutes before blotting it away with clean water.

For tough stains, increase the cleaning power of your DIY cleaning solution by adding more vinegar and dish soap. This solution especially works well on water-soluble stains—think urine, juice, or food, not lipstick, cooking grease, or oil.

As with any cleaning solution, though, you’ll want to spot-test it first to be sure it’s compatible with your carpet. 

5. Try Other Carpet Cleaning Tricks Hiding in Your Home

If you’re looking for something even quicker than making your own carpet cleaning solution, many items in your kitchen or bathroom can be a one-stop shop for carpet cleaning success. 

For example, try pouring unflavored club soda on stains to lift them quickly. Some also swear by using white wine to lift any stains from red wine spills, rubbing alcohol for nail polish stains, and shaving cream for tracked-in dirt. Again, be sure to spot-test these before trying them, but they may work in a pinch. 

6. Let the Cleaning Solution Sit

Stain removal requires patience. After you apply a cleaning solution to the stain, let it work its magic on its own for at least five minutes before rinsing it, particularly for hard-to-remove stains like hair dye spills on your carpet. If you buy a commercial stain remover instead of making your own, it should come with cleaning instructions. Follow those carefully for the best results.

Letting the stain remover sit on the stain allows the chemicals to react and bind to the particles in the stain, which will lift it out of your carpet.

7. Rinse After Spot Treatments

Dip a clean cloth in clean water and blot up the stain remover. This step essentially rinses the spot and removes any soapy residue left in the carpet. Let the area air dry and vacuum to lift the carpet's fibers. 

If you can still clearly see the stain after the carpet is dry, apply more stain remover and repeat the carpet cleaning process. You can gently work the solution into the carpet with a cloth to up the game.

8. Use Baking Soda to Remove Grease and Odors

The trick to getting nasty stains out of your carpet might already be in your pantry. Baking soda is a powerful cleaning agent that dissolves organic compounds like dirt and grease. Not only that, but baking soda is also effective at neutralizing odors. Sprinkle it onto a stain, let it sit for about 15 minutes, and vacuum it up. 

9. Heat It Up

Try heating particularly stubborn stains up with your iron if the cleaning solution doesn’t work. Place a clean, damp cotton towel over the stain, set your iron to low or medium, and press the iron over the spot where the stain is for about 30 seconds. 

As you lift up the cloth, the stain should come with it. If it doesn’t, you can dilute the stain more and try again.

10. Hire a Professional Carpet Cleaner

professional using steamer on white carpet
Photo: Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock

If the stains on your carpet just won’t come out or if you don’t have time to tackle them, hire a local carpet cleaner to take care of them. They’ll have all the tools and knowledge it takes to get rid of nasty carpet stains once and for all.

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