Get Rid of Stains with Homemade Carpet Cleaner

Mariel Loveland
Written by Mariel Loveland
Updated October 25, 2021
A beautiful bedroom with a white carpet
PC Photography/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

You can make a DIY carpet cleaner with these multi-purpose household heroes

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Sometimes, life is messy. Maybe your pet tracked muddy pawprints across your living room floor. Or you’ve regretfully spilled a glass of red wine—a real-life horror film in the making for people with white carpets. Either way, stains happen. Before you bring in the professionals, these homemade carpet cleaner recipes may just save the day.

Difficulty: 1/5

Time: 20 minutes to 48 hours (depending on the method)

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • DIY cleaning solution (see below for specifics)

  • Spray bottle

  • White cloth, colorless paper towel, or sponge

  • Scrub brush

  • Butter knife

  • Protective gloves

  • Vacuum

Before applying homemade carpet cleaner, double-check your carpet manufacturer’s cleaning instructions and always test clean solutions on a small, inconspicuous spot first.

Ingredients from Your Pantry

White Vinegar

Vinegar is a DIY powerhouse. It can clean walls and counters, get rid of ants, and even remove carpet stains. If the smell bothers you, you can dilute the vinegar with some water. Make sure to keep the ratio as one-to-one. For this carpet-cleaning method:

1. Put 1 to 2 cups of vinegar in a spray bottle 

2. Dilute with 1 cup of water (optional)

3. Liberally spray the solution on your carpet stain

4. Let the solution sit for a few minutes to soak into the stain

5. Blot it up using a cloth, paper towel, or sponge

If your stain is particularly tough, you can use a scrub brush, brushing in the direction of your carpet’s fibers. Only do this after you blot up excess liquid. You don’t want to accidentally smear the stain around a larger area.

Salt

Salt’s ability to remove stains lies in its powers of absorption. Salt is best used before a stain has a chance to soak in. For this method:

1. Grab a heaping helping of salt from your kitchen

2. Pour it entirely over the stain (the more, the better)

3. Wait 10 to 15 minutes for the salt to soak up the liquid

4. Vacuum up the salt

5. Repeat

Salt can work wonders for brand new, liquid-heavy spills, but you may need to use a different homemade carpet cleaner once the stain has soaked into the carpet fiber.

White Vinegar and Salt

What’s better than salt or vinegar? Salt and vinegar. You get the absorption from one and the stain-busting power from the other. For this method, you should:

1. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in a half cup of white vinegar

2. Put the mixture into a spray bottle

3. Liberally spray the mixture onto the stain

4. Let it sit for a few minutes to soak into the stain

5. Blot (don’t rub) the area with a white cloth towel, sponge, or paper towel

6. Vacuum the area

7. Repeat if necessary

For tough stains (like red wine), you may want to strengthen your solution’s stain removal power by adding 2 tablespoons of borax or laundry detergent.

White Vinegar and Cornstarch

A white vinegar and cornstarch solution is a homemade carpet cleaner designed to fight especially tough stains. How? It forms a cleaning paste that hardens and clings to whatever is stuck in your carpet. The method is as follows:

1. Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch until it forms a thick paste

2. Spread the solution over the stain

3. Allow the stain to harden (up to two days if the stain is severe)

4. Scrape up the material with a butter knife

5. Vacuum the affected area

Since this method is a slow burn, you may want to use a quicker cleaning method to get out the bulk of the stain before it has the opportunity to set. Save cornstarch for the stubborn bits.

Club Soda

Club soda is a common DIY stain remover—whether the stain is on your shirt or your carpet. According to Scientific American, there’s not much reasoning behind why club soda works, but it can be effective for some stains as long as you act quickly. The application is simple:

1. Lightly blot the stain with a paper towel or cloth

2. Pour club soda on a separate cloth, and press it into the stain

3. Continue applying club soda and blotting until the stain starts to lift

4. Repeat as necessary

Club soda is the first line of defense. If the stain doesn’t lift, move on to a heavier-duty homemade carpet cleaner.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is an ideal choice for smelly, wet stains like vomit or pet urine because it’s a powerful odor remover—but it doesn’t act quickly. This method may need some time, from a couple hours to a full day. It all depends on how long you leave the baking soda to set. The longer it sits, the more likely it is to remove stubborn odors. Start by:

1. Blotting the stain with a cloth to get rid of excess moisture

2. Pour baking soda over the entirety of the stain

3. Gently rub the baking soda into the carpet

4. Let the baking soda sit for a few hours (or overnight)

5. Vacuum up the powder

Depending on how much baking soda you use, you may need to vacuum twice.

Ingredients from Under the Kitchen Sink

Detergent Solution

Dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent can play double-duty as a DIY carpet cleaner. The key is to use colorless soap (free of dyes that may stain your carpet) and dilute the solution with water. The steps are as follows:

1. Mix 1 tablespoon of laundry or dishwashing detergent with 2 cups of cold water

2. Use the solution to wet a cloth, sponge, or paper towel

3. Blot the stain 

4. Repeat until the stain is removed

5. Use a wet cloth or paper towel to blot up the remaining detergent

This method is particularly effective on tough stains like grease, oil, chocolate, and even turmeric.

Ammonia Solution

Ammonia is a common cleaning product, but it has an extremely strong odor. Weirdly enough, it works well on smelly spills. This method is best used in a well-ventilated area, and you should never mix ammonia with bleach because it creates toxic fumes. To make a DIY carpet cleaner with ammonia, you can:

1. Mix 1 cup clear ammonia with a half-gallon of warm water

2. Sponge the solution onto your carpet (using protective gloves)

3. Let the solution sit for 15 minutes

4. Blot the area with a cloth until the stain is removed

5. Repeat as necessary

Considerations

Remember to always blot stains rather than rub. Rubbing tends to smear the stain and make it worse. Overall, the most important factor is speed. The faster you fight a stain, the less of a chance it has to spread. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning your carpet since some natural fibers like wool aren’t meant to get wet.

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