10 Tips You Need for Removing Common Carpet, Furniture, and Fabric Stains

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Reviewed by Asya Biddle
Updated March 7, 2022
Boy sitting on the sofa eating a snack
Photo: Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

Keep these stain removal tips in your back pocket in case disaster strikes

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Stains are an unfortunate part of life, but they don’t have to leave a permanent mark. Maybe a hearty dinner went south, leaving you wearing the condiments or staring at an ugly splotch on your brand-new carpeting. Or perhaps you got a little too passionate during your DIY project and splattered paint on your linoleum. Whatever the case, follow these tried-and-true tips for quick stain removal.

1. Deal With Them ASAP

Once that barbecue sauce jumps ship and finds a new home on your sweater, you’ve got a limited timeframe before it sets in. This is not to say that it’s impossible to remove a dried stain, but you’ll have a much better chance at success if you fight it sooner rather than later.

"By being proactive and immediately treating the stain following the specific cleaning process dependent on the type of fabric or fiber, you’re increasing the likelihood of removing the stain altogether—or at least stopping the spread or setting-in process before a pro can shampoo or dry clean it," says Asya Biddle, Angi Expert Review Board member and manager of The Dust Busters janitorial company in Williamsport, PA.

Also, carry portable stain removers with you. These to-go stain pens are super handy in case your hand-eye coordination betrays you on your lunch break. Plus, if you see your coworker spilling coffee on their button-down during the morning meeting, you can be the office hero. Win-win, right?

2. Blot During Stain Removal—Don’t Rub

Whether you’re working with fabric, upholstery, or carpeting, always blot to soak up stains. Rubbing will only spread the mess and work it deeper into the fibers, like that spaghetti stain on your carpet.

3. Follow the Right Stain Removal Tips for Different Fabrics

Some fabrics can be finicky, and you don’t want to cause permanent damage by applying a damaging stain removal method. Remember these general rules:

  • Cotton can stand up to hot or cold water, scrubbing, and most stain removal solvents.

  • Wool can get destroyed if you’re too rough with the delicate fibers and should never get bleached.

  • Silk is extremely delicate and best left to a professional dry cleaner.

  • Polyester is more delicate than cotton and best washed in cool water, though it can take warm water if there are any stains.

  • Leather should only get cleaned with specialized leather cleaners or a 1-to-1 solution of white vinegar and water (always blot up excess water).

Always refer to your garment’s label when running it through the laundry. Hot water might work better to get stains out, but if it causes shrinkage, you’re out of luck.

4. Remove Oil and Grease With Dish Detergent

hand washing garment in suds
Photo: Liudmila Chernetska/iStock/Getty Image Plus/Getty Images

Just as your dish detergent can power through oily alfredo sauce from last night’s pasta dinner, it can also cut through grease. Try washing garments out under running water, gently using a soft-bristled brush to loosen the stain. You can also use a soapy water solution as a DIY way to clean stains from carpet and upholstery: Apply the solution and blot (don’t rub) with a cloth or paper towel.

5. Use Ice or Cold Water to Harden Sticky Smudges

If you’re in a sticky situation with gum, candle wax, or adhesives on your clothing, apply ice or cold water to solidify the mess. Then, gently use a butter knife to lift the hardened residue.

6. Apply Hydrogen Peroxide to Blood or Rust Spots

The fizziness of hydrogen peroxide will work in your favor if you’re dealing with either blood or rust stains. It also has bleaching properties without all the color-lifting damage, so it can work for a variety of surfaces, including carpet and upholstery. Apply a splash of hydrogen peroxide, let it froth up, then gently blot with a washcloth. Repeat as necessary.

7. Banish Odor and Sweat Stains With Baking Soda

Wooden bowl with baking soda on a black background
Photo: Igor Dudchak / Adobe Stock

For your kid’s smelly gym socks and your white T-shirt with the pit stains, make a paste of two parts baking soda to one part water. Apply it to the stains and throw it in the wash once the paste hardens. This will leave a white residue if left unlaundered, so it’s best used on clothing or removable upholstery items.

8. Tackle Paint Splatters With Nail Polish Remover

Acetone is a tough solvent that can cut through paint stains on carpets as well as nail polish. However, it will also wreck the finish on your wooden floors and furniture, so proceed with caution. If in doubt, always test on an inconspicuous area before going all-in.

9. Save Your Carpet and Upholstery With Club Soda

So, you got a little too animated while telling a story and sloshed your red wine onto the carpet. Dinner party foul? Not yet! Grab some club soda and pour it on to remove the carpet stain. Then, blot with a towel and repeat as necessary. Flavored sparkling waters also work in a pinch. 

Bonus tip: You can also use that club soda to get the wine splatter off your clothes, too.

10. Use White Vinegar for Carpet, Furniture, and Set-In Laundry Stains

Don’t fret if you forgot about your spaghetti sauce-stained blouse in the hamper all week. A spray bottle of white vinegar in your laundry room can help remove laundry stains before the wash cycle. Saturate the spot with vinegar and let it go to work for at least an hour before running it through the washing machine. Ensure all spots are gone before putting anything in the dryer, as the heat will permanently set the stain. 

For carpeting and upholstery, use a solution of one part vinegar to one part water. Spray the stain, let it sit for about 30 minutes, and then blot with a damp cloth.

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