Stained carpets got you down? Don't despair! There are plenty of natural carpet stain removers you can use to lift unsightly wine, pet mess, and greasy stains from carpets and rugs. We asked cleaning experts to share their favorite strategies and organic-based solutions for spot-cleaning carpets.
Getting Stains Out of Carpets
Stay on top of spills and stains to ensure they don't set or spread. Scrape up solid bits; if the spilled substance has dried, vacuum the area before applying a stain remover. Blot spills with a clean white towel to absorb staining material. Never scrub the carpet surface or pour liquid directly onto the stain—both may spread the stain. Lightly spray stains with your natural stain remover and blot with a dampened towel, working from the stain's outer edges toward the center to prevent spreading.
After using a natural carpet stain remover, rinse the cleaned carpet area with water to remove residue. Sticky residue attracts dirt, which will restain your carpet. Don't let cleaned areas simply air-dry, which may result in noticeable rings. Empire Carpets recommends drawing out remaining moisture by placing several layers of white towels over the treated area. Weigh the towels down with a heavy object that won't transfer color, such as a plastic jug of water or a glass casserole filled with books. Let it sit overnight before removing the towels. Vacuum or hand-brush the cleaned area.
For a quick lift of fresh spills and older stains, keep a handheld carpet steam cleaner at hand. The electric cleaners inject water or a cleaning solution into the stain, then suck the dirty solution back into the machine.
Here's a look at natural stain removers and tried-and-true methods you can use to clean your carpets.
Just Use Water
Donna Smallin Kuper, clean fiend, organizational guru, and author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness, says you can't beat water when it comes to naturally dissolving stains from carpets. Employ it as your first and best offense when washing out stains. Absorb as much of the stain as possible with white towels, then blot with water-dampened white cloths until the stain is gone. "I actually used water to clean a 6-foot-square area of off-white Berber carpet that was smothered in chocolate, Clif Bars, and Fig Newtons that my dog got into," Kuper says. "It took about an hour and a lot of patient blotting, but the carpet was good as new when I was done!"
Frozen Water or Ice Cubes
Deep-freezing wads of gum and melted wax that are marring your carpet's surface makes the sticky globs a cinch to remove. First, peel or gently scrape off as much gum or wax as you can. Then harden the remaining gum or wax by placing a plastic bag filled with ice atop the offending materials. Once the surface hardens, shatter and chip away the remainder using a spoon or a scraper, then vacuum. If oily residue persists, blot stain with a white cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol until the residue disappears.
Fill a spray bottle with club soda to use as a handy-dandy stain remover, says green-cleaning expert Leslie Reichert. Blot up the spill, then lightly spray the stained area with club soda. Blot the entire area with a clean white cloth. Continue to spray and blot until the stain has disappeared.
Get a handle quickly on large liquid spills by applying cornstarch, Reichert says. Blot up excess liquid, then spread cornstarch across the stain. Once the cornstarch has absorbed the liquid, scrape up the powder and vacuum the area. If stain remains, spray the area with club soda and blot with a clean white towel until the stain is gone.
Potent Potables: White Wine or Vodka
Just spilled red wine? Kuper says to immediately blot the spill with a clean white towel and treat the stain with white wine or vodka (this only works if it is the first method you try). Otherwise, go to Plan B: Treat the stain by blotting with hydrogen peroxide.
The cleaning team at 20 Mule Team recommends the following method for cleaning drink spills, removing pet stains, and neutralizing odors. First, blot wet spills with a clean cloth. Spray the spot with ice water and sprinkle on borax powder. Blot the stain with a white cloth until the stain is gone. Or simply pat borax into the water-moistened area, let it dry in place, and vacuum it up once the area has dried.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Dish Soap
Tannin stains left by spilled tea, coffee, cola drinks, fruit juice, wine, and washable ink can be banished with a solution that you can blend as needed. Melissa Maker, author of Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster and Loving Your Home Every Day, says to mix 2 tablespoons hydrogen peroxide with 1 tablespoon dish soap. After blotting up the spill, apply the solution to the stained area. Let it sit for a few seconds before gently working it in with your fingers. Rinse the area with water, blot, and repeat until the stains and residue are gone. "Whip up this simple stain pretreater as you need it," Maker says. "Hydrogen peroxide loses its effectiveness as it gets exposed to light (hence, the brown bottle), so making a little bit as needed is the best and most cost-effective way to go."
Salt, Vinegar, and Borax
Make a paste of 1/4 cup table salt, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 1/4 cup borax powder to remove protein-based stains, such as blood, bodily fluids, dairy products, baby formula, baby food, and eggs, Maker says. Apply the paste to the stained area and let it dry for 24 hours before vacuuming. In addition to removing the stains, the mix kills bacteria and acts as a deodorizer. Once the area has been vacuumed, clean with water to remove residue and blot well with a clean, dry cloth.
Blend one part distilled white vinegar with two parts water in a spray bottle. Use the spray to remove pet urine and rust stains. After absorbing any moisture with a clean white cloth, lightly spray the stained area with the vinegar mixture. Blot with a white cloth until the stain is gone.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Steam
Grab a spray bottle filled with hydrogen peroxide and a steam iron to remove older wine, blood, and urine stains, says Kuper, who learned this natural stain-removal trick from a professional carpet cleaner. Spray hydrogen peroxide onto stains, then cover with a damp white towel. Place a steam iron set on the lowest setting atop the towel (make sure it doesn't touch the carpet). Take care not to inhale the steam. Iron the towel for 10 to 15 seconds. Check the back of the towel; you should see some transfer of the stain from the carpet to the towel. Repeat until all or almost all of the stain has disappeared. Lightly spray the stain again with hydrogen peroxide. Place a clean dry towel on the area and weight it with something heavy like a skillet. Allow to dry overnight.
Treat oily stains with rubbing alcohol or vodka—both will break down oils and grease, Reichert says. Fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol or vodka and spray the stained area. Let the remover sit for a few minutes, then gently rub a bar of natural soap into the stain. Blot the area with a damp white cloth until the soap is gone. Let area dry; repeat blotting until the stain is removed. Blot with water-damp towel to remove soapy residue.
Shampoo Carpets to Prevent Further Stains
Zach Voog of goclean.com shares this overall carpet-shampooing method (from the company's original owner, Mary Findley) that naturally keeps freshly cleaned carpets stain-free longer. Commercial carpet shampoos leave sticky residues that grab incoming dirt to create dirty globs that can't be removed with a vacuum. Avoid this problem by filling your carpet cleaner with a mixture of 1/2 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon hot water. The vinegar will reactivate the shampoo in the carpet; the carpet cleaner will extract the shampoo and dirt. Finish the job by filling your carpet cleaner with plain water to remove remaining vinegar—your carpet will be squeaky clean, soft, deodorized, and renewed.