Learn how to clean carpet stains with these smart tips and our DIY carpet stain remover recipe.

By Berit Thorkelson
Updated November 20, 2019
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When you install carpet, you may find yourself stockpiling carpet stain removers, calculating how many hours you'll devote to carpet cleaning, or trying to figure out how to get stains out. Even a home without kids or pets is prone to at least one spill or smudge. No matter the spill, the process of how to remove carpet stains remains pretty much the same. Thankfully, it's easy! Follow the three simple steps provided below and your carpet will be good as new without a professional carpet steam cleaning.

Living room with area rug and lounge chairs
Credit: Tria Giovan

How to Get Stains Out of Carpet

You worked so hard to remind people to remove their shoes and avoided bringing food into your carpeted rooms. And then it happened. The coffee spill or the flying gravy boat at Thanksgiving. You enter stain removal mode and search for the best carpet stain remover.

Before reaching for the nearest bottle of cleaning solution, you may find that the best carpet cleaning solution is water. Blot (don't rub) the stain with a clean, slightly damp white cloth.

If plain water doesn't work, move on to a carpet stain remover or DIY solution. The best carpet stain remover will be tailored to what caused the stain. Follow these three steps and you'll know exactly how to clean carpet stains.

Step 1: Remove Excess ASAP

Scrape off any excess solid with a spoon or a butter knife as soon as possible so your cleanable spill doesn't turn into a permanent stain. Gently blot away excess liquid with a clean, white, absorbent cloth, working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to prevent spreading. "Always blot, never rub, which can permanently damage carpet fibers," says Derek Christian of My Maid Service. Repeat until the cloth no longer picks up any color.

Step 2: Apply a Carpet Stain Remover

Spray any remaining stain with a carpet stain remover. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application. You can also clean the carpet with a vinegar solution. For a homemade carpet stain remover, stir 1 teaspoon of mild dishwashing liquid into 1 quart of warm water, and add 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar, and apply to the carpet stain. No matter what carpet cleaner solution you are using, take care not to over-wet the stain, which can damage the backing. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Editor's Tip: Always test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous spot before applying a cleaning agent to a stain on your carpet.

Step 3: Blot Stain Away

Using a clean, white, absorbent cloth, blot from the outside in. Repeat until the stain no longer transfers to the cloth. Blot with cold water, then blot dry. For thorough drying, try this trick: Cover the damp area with a 1/2-inch-thick layer of cloth or paper towels. Weigh them down with a heavy object and change out paper towels until dry.

modern colorful playroom with storage

How to Remove Stains from Carpet: The Top Offenders

For common carpet stains, try these solutions.

  • Wine or juice: Whether you spill red wine, white wine, grape juice, or another vibrant beverage, start by spritzing with club soda. Blot with a clean microfiber cloth. Repeat until the stain is gone.
  • Chocolate: Use a dull knife to scrape away as much chocolate as possible. If the chocolate is melted, place a resealable plastic bag filled with ice cubes over the stain to harden the remaining chocolate before scraping. Vacuum the area to pick up any loose flakes or pieces. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of liquid dish soap with one cup of warm water, and use a clean cloth to apply the solution to the stain, working from the outside toward the center. Leave the solution on for at least five minutes, then blot until the stain is gone.
  • Candle wax: Rub an ice pack on the wax until it hardens. Gently break up the wax, then vacuum up the pieces. Treat the spot with a dry-solvent carpet cleaner, following the manufacturer instructions, and blot to dry. Dab the area with a warm, damp cloth, then blot-dry again.
  • Coffee or tea: Melissa Maker, author of Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster and Loving Your Home Every Day, recommends mixing 2 tablespoons hydrogen peroxide with 1 tablespoon dish soap. Blot the spill first, then apply the solution. Let it sit for a few seconds before carefully working the solution in with your fingers. Rinse the stain with water, blot, and repeat until the stain is removed.
  • Dirt: Allow dirt or mud to completely dry before treating. Scrape off as much residue as possible, then vacuum. Apply a detergent solution (like the DIY cleaner above). Let the solution sit on the stain for 10 minutes before blotting with a clean white cloth or paper towel.
  • Blood: Apply cold water or club soda, then blot with a clean cloth. Repeat until the stain is gone.
  • Fat-based stains (butter, margarine, gravy, etc.): Use baking soda as a carpet cleaner for fatty stains. Sprinkle the stain with baking soda and let it sit for six hours. Vacuum and then blot with a cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol. You can also use a dry-solvent spot carpet cleaner following the label instructions.
  • Gum: Peel away as much gum as you can. Harden the remaining gum by placing a resealable plastic bag of ice cubes over it. Chip gum away with a spoon or dull knife. Vacuum and clean lingering stain with a dry-solvent carpet cleaner, following the label instructions.
  • Urine: Apply an enzymatic cleaner, available at pet supply stores or co-ops and other natural retailers.

Comments (3)

May 24, 2018
May 4, 2018
How about hot cocoa. Had a grandaughtet hide it, professional carpet cleaners didn’t get it out, i tried hydroxy cleaners & made it much worse. I love my room size rug. Help!
May 4, 2018
How to clean Mr.Clean spill from the carpet ?