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How to Remove Stains from Your Carpets

red wine spilling on a Berber carpet
Lisa S./Shutterstock

It takes know-how to remove carpet stains because different stains need different types of cleaners. Dirty floors can make an ordinarily clean house look grungy, so getting that blemish out of your carpet quickly is important.

There are lots of products you already have in your pantry or bathroom that may help. Even if you missed a spot and a stain is set in, there is still hope. Here are some of the ways to remove stains from your carpet, even when it seems like it’s too late.

Safely Cleaning Stains

Before you start working on those stains, let’s talk about the basics of cleaning a carpet stain. Never use scrubbing action when you’re cleaning any carpeting. That scrubbing may damage the fibers of your carpet. Damaged fibers can make your carpet look messy and dull. Blotting is always the way to go.

If you’re using a store bought cleaner, or even with certain household cleaning ingredients (like peroxide), check if your carpet is colorfast before you spray on cleaner and end up with a bleached spot on your floor. Some chemicals may make your carpet look melted in spots too if the cleaner is too harsh and damages the fibers. Test in a hidden area where no one will notice if any damage is done (or, when you have carpet installed, save a remnant for this purpose).

You need to know your stains and have plenty of clean water for rinsing out cleaners.

Water-Soluble Stains

When most people hear the words water-soluble, they think of vitamins. Much the same as vitamins, a water-soluble stain is dissolved by water. There are some stains that water won’t help remove, but this type of stain benefits from the use of water. In fact, some water-soluble stains can be cleaned up quickly with water alone if you catch them when the spill happens.

Common carpet stains that are water-soluble include:

  • Berries
  • Soda
  • Ice cream
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Gravy
  • Food dye
  • Washable ink
  • Mud

These stains and others like them are often easily removed with a mixture of water and bleach-free soap or white vinegar. If the spill is fresh, begin by blotting the spot with a clean white towel. Then respray the spot and blot again. For tough stains that have been sitting for a bit, you may need to soak the spot or use the cleaner more than once. Once the stain is lifted, use water to rinse all the cleaner off, blot, and then sit a fan by the spot to help it dry.

Some water-soluble stains are tougher than others. While you can still try a combination of soap and water on these, you may need to try either ammonia and water or bleach and water (don’t mix bleach and ammonia, only use one or the other). Mix a cup of water with one tablespoon of ammonia, but don’t use on carpets with any wool in them. For bleach, it’s one part to five parts water.

  • Blood
  • Wine
  • Coffee and tea
  • Chocolate

Other Stains

There are non-liquid stains too, or stains that are of a thicker liquid type. These non-water-soluble stains typically won’t come out with water.

If there is a grease stain on your carpet from grease from food or some other oily substance, lifting it will work much the same way as removing dribbled candlewax from the carper. Start by placing a paper towel over the stained area and iron it with a warm setting. The idea is that the oily stain will come off the carpet and stick to the paper towel. This also works with crayon stain (since crayons are wax-based).

If you have kids or you do a lot of crafting, glue on the carpet may be a common experience. To remove glue from your floor, dab it with a soft cloth and some running alcohol to thoroughly moisten it. Then wipe the alcohol off gently, and repeat these steps until the glue is gone.

Ink and marker stains are a couple more nuisance stains that can happen in all homes. If you had a ballpoint pen burst and leave ink on your carpet, hairspray will help you lift the stain. Hairspray also removes permanent marker stains from the carpet. Use a non-oily hairspray, dampened onto a cloth, and blot out the stain. Repeat the dampening and blotting steps until the stain is removed.

Preventing and Preparing for Stains

If removing stains from your carpet is a daunting task, there are things you can do to help keep your carpet clean. Some tips to help keep carpets cleaner include:

  • Don’t allow shoes on the carpet, especially on snowy and rainy days.
  • Don’t eat or drink in carpeted rooms.
  • Designate a carpet-free area for your crafts and your children’s crafts.
  • Be careful with anything that can spill and stain your carpet, including candles.
  • Treat your carpet in advance, to help make future stain removal easier, with something like Scotch Guard.

On top of that, make sure you have the supplies we outlined above already on hand, so you’re ready to spring into action when those inevitable stains arise. You won’t be able to avoid all stains, but these tips may help you have less of them to clean up regularly.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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