7 Common Carpet Stains and How to Remove Them

Stains on carpet can be a major pain for homeowners. Fortunately, most can be removed with a few life-saving (and carpet-saving) best practices.

The key to stain removal is knowing the types of stains and how they react. This article will offer you valuable tips, homemade cleaning solutions, and prevention strategies in keeping your carpet in optimal condition and stain-free.

1. Coffee

There’s nothing like sinking your bare feet into plush carpet to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, but what happens when your coffee spills? This is the type of stain that requires quick action to avoid permanent damage. Fortunately, with some patience and a little know-how, your carpets can look like they never even got stained in the first place.

Start by blotting the coffee stain with a clean cloth to soak up as much moisture as possible without spreading the coffee further into the fibers of your carpet. This step is especially important for older, dried set-in stains that need extra help to lift.

Once you’ve soaked up the majority of the liquid, use a solution made from hydrogen peroxide and dish soap to fight the stain. Apply the cleaner to the stain with a damp cloth, then blot it again until little or no coffee transfers to the cloth.

For best results, this method works better on fresh stains than old ones. If the stain persists, a more powerful solution may be needed.

2. Wine

Even though red wine is a staple at parties, spilling a glass on the carpet doesn’t have to be a death sentence. As long as you act quickly, there are a number of methods that can remove both fresh (still wet) and dried red wine stains from your carpeting.

Start by blotting the stain with a clean cloth. Then, spray or pour club soda onto the wine stain. This will dilute the pigment and make it easier to blot. Continue to blot until the stain has faded or is completely gone.

Another option is to sprinkle the stained area with salt and leave it to soak for a few hours or overnight. This will draw out the red wine, leaving you with a spot that’s clean and free of odor.

If you don’t have any of these products on hand, there are a number of store-bought cleaning solutions that can also help. Be sure to follow the specific directions on the bottle you choose.

3. Blood

Blood stains on carpet from cuts, menstrual cycles, food preparation and even pets are pretty common. It can be tough to remove if the stain has had time to set, but it is still possible with a few simple steps.

First, blot the blood stain with cold water to get as much of the liquid out as possible. This will help the stain break up and make it easier to remove. Next, mix a solution of cold water and salt (2 tbsp. of salt per liter of water). Dip a clean white cloth into the solution and then blot the blood stain. Repeat until the cloth no longer transfers any blood to it.

If the stain remains, try a bit of hydrogen peroxide (3% solution or higher). Spot test it in an inconspicuous area of the carpet and if all is well, apply the solution to the blood stain and let it sit for up to an hour. The peroxide will bubble like a fresh cut and actually lift the blood from the carpet fibers.

If the above steps fail, use an oxi product. Again, always spot test the product in an inconspicuous area of your carpet and be sure to keep oxi products away from natural fibers like wool.

4. Food

Food is another common stain that can be difficult to remove from carpets. It’s best to act on food stains as soon as you can since the longer they sit the harder they are to get out. Start by scooping up any solids that can be removed and blotting (don’t rub) the rest of the mess. Next, create a cleaning solution with water and dishwashing liquid or white vinegar. Apply the solution to a cloth and dab at the stain until it dissolves. Finally, rinse the area with cold water and blot it dry with a clean cloth.

Acidic stains can be created from foods and beverages like tomatoes, fruit juices, and condiments such as ketchup. Oil-based stains are also tricky to remove because they tend to change the way your carpet fibers bond together.

To treat a food stain, first try to blot it with paper towels to soak up as much of the excess as possible. Use a cleaner that’s safe for your type of carpet. If you have a pet, be sure to test any cleaning products on an inconspicuous area of the carpet before using them on a stain. Finally, sprinkle the spot with baking soda to help absorb any lingering smells.

5. Pet Stains

While you may work hard to train your pet to not soil your carpets, accidents are inevitable. Whether from urine or feces, the chemicals in those substances can set the dyes in your carpet fibers and create odors that are nearly impossible to get out.

The first step is to blot the spot with paper towels and absorb as much of the urine or feces as possible. Next, pour enough white vinegar to saturate the affected area. After the vinegar dries, sprinkle the area with baking soda. You should hear a fizzing reaction that signals the baking soda is working to lift the stain and odor from your carpet fibers.

For older stains, use hydrogen peroxide (diluted with water in a spray bottle). It’s a powerful disinfectant and lifter that breaks down into oxygen and water, leaving no residue.

For oil-based stains, you will need to use commercial products that are designed for such stains. They contain ingredients that break down grease and oils. Remember that your carpet contains synthetic fibers, which are derived from petroleum. Oils and fats bond with those same fibers, so they are notoriously difficult to remove from carpets. You can test the effectiveness of a cleaner by dropping a few drops of water and oil onto a piece of cloth. The oil will cling to the fabric, but the water will spread out.

6. Dirt

Dirt stains on carpet often occur from tracked-in dirt, such as dust, sand, and even pet hair. These can be a challenge to remove, but blotting and treating quickly can prevent the stain from setting. Start by scooping or blotting as much dirt as possible. Try to avoid rubbing, as this can push the dirt deeper into the carpet fibers. Use a white cloth to absorb as much of the dirt transfer as possible, and change the cloth as needed.

Then treat the stain with a cleaning solution. A good choice is a solution of one-teaspoon mild dishwashing liquid mixed with one cup lukewarm water. Apply the solution to the spot with a clean, white cloth, and blot until the dirt is removed. Rinse and blot dry.

If you have a stubborn or persistent oil-based stain, you can also try using a commercial product that’s specifically designed for these types of stains. Again, be sure to test any cleaner in an inconspicuous area first.

7. Oil

There are a variety of different reasons that oil may be spilled on your carpet, from cooking grease to car oil tracked in from outside. It can look unattractive and it will definitely leave an odor that you may not want in your home. Grease, oil, and fat stains are non-water-soluble and will not absorb water like regular stains. This makes them particularly difficult to remove from your carpet.

To start, blot the stain as best you can. Don’t rub it, as this will only push the stain deeper into the fibers. Then, sprinkle the area liberally with baking soda and allow it to sit. How long it needs to sit depends on the size of the stain and how recent it is. Once it has had the opportunity to absorb as much oil as possible, vacuum up the baking soda and repeat the process if necessary.

If the above methods do not work, you can try rubbing alcohol or white vinegar. Rubbing alcohol can be found in almost every household and it is inexpensive, but you must be careful as it is flammable and toxic. Spray a small amount of the solution onto an absorbent cloth and apply it to the stained area. Then, blot until the spot is dry.