How to Get Alcohol Stains Out of Carpet and Upholstery

Glass with alcoholic cocktail spill on carpet

Mukhina1/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

Whether the spill is from a mixed drink, a shot, or a can of beer, knowing how to remove alcohol stains can save your carpet and upholstery. Beer stains are tannin and water-based, meaning the removal process is relatively simple, but liquor-based mixed drinks often contain juices or ingredients with dyes making those stains more challenging to remove. Of course, red wine always offers more of a stain removal challenge than white wine.

You can use various items you likely already have in your pantry—distilled white vinegar, dishwashing liquid, oxygen-based bleach powder—to create easy cleaning solutions. Here is a guide for removing liquor and alcohol stains from your carpet or upholstered furniture.

Stain type Tannin-based, may contain dye
Detergent type Dishwashing liquid, carpet stain remover, oxygen-based bleach
Water temperature Cool to warm

When to Call a Professional

If the alcohol stain is on some upholstery fabric that is vintage or silk, call a professional upholstery cleaner for help.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 roll paper towels
  • 1 vacuum
  • 1 soft-bristled brush
  • 2 white cloths
  • 2 small bowls

Materials

  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid
  • 1 bottle distilled white vinegar
  • 1 container oxygen-based bleach powder

Instructions

How to Get Alcohol Stains Out of Upholstery

  1. Remove the Moisture From the Stained Area

    Blot up as much liquid as possible using white paper towels. Press the towels into the stain. As the liquid is transferred, use fresh towels. Continue to blot until no more moisture is transferred.

    Liquor stain on couch armrest being blotted with paper towel

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Make a Cleaning Solution

    Mix one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid dishwashing detergent, one-half cup of distilled white vinegar, and two cups of warm water in a small bowl.

    Distilled white vinegar mixed with laundry detergent and water in measuring cup

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Treat the Stain

    Dip a clean white cloth into the solution and wring it well. Work from the outside edges toward the center to prevent the stain from spreading. As color from the stain is transferred to the cloth, move to a clean area to continue blotting.

    Tips

    • Always use a white cloth to prevent accidental color transfer to the upholstery fabric. Not all towels are colorfast!
    • Always wring the cleaning cloth to prevent too much solution from seeping into the padding of the upholstered furniture. Too much moisture can cause extended drying times and allow mildew to grow.
  4. Rinse the Freshly Cleaned Area

    Fill a second bowl or small bucket with water. Wet a clean white cloth and wring until the cloth is not dripping. Gently wipe the upholstery fabric to rinse the area. It is essential to remove all of the soapy residue because it can attract soil.

    Cleaning solution blotted on arm rest with white towel

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  5. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Air-dry away from direct heat. To speed drying, add a circulating fan to the room.

  6. Treat Tough Stains

    If the alcoholic drink was mixed with a product containing food dye, it will probably need additional treatment.

    • Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach powder and warm water following the product label directions.
    • Use a soft-bristled brush to gently work the oxygen bleach solution into the fabric. Do not overwet!
    • Allow it to sit for at least one hour before blotting away the moisture with a dry cloth.
    • Allow the fabric to air-dry and then repeat the treatment with a fresh solution of oxygen bleach and water if needed until all of the stains are gone.
    Oxygen-based bleach mixed with water in small glass bowl

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Get Alcohol Stains Out of Carpet

As with upholstery, prompt action to remove carpet stains will give the best results.

  1. Blot Away the Spill

    Use paper towels to blot up as much liquid as possible from the carpet. Work from the outside of the stain to prevent spreading.

  2. Treat With a Vinegar Solution

    Mix one-half cup of distilled white vinegar with one cup of water in a spray bottle. Saturate the stained area with the solution. Allow it to work for at least 10 minutes before moving to the next step.

    Warning

    If the stain is on an area rug over hardwood floors, place the stained area on plastic sheeting or a tarp before treating it with the vinegar solution. Leaving a wet rug or its pad on a wood floor can result in water stains.

  3. Blot Away the Vinegar Solution

    Use paper towels to blot away the vinegar solution. Keep moving to fresh towels as the moisture is transferred.

  4. Use a Soapy Solution

    In a small bowl, mix a few drops of dishwashing liquid and warm water. Dip a soft-bristled brush in the soapy solution and scrub the stained area. Start at the outside edges to prevent spreading and let the soap work for at least 10 minutes.

  5. Rinse the Carpet

    Use a white cloth dipped in clean warm water to wipe away the soapy residue.

  6. Blot, Air-Dry, and Vacuum

    When all of the soapy residue is gone, blot the area with paper towels and allow it to air-dry away from direct heat. When the carpet is dry, vacuum it well to lift any matted fibers.

  7. Check for Residual Stains

    If there are traces of the stain remaining after the carpet is dry, mix the same oxygen-based bleach and warm water solution recommended for upholstery. Apply the solution to the carpet and let it dry. Vacuum the carpet and repeat this treatment if needed.

    Warning

    While oxygen bleach is safe to use on all carpet colors, it should not be used to remove stains on wool carpets. The product can damage wool fibers and leave them brittle.

Additional Tips for Getting Out Alcohol Stains

Here are some tips to help ensure good results:

  • You can use a commercial carpet or upholstery stain remover to treat alcohol stains.
  • If there are multiple stains, consider cleaning the entire carpet or piece of furniture to make sure the color remains even.
  • Don't ignore the stain. Treat it as soon as possible.
  • Don't rub the stain. Rubbing pushes the stain deeper into the carpet or upholstery fibers, blot with a clean cloth instead.
  • Don't spread the stain. Start at the outside edges and work toward the center when cleaning.