How to Get Stains Out of Carpet

Blue and white carpet with fringes cleaned from stains

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins - 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Carpet and area rugs add warmth, comfort, and style to a home. However, the residue left behind by dirty shoes, food and drink spills, and pets results in stains. While not every stain can easily be removed, there are some steps that you can take that will keep your carpet looking better and lasting as long as possible. Learn how to get stains out of carpet.

How Often to Get Stains out of Carpet

Ideally, every type of stain from mud to pet accidents to coffee spills should be treated immediately or as soon as possible. Early treatment will have a much more successful stain removal than older stains. A good time to look for and get rid of stains is before your weekly carpet vacuuming.

Even if you plan to do an overall cleaning of the carpet, it is best to pretreat and remove visible stains. These usually require more time and treatment that simply removing overall soil.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Soft-bristled nylon scrub brush
  • Small bowl
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Vacuum

Materials

  • Carpet stain remover
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Paper towels
  • Powdered oxygen-based bleach

Instructions

Materials and tools to clean stains from carpet

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  1. Lift and Blot

    If the stain is fresh, either lift or blot. If the stain maker is solid or semi-solid like mud, pet excrement, or mustard, lift it away. NEVER rub the stain. Use the edge of an old credit card or a thin spatula to lift the staining matter away from the carpet fibers. Rubbing will push the stain deeper into the fibers making it more difficult to remove.

    For liquid stains, use white paper towels or a microfiber cloth to blot up as much moisture as possible. Again, don't rub. Apply some pressure and blot the area, moving to fresh paper towels or a dry section of the cloth frequently.

    Tip

    Always use plain white paper towels or color-fast cloths to blot and treat carpet stains. The last thing you need is the cleaning cloth reacting with the stain or the cleaning product and transferring dye to the carpet

    Stain blotted from blue and white carpet with white paper towel

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Identify the Stain

    Knowing what caused the stain is the first step in getting it out. If you weren't there when it happened, use your detective skills to figure out the culprit. A stain usually offers three clues—the location of the stain, how the stain smells, and the color of the stain. Each clue you solve will help you treat the stain properly.

    Round yellow stain on blue and white carpet closeup

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Get out Identifiable Carpet Stains

    If you know what caused the carpet stain, follow a stain removal chart to get out the stain. Here are some helpful guides for getting out the five most common and difficult stains on carpet:

    Acetone blotted on carpet stain with white cloth

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Get out Mystery Carpet Stains With a Commercial Stain Remover

    If you are using a commercial carpet stain remover, follow the directions on the product carefully. If the stain is old, allow more time for the product to work. Always finish by vacuuming the freshly cleaned area to lift the carpet fibers. Repeat the steps if the stain reappears after the carpet is dry.

    Vacuum cleaning carpet fibers after cleaning stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  5. Get out Mystery Carpet Stains With a Homemade Stain Remover

    Many carpet stains can be removed with a simple solution of dishwashing liquid like Palmolive and warm water. Mix two teaspoons of dishwashing liquid with two cups of warm water. Dip a clean white cloth, sponge, or soft bristle brush in the solution. Work the solution into the carpet from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to keep it from spreading.

    Blot with a dry cloth to absorb the solution. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. 

    Finish by dipping a clean cloth in plain water to "rinse" the spot. This is especially important because any soapy residue left in the carpet will attract more soil. Allow the stain to air dry away from direct heat. Vacuum to lift the carpet fibers. Repeat if the stain reappears after the carpet is dry.

    Dishwashing liquid and water solution scrubbed on to carpet stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  6. Get out Older Carpet Stains

    If the commercial stain remover or the homemade carpet cleaner did not remove the stain or if the stain is older, it's time to up the game. Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach and cool water following package directions. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center, work the solution into the carpet. Do not overwet. 

    Allow the solution to remain on the stain for at least one hour before blotting it away with a dry cloth. Allow the carpet to dry completely and vacuum to restore the pile. Repeat as needed.

    Warning

    Oxygen bleach is a mild form of bleach but it can still discolor dark-colored carpet. Always test the solution in a hidden spot before using it as directed. Never use chlorine bleach to remove stains on a carpet. The discoloration it causes is permanent.

    Water and oxygen-based bleach solution rubbed into carpet stain with cloth

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska