How to Remove Milk Stains: Couches, Carpets, and Clothes

Spills happen—here's what to do when your favorite fabrics get stained

How to Remove Milk and Cream Stains

The Spruce / Adriana Sanchez

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr - 8 hrs, 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $15

We are taught not to cry over spilled milk, but that doesn't mean you should ignore the stains. Milk, cream, and whipped cream are made of liquid protein. The protein, as well as the fat, are the reasons milk can stain couches, carpets, clothes, and more. Not only can a milk stain—especially an old milk stain—be difficult to remove, but it can leave a bad smell.

Fortunately, it's possible to get milk out of a couch—including a microfiber couch, velvet sofa, and suede couch—with a few straightforward steps and household items. Likewise, you can use household items to get milk out of washable clothes, carpets, and other upholstery.

Here's what you need to know about how to get milk out of a couch and carpet, as well as out of clothes.

Stain type Protein-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty
Water temperature Cold to warm
Cycle type Varies depending on the type of fabric

Before You Begin

The key to get milk out of a couch, carpet, or clothing is to tackle the stain as soon as possible. Immediately blot up as much of the milk as you can with a white cloth or paper towel. Never rub or scrub the stain, as that can work the milk deeper into the fibers and make it harder to remove. Also, don't expose the stain to heat (such as a clothes dryer), as this can set the stain.

Always check the manufacturer's care label before cleaning upholstery or carpet yourself. This tag usually is under a couch cushion, under the fabric skirt, or on the rug back with letter codes that indicate how to clean it. If the furniture is vintage or silk, consult an upholstery cleaning professional.

If the milk spill is on dry clean-only fabric, blot up as much of the liquid as possible and then blot with a clean cloth dipped in plain cool water. Then, as soon as you can, head to the dry cleaners and point out the stain to them. If you are using a home dry-cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Couches and Carpet

  • Spoon
  • Cloths and/or sponges
  • Measuring utensils
  • Small container
  • Vacuum

New Milk Stains on Washable Clothes

  • Sink (or container of cold water)
  • Washing machine

Old Milk Stains on Washable Clothes

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Container for soaking
  • Washing machine

Materials

Couches and Carpet

  • Paper towels
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Oxygen-based bleach (optional)

New Stains on Washable Clothes

  • Paper towels (or cloths)
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent

Old Milk Stains on Washable Clothes

  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Cold water
  • Oxygen-based bleach

Instructions

Removing Milk Stains From Couches and Carpet

Use this general method to get milk out of a couch, carpet, and other upholstery.

  1. Scoop and Blot

    Scoop up as much liquid as possible with a spoon. Start at the outside of the spill and work toward the center to prevent spreading. Finish by gently blotting with white paper towels to absorb as much liquid as possible. Do not rub the fabric, as this can work the milk farther into the fibers.

  2. Blot With Cool Water

    Dip a clean white cloth or sponge in cool water, and blot the stained area from the outside edges toward the center. Try not to oversaturate the fibers. Move to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred, or rinse out the sponge. As one section is cleaned, blot the excess moisture with a clean dry white cloth or paper towel.

    removing milk stain from upholstery

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

  3. Mix the Cleaning Solution

    Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap with 2 cups of warm water in a small container.

  4. Treat the Stain

    Dip a clean cloth or sponge in the soap mixture, and saturate the stain working from the outside edges toward the center. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred to the cloth. Work slowly and methodically. When no more stain is being transferred to the cloth, move to the next step.

  5. Rinse the Stained Area

    Dip a clean white cloth in plain water, and blot to rinse the area. Then, blot with a dry cloth.

    Warning

    Rinsing thoroughly is very important because the soap solution can actually attract soil if residue is left behind.

  6. Treat With Oxygen Bleach (Optional)

    If you're having difficulty when trying to get the milk stain or smell out of a couch or carpet, it’s time to tackle it with oxygen-based bleach. (Always test in an inconspicuous place first to ensure there aren't any issues.) This can be an especially useful step to get dried milk out of a couch or carpet.

    Mix a solution of cool water and oxygen bleach. (Brand names include OxiCleanNellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener, and OXO Brite.) Follow the package directions to mix the solution. Use a cloth to blot it onto the stained area, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Then, blot with a clean cloth dipped in plain water to "rinse" the area. Finally, blot with a dry cloth to soak up as much moisture as possible.

  7. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Allow the area to air-dry away from direct heat. Then, vacuum it to lift the fibers.

Removing New Milk Stains From Washable Clothes

For fresh spills on washable garments, use this method to get milk stains out of clothes.

  1. Blot

    Quickly blot up as much of the milk as you can with a white cloth or paper towel as soon as the spill happens.

    dabbing the milk stain on a dry clean only garment

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  

  2. Flush the Stained Area

    Flush the milk from the fabric with cold water. There are two options. The best option is to hold the stain directly under running cold water with the wrong side of the fabric facing up. This forces the protein solids out of the fibers, which helps to get the smell of milk out of fabric. If you can't hold the fabric under a faucet, flood the stained area by blotting with a cloth dipped in cold water. 

    Warning

    Never use hot water. It will cook the protein, making the stain more difficult to remove and making it harder to get the smell of milk out of fabric.

  3. Wash

    Wash the milk-stained clothes as soon as possible as recommended on the care label using a heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent. (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty with enough enzymes to break down stains.) Air-dry the garment, and check to make sure the stain is fully gone. Repeat the process if necessary.

    Warning

    Do not put stained garments into the dryer as the heat from the dryer can set the stain, making it harder to remove and in some cases permanent.

Removing Old Milk Stains From Washable Clothes

If the milk on washable fabric is dried or old, use this method to get milk stains out of clothes.

  1. Brush Off Dried Matter

    Scrape or brush off any crusted matter with a soft-bristle brush.

  2. Treat the Stain

    Soak the garment in cold water mixed with a bit of heavy-duty laundry detergent for at least 30 minutes. Then, give the stain a light scrub with the soft-bristle brush before tossing the fabric in the washer for a full wash.

    soaking the stained garment

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  

  3. Check the Stained Area

    Before putting the garment in the dryer, check the area to see whether any stain remains. If there are traces of a stain left, do not dry the clothing; move on to the next step.

  4. Mix a Soaking Solution

    Mix a solution of cool water and oxygen-based bleach. Follow the package directions to mix the solution. Then, completely submerge the stained item in it, allowing it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the stain. If it is gone, wash the garment as usual; if it remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat.

Additional Tips for Removing Milk Stains

Couch Tip

If you weren't able to clean spilled milk quickly from a couch cushion, some might have seeped in. To get dried milk out of a couch cushion, first remove the cushion cover if possible. Clean the cover separately using the dish soap method, and use oxygen bleach to get the smell of milk out of the fabric (as long as it won't harm your fabric). Then, to clean milk out of the couch cushion, liberally sprinkle it with baking soda. Let it sit overnight or even longer; it will absorb the milk smell. Then, vacuum it up.

Clothing Tip

The same techniques to get both fresh and dried milk stains out of clothes can be used for chocolate or other flavored milk and cream stains. When treated promptly, these stains should come out, and the spilled milk smell should go away. For older chocolate milk stains, use an oxygen-based bleach soak to remove them.