How to Remove Vomit Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

How to Remove Vomit Stains

The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-10

No matter your efforts, vomit always seems to end up everywhere but the trash can or toilet. So, when you discover vomit on your clothes, carpet, or upholstery, put on your rubber gloves and get to work. Vomit stains are unpleasant and can be tricky to remove, but fortunately, there are several at-home measures you can take to clean the stains using items you likely already have in your cupboard.

Vomit is a protein stain, meaning that hot water can cook the protein and make it very difficult to remove. The vomit may contain other staining substances, such as tannins, acid, or dyes. The pH of vomit is very high in acid, and acidic bile stains as well. Treat the vomit stain before moving on to secondary treatments of the fluid content. Remember never to place a still-stained item into a machine dryer.

Stain type Protein-based, acid-based, tannin-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty
Water temperature Varies depending on type of fabric
Cycle type Varies depending on type of fabric

Before You Begin

When cleaning a vomit stain, it's essential to protect yourself from any virus or bacteria in the fluid. Wear rubber gloves to help prevent bacteria transmission. As you transport the stained items to your washer, keep them away from your face and body. Place the items in a washable plastic or disposable container that can be cleaned or discarded after use. You may wear a face mask for extra germ protection while cleaning vomit.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Plastic or disposable bin
  • Rubber gloves
  • Face mask (optional)
  • Dull knife
  • Plastic scraper (optional)
  • White cloth
  • Basin
  • Paper towel
  • Measuring spoons (optional)
  • Soft bristled brush (optional)
  • Cool water


  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Disinfectant
  • White vinegar
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Liquid detergent


Materials needed to remove vomit stains from clothing

The Spruce / Almar Creative

How to Remove Vomit Stains From Washable Clothes

The protein in vomit stains need to be treated quickly, but you can do so with a few simple at-home methods.

  1. Scrape Solid Matter

    Use a dull knife or plastic scraper to remove as much solid matter as possible. Do not rub or wipe the vomit with a cloth because it pushes the fluid deeper into the fibers.

    Scraping solid matter off of clothing

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  2. Flush the Stain

    Flush the stained material from the inside out to force out as much vomit as possible and hold the fabric under a faucet running cold water at full force. Never use hot water on a vomit stain because it cooks the protein component, making it very hard to remove.

    Flushing the stain under the faucet

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  3. Wash the Garment

    Wash the stained clothes or linen as recommended on the item's care label. If you are concerned about transmitting a virus within the vomit, use a disinfectant in the wash water. There are several highly recommended types of disinfectants, many of which are safe to use on colored fabrics. If the stain persists or has dried, try an oxygen bleach soak.

    Pine oil poured into empty washing machine drum

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  4. Soak the Garment

    Scrape or brush off any crusted or remaining crusted matter, then soak the garment in an oxygen bleach/liquid detergent and cold water solution. Follow the package directions for the proper mixing proportions. Highly recommended brands of oxygen-based bleach include OxiCleanNellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, and OXO Brite

    Preparing an oxygen bleach soak

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  5. Submerge and Launder

    Submerge the entire garment. Oxygen bleach is safe for white and colored clothes and all fabrics except silk, wool, and clothing trimmed with leather. After pre-soaking for 30 minutes, launder as advised by the care label.

    Submerging the garment in an oxygen bleach solution

    The Spruce / Almar Creative


In addition to being an effective cleaning agent, vinegar can neutralize the foul smell of vomit.

How to Remove Vomit Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

You can use vomit cleaning methods for carpet and upholstery interchangeably. Be careful not to over-wet upholstery fabric because excess moisture in cushions can create mildew and mold.

  1. Scrape Solid Matter

    Use a dull knife or plastic scraper to lift the solids up and away from the fibers. Do not rub or wipe the vomit stain until all solids have been removed because it will only push the stain deeper into the carpet.

    Scraping solid vomit matter off of a pillowcase

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  2. Blot and Mix

    Blot up as much moisture as possible with paper towels after the solids have been removed. Mix a cleaning solution of 1 tablespoon hand dishwashing liquid, 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, and 2 cups of cool water.

    Blotting the vomit stained area

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  3. Work Solution

    Dip a sponge, white cloth, or soft-bristled brush in the solution. Begin blotting at the outside edge of the stain and work the cleaning solution inward into the stained area. Continue blotting with paper towels to transfer the stain out of the carpet. Repeat the cleaning solution/blotting method until no more stain is transferred.

    Working the cleaning solution in with a soft bristled brush

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  4. Rinse the Area

    Rinse the treated area with a clean sponge dipped in cool water. Blot the entire area to remove any lingering traces of cleaning mixture.

    Rinsing the stained area with a wet sponge

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  5. Vacuum

    Let the carpet air-dry. Vacuum the carpet to lift fibers and remove any excess dried matter.

    Vacuuming the upholstery after stain removal

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

When to Call a Professional

If the garment is marked as dry clean only, remove the solids, blot away the moisture and take the item to a dry cleaner as soon as possible. Point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. Do not store the stained item in a hot car or plastic bag while waiting to visit the dry cleaner, as it can set the stain and make it more difficult to remove. If the stain is small and you decide to use a home dry cleaning kit, treat the stained area with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag. Consult a professional upholstery cleaning service if the vomit-stained upholstery is silk or vintage.

Additional Tips for Handling Vomit Stains

In addition to the methods mentioned above, you can apply lemon juice and baking soda directly to the vomit stain. It will cause a bubbling chemical reaction to help break down some of the protein and acid in the vomit. If you own a carpet steamer, it will be very effective on vomit stains on the carpet.

You can also treat older vomit stains with household ammonia. If vomit on the item is that of a stomach virus, rather than food poisoning or morning sickness, and you don't particularly value the soiled item, it may be worth discarding the garment altogether. Avoiding transmitting viruses is always a high priority. If you can't remove the stain at home, consult a professional cleaner for more specialized tips.