How to Remove Tar Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

How to Remove Tar Stains

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 5 hrs, 15 mins - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-10

Whether you're handling some home repairs or manage to track fresh tar from the sidewalk onto your carpet or upholstery, tar stains can be stubborn and frustrating to remove. In addition to the task of removing the tar itself, you'll need to remove the resin and oil residue it leaves behind. However, you can take some effective at-home removal measures to eliminate tar using items you likely already have in your cupboard.

Removing tar can be a bit challenging, but we're here to help. We wrote a guide to removing tar stains from your carpet or upholstery in a few simple steps.

 Stain Type  Resin-based, oil-based 
 Detergent Type  Heavy-duty
 Water Temperature  Hot
0:52

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

Before You Begin

Before you start trying to remove the tar stain, assemble the necessary safety gear. Always wear gloves and a face mask to prevent fume inhalation when handling wet tar.

When to Call a Professional

If the stained carpet or upholstery is vintage or silk, enlist the help of a professional carpet cleaner. Attempting to remove the stain yourself will likely only make it worse.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Dull knife or scraper
  • Cloths or white paper towels
  • Vacuum
  • Gloves
  • Face mask

Materials

  • Ice cubes
  • Commercial dry-cleaning solvent

Instructions

Materials and tools to remove tar from carpet and upholstery

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

How to Remove Tar Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

When removing tar from your upholstery, always use the least amount of solution possible to prevent over-wetting the fabric. Excess moisture in cushion fillings can cause mold and mildew.

  1. Harden the Tar

    • Place ice cubes into a plastic bag, then place the bag on the stain to harden the tar.
    • After the tar is hardened, use a dull kitchen knife or the edge of a credit card to scrape away as much of the solid tar as possible from the carpet fibers. Resist the urge to scrap at the tar roughly and quickly; you don't want to destroy your carpet.
    • Vacuum any loose pieces.
    Dull knife scraping tar residue from carpet after soaked with ice cube

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  2. Treat the Stain

    Treat any remaining stain with a commercial dry-cleaning solvent. To do this, dampen a clean white cloth or paper towel with the solution. Work from the outside edge of the stain inward, sponging the stain with the cleaning solution. Continue blotting until it looks like no more tar is transferred. Dry in a well-ventilated space.

    Commercial dry-cleaning solvent applied to paper towel to treat tar stain

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  3. Blot

    Dip another clean white cloth in plain water and blot the stain to remove any traces of the cleaning solution. This is essential, as cleaning solution residue can attract soil. Finish by blotting with a clean, dry cloth, allowing the carpet to air dry. Once the stain is gone, vacuum to lift carpet fibers.

    Tar stain on carpet blotted with white paper towel soaked with water

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Additional Tips for Removing Tar Stains

  • As soon as you notice the stain, move immediately to clean it. The longer the stain sits, the harder it is to get out.
  • If your ice machine is broken or you've run out of cubes, you can use a bag of frozen vegetables or a cold pack instead. You can place a piece of wax paper over the tar to prevent any of the stain from getting on your cold item.
  • Be patient. It may take several rounds of treating the stain to fully remove it.