How to Remove Vomit Stains From Clothes and Carpet

Pink gloved hand cleaning a stain on carpet with a blue rag

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Vomit stains are among the worst things you'll ever have to remove from your carpet. Along with the gross stain comes a nasty, pervasive smell. Whenever possible, you should clean vomit right away, before the odor sets in and becomes more difficult to eliminate.

Vomit stains and odors can be tackled with a variety of household solutions and products, from dish soap to ammonia to commercial spot removers. You may have to try more than one cleaner, and you likely will have to treat the area more than one time. When removing stains from clothing, don't put the items into the dryer until you're certain the stain is gone; the heat of the dryer can set any remaining stain for good.

Stain Type Acidic food stain
Detergent Type Standard or enzyme-based laundry detergent
Wash Temperature Warm

Before You Begin

Use a spoon to remove as much of the vomit stain as possible. This sounds really gross, but you want to get up as much of the material as you can without pressing it into the carpet. Methods for removing an old stain are the same as with a new stain, but with an old stain you will likely have to repeat the removal process several times to be sure it is fully removed. 

How to Remove Vomit Stains From Clothing

Vomit is essentially a complex food stain that contains acid as well as any variety of food compounds. Pretreat with cold water to prevent setting the stain.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 18 to 23 minutes plus washing time

What You'll Need

Supplies:

  • Color-safe bleach
  • Ammonia (Optional)
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Paper towel or cloth

Tools:

  • Spoon or butter knife
  • Toothbrush
  1. Remove the Solids

    Remove all solids from the stained area by scraping with a spoon or a butter knife, working from the outside toward the center to prevent spreading the stain.

  2. Rinse the Stain

    Run cold water from the faucet through the backside of the fabric to force the stain out through the front of the fabric.

  3. Soak With Cleaner

    Fill a sink or a washtub with cold water, and add color-safe bleach according to the product instructions. Soak the garment in the solution for 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a solution of 1 quart warm water, 1 tablespoon ammonia, and 1/2 teaspoon liquid laundry detergent. Do not use hot water because it can set the stain.

  4. Scrub, Rinse, Repeat

    Scrub the stain with an old toothbrush, stopping periodically to blot the fabric with a paper towel or an absorbent cloth or pad. Rinse the garment thoroughly to remove the cleaning solution. Repeat this step as needed until the stain is gone.

  5. Pretreat and Wash

Pretreat the stain with your favorite laundry stain remover, and let it sit for three to five minutes, or as directed. Wash the item in warm—not hot—water, using your usual laundry detergent. Inspect the garment carefully to make sure the stain is gone before putting it in the dryer. Or, to play it safe, air dry the item until you are sure the stain has disappeared.

How to Remove Vomit Stains and Odors From Carpet

Ammonia can be a powerful tool against vomit stains and odors, as can many commercial carpet stain removers. Be sure to test any treatment in an inconspicuous area of the carpet to confirm that it doesn't damage your carpet.

Project Metrics

·       Working Time: 10 to 15 minutes

·       Total Time: 12 hours to overnight

What You'll Need

Supplies:

  • Club soda
  • Ammonia or carpet spot stain remover

Tools:

  • Spoon or butter knife
  • Cloths
  • White towels (Optional)
  • Vacuum
  1. Remove the Solids

    Scrape and scoop up all solids from the carpet, using a spoon or a butter knife. Work from the outside toward the center to prevent spreading the stain.

  2. Flush With Soda

    Pour club soda or cold water onto the carpet, covering an area about 1.5 times the size of the stain. Let the water stand for 30 seconds. Blot the stain with a clean dry cloth or a paper towel, soaking up the stain, and replacing the cloth as it becomes wet. Repeat until no more stain is transferred onto the cloth.

  3. Treat With a Cleaner

    Treat the area with a carpet spot stain remover, following the product instructions. Alternatively, mix a tablespoon of ammonia with 1 cup of warm water. Blot the solution onto the carpet using a clean, dry white towel. Use another towel to blot the solution from the carpet. Let the carpet dry.

  4. Vacuum the Carpet

Vacuum the carpet as usual to lift and soften the fibers.

Choosing a Stain Remover

For best results, buy a stain remover that has enzymes to break down the residual stuff left in the carpet. Most pet carpet stain removers work well. A foaming cleaner will penetrate the fibers and can usually be vacuumed away after it dries. A liquid may do a good job at penetrating through the carpet but is a little more time-consuming, as it must be blotted away, rinsed, and allowed to dry.

Illustrated tips on how to remove vomit stain from carpet.
The Spruce

If there is still an odor after the appearance of the stain is gone, it means it isn't really gone. You can try treating again with an enzyme carpet cleaner. You can also try adding 2 tablespoons of dish soap to a pint of warm water. Using a clean towel, sponge the area with the towel dipped in the water and dish soap mixture.

Continue blotting with a dry towel until no more liquid comes up. Take a new clean towel and put it over the area with something heavy on top of it until the area dries. You may need to repeat this process several times until the smell is completely removed. Be sure to allow the area to dry between treatments.