How to Remove Vomit Stains From Carpet

How to Clean a Vomit Stained Carpet

The Spruce

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 28 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

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 up vomit right away, before the odor sets in and becomes much 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. Vomit stains contain substances, such as tannins, acids, or dyes, that can stain fibers. The pH of most vomit is high in acid, and acidic bile stains can discolor the carpet fibers. You may have to try more than one cleaner, and you likely will have to treat the area more than one time.

While they aren't fun to deal with, most vomit stains on carpet can be removed with just some time and household cleaners you probably have on hand. Get ready to remove that vomit stain with these few simple steps.

Stain type Protein-based, acid-based, tannin-based
Detergent type Dishwashing liquid, distilled white vinegar, carpet stain remover
Water temperature Cool

Quick Tips

To make sure the vomit stain removal is successful:

  • Don't wait. Older vomit stains are more difficult to remove than fresh stains.
  • Don't rub. Rubbing only pushes the vomit deeper into the fibers. Lift away solids and blot away moisture.
  • Don't start in the center. Start at the edges of the stain and work toward the center to prevent spreading the stain larger.
  • Don't spread bacteria. Wear rubber gloves and a face mask for protection to help prevent bacteria transmission.

Before You Begin

  • Use a spoon or spatula 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. Keep from making it worse by working from the outside toward the center of the stain, otherwise, you'll create a larger (yuck) mess to clean up.
  • 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. 
  • If the vomit stains are on an area rug on a hardwood floor, move the rug to a tarp or washable floor before treating the stains. If the wood floor beneath the rug was wet from the vomit or becomes wet during cleaning, remove the rug completely to allow the floor to dry or dark stains may appear.
  • While the solutions recommended for carpet can often be used to clean upholstery, before cleaning any furniture, always follow the manufacturer's care label. This tag can be found under the cushions or fabric skirt with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 rubber or disposable gloves
  • 1 face mask
  • 1 large spoon or spatula
  • 1 bowl or bucket
  • 1 soft-bristled nylon scrub brush
  • 1 set measuring spoons and cups
  • 2 to 3 microfiber cloths


  • 1 roll of paper towels
  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid
  • 1 bottle distilled white vinegar
  • 1 container oyxgen-based bleach
  • 1 bottle hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 trash bag


items used in removing vomit stains
The Spruce / Kori Livingston 

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.

  1. Protect Yourself

    • Put on rubber or disposable gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from the bacteria contained in the vomit.
    • As you use paper towels, dispose of them promptly in a trash bag.
  2. Remove the Solids

    Use a spoon 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, as it will only push the stain deeper into the carpet.

    Work from the outside toward the center to prevent spreading the stain. Once the solid matter is removed, use paper towels to blot as much moisture as possible from the carpet.

    removing vomit solids from the rug
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston  
  3. Flush With Club Soda

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


    Always use a white cloth or towel, and not one that is a color, as the dye from the color could transfer to the carpet.

    flushing the vomit stain with club soda
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston 
  4. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    In a small bowl or bucket, mix a cleaning solution of 1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid, 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar, and 2 cups of cool water.

    If you choose, you can use a commercial carpet stain remover instead. Follow the label directions.

  5. Treat With a Cleaner

    Treat the area with either the homemade solution or a commercial carpet spot stain remover, following the product instructions. Alternatively, mix one tablespoon of ammonia with one cup of warm water. 

    • Dip a microfiber cloth or soft-bristled nylon brush into the solution.
    • Begin scrubbing at the outside edge of the stain and work the cleaning solution inward into the stained area.
    • Continue blotting with paper towels as the stain is transferred out of the carpet.
    • Repeat the cleaning solution/blotting method until no more stain is transferred.


    Ammonia should only be used in a well-ventilated space. Never mix ammonia with any other cleaning product or chemicals. Toxic fumes can form that are life-threatening.

    spraying the vomit stain with cleaner
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston 
  6. Rinse the Area

    • Dip a clean microfiber cloth in cool water.
    • Wring the cloth until nearly dry.
    • Rinse the area by blotting to remove any lingering traces of the cleaning mixture.
  7. Dry and Vacuum the Carpet

    • Allow the carpet to air-dry. Check for any remaining stains.
    • Vacuum the carpet, as usual, to lift and soften the fibers.
    vacuuming the carpet
    The Spruce / Kori Livingston  

How to Remove Tough Vomit Stains From Carpet

If the vomit was not discovered quickly, the stain may be more difficult to remove. If there are traces of discoloration remaining on the carpet, move to one of these methods.

  1. Use Hydrogen Peroxide

    Hydrogen peroxide is the chemical compound H2O2, made up of two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms. The 3 percent solution sold in drugstores acts as a mild bleaching agent to remove vomit stains from light-colored carpets. Do not hydrogen peroxide on dark carpets without testing first in an inconspicuous spot.

    • Use a clean cloth to sponge the hydrogen peroxide onto the carpet fibers.
    • Allow the area to air-dry.
    • Repeat, if needed.
  2. Use an Oxygen-Based Bleach Solution

    While oxygen-based bleach is safe to use on all colors of carpet, do not use it to remove stains from wool carpets. The product can cause wool fibers to become brittle.

    • In a small bowl or bucket, follow the product label directions to mix a solution of powdered oxygen-based bleach with one cup of cool water.
    • Stir well until the powdered bleach is dissolved.
    • Dip a clean, white cloth in the solution and sponge it onto the traces of stain remaining on the carpet. Be sure the carpet fibers are thoroughly wet down to the carpet backing.
    • Allow the area to air-dry for at least 8 hours. Do not blot away the solution.
    • Repeat the steps with a fresh batch of the solution, if needed.


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.

How to Treat and Remove Vomit Odor

If there is still an odor after the appearance of the stain is gone, it means it isn't really gone. Don't despair, as there are some other tricks you can try.

Option 1: Treat the stain again with an enzyme carpet cleaner.

Option 2: Treat again using dish soap and water.

  • Add two tablespoons of dish soap to two cups of warm water. 
  • Use a clean towel, sponge the area with the towel dipped in the water and dish soap mixture. Make sure that the solution completely saturates the carpet fibers.
  • Allow this to remain on the carpet for 10 minutes.
  • Dip a clean cloth in plain water and blot the area to remove any soapy residue.

For either option, follow the steps below:

  • 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.

Additional Tips for Removing Vomit Stains

  • 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.
  • After removing the solid matter, use a carpet steamer as an effective way to remove traces of vomit stains on the carpet.

When to Call a Professional

If you have a carpet that is made out of wool or is a thick shag rug, you should consider contacting a professional to handle the job. They can also handle the larger and tough-to-get-out stains easier. Additionally, if you try to remove a stain and still can't get it out, it's best to let the professionals handle it. Make sure to choose a reputable professional carpet cleaner to clean your carpet. Good professional cleaners have the proper equipment to extract the moisture from the carpet, leaving it almost dry.

Originally written by
Sarah Aguirre
Sarah Aguirre is a housekeeping expert with over 20 years of experience cleaning residentially and commercially. Over that time, she has been writing about tips and tricks for housekeeping and organizing a home for national publications.
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  1. Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.