How to Remove Carpet Stains

Step-by-Step Guide to Carpet Stain Removal

How to Remove Carpet Stains

We’ve all been there – that moment when you accidentally spill red wine, coffee, or pasta sauce on your beautiful carpet. As the stain starts to set in, panic sets in too. Will it be impossible to remove these carpet stains? Do I need to call in the pros? Relax. Removing stains isn’t as hard as you might think. With some simple homemade cleaners and techniques, you can get your carpet looking brand new again.

Trick of the Trade: Rehydrate Dried Stains

If you’re dealing with an older, dried-out stain that’s already set into the carpet fibres, there’s a handy trick you can use before starting the removal process: rehydration.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Lightly sprinkle some warm water over the stain. Just enough to dampen the area.
  2. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. This gives the water time to soak into the fibers and rehydrate the dried stain.
  3. Blot up any excess moisture with a clean cloth.

Rehydrating old dried stains in this way helps “reload” them with moisture, almost like turning back the clock. It makes them behave more like a fresh stain again.

Once rehydrated, the stain becomes loosened from the fibres and is much easier to remove using the cleaning techniques outlined in this article.

The key is not to oversaturate the carpet. Just use a spray bottle or droplets of water to lightly dampen the stain. You want to avoid any water seeping down into the carpet backing or padding underneath.

So next time you go to tackle an old, stubborn stain, reach for the water first. Rehydration helps lift and prepare the stain for cleaning. It makes the whole removal process much more effective.

The Dos and Don’ts of Removing Carpet Stains

When it comes to cleaning stains, there are some key dos and don’ts to keep in mind:


  • Act quickly! The faster you can treat a stain, the better chance you have of getting it out entirely.
  • Blot stains gently to absorb excess liquid before scrubbing. This prevents it from spreading deeper.
  • Pretest any carpet stain remover on an inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t discolor the carpet.
  • Use a Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) certified carpet cleaner. These are tested safe for carpets.


  • Rub or scrub stains vigorously right away. This can grind them further into the carpet.
  • Use bleach or other harsh chemicals that could damage the fibres.
  • Over-saturate the carpet when cleaning. This can lead to mold and mildew growth.
  • Place furniture or walk on damp carpet. Allow it to fully dry first to prevent staining.

The Two Main Types of Carpet Stains

When it comes to removing carpet stains, it helps to understand that there are two main categories:

Water-Based Stains

These include stains from:

  • Wine, coffee, soda, juice, milk, tea
  • Vomit, urine, blood
  • Mud
  • Food spills
  • Pet accidents
  • Blood stains

Water-based stains tend to sit on top of the carpet fibres rather than soaking in. This makes them easier to blot up.

Use an absorbent powder like baking soda or cornstarch first to soak up excess moisture. Then mix a mild detergent like dish soap or carpet shampoo with warm water and gently sponge and blot the stain.

White Vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or enzyme cleaners also help break down and lift water-based stains without harsh chemicals.

Oil-Based Stains

These include stains from:

  • Cooking oils and grease
  • Cosmetics and makeup
  • Motor oil, tar, wax
  • Ink, permanent marker
  • Lipstick
  • Shoe polish, furniture stain

Oil-based stains can quickly soak deep and leave behind stubborn residues. That’s why fast action is key!

To break down oil stains, use rubbing alcohol, vinegar, ammonia, or commercial solvents like acetone. These help dissolve and cut through oily residue.

Lightly sponge the cleaner onto the stain and let sit for 5-10 minutes before blotting. The longer the cleaner has to work, the better chance it has against tough oil stains.

Knowing whether you’re dealing with a water or oil-based stain ensures you use the right removal method and cleaning solution. Consult stain removal guides for specific remedies. And always spot test in an inconspicuous area first.

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Carpet Stains

How to Remove Stubborn Carpet Stains

Ready to get that pesky carpet stain out once and for all? Just follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Act quickly!

As soon as a spill or stain occurs, start by blotting it gently with a clean dry cloth or paper towels. Don’t rub, as this can push the stain deeper into the carpet fibers. Blotting lifts the stain up and out. For watery spills, apply an absorbent powder like cornstarch or baking soda first to soak up excess moisture. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before vacuuming up.

Step 2: Know your enemy

Examine the stain and try to identify the source. Is it greasy, oily, or food-based? Or is it a water-based liquid like wine, coffee, or juice? This will determine the best removal method and solution to use next.

Step 3: Pretest any cleaning solutions

For water-based stains, use a mild detergent like dish soap in warm water. For oil-based stains, try an ammonia or vinegar solution. Before applying to the stain, pretest any solution on an inconspicuous area of carpet to ensure it doesn’t discolor the fibers.

Step 4: Apply cleaner and gently blot

Using a clean white cloth, sponge your solution onto the stain, working from the edges inward to prevent spreading. Don’t aggressively scrub! Gently blot the stain repeatedly to lift it out of the carpet. For tough oil stains, let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes before blotting to allow it to break down the stain.

Step 5: Rinse and blot again

Once the stain appears lifted, rinse the area with clean lukewarm water and blot again with a cloth to remove any cleaning solution residue. This prevents the carpet from getting sticky or developing buildup. Once the stain no longer transfers, blot with cold water. Dry thoroughly after.

Step 6: Absorb moisture

Lay several layers of white cloth or paper towels over the area and weigh them down with a heavy book or object. This absorbs any remaining moisture so it doesn’t seep deeper into the padding underneath.

Step 7: Let dry completely

Keep furniture and foot traffic off the damp carpet while it fully dries. Place a fan nearby to speed up drying time. Once completely dry, vacuum up any residue.

Step 8: Retry if needed

Check if your DIY carpet cleaning removed the entire stain successfully. If any trace remains, repeat the process using a different carpet stain remover. Persistence pays off.

Call in the Professionals for Tough Stains

For extremely stubborn or set-in stains, don’t stress yourself out trying DIY removal methods over and over. At a certain point, calling in the pros is the smartest and most efficient move. Professional carpet cleaners have industrial-strength stain removers, powerful suction equipment, and the know-how to get out even the most challenging stains.

Signs it’s time to bring in expert carpet cleaners:

  • You’ve tried multiple DIY methods with no success
  • The stain covers a large area of carpeting
  • The spill was extremely acidic, alkaline, or a toxic substance
  • The stain has been set-in for over 1 week
  • You begin to see mold or mildew growing in or around the stained area

Reputable carpet cleaners can work wonders in getting out old, stubborn stains and making your carpets look brand new again. You’ll surely benefit from the carpet cleaning services they offer. Just be sure to get quotes from 2-3 highly reviewed companies first and verify they use safe, non-toxic methods.


Removing stains from carpets doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration. Armed with the right techniques and a little elbow grease, you can likely get out new spills and stains safely using common household ingredients. Just remember to always blot gently, act fast, and rinse thoroughly after cleaning. For tough old stains that resist DIY methods, hiring a professional carpet cleaning service to work their magic is money well spent.