How to Remove Stains from Carpets

by Ron Haynes

To remove a stain from carpet (or anything else), timing is the key. The quicker you can take action, the better your chances for removing the stain from your carpet completely. And since carpeting isn’t cheap to replace, learning a few tips to remove carpet stains can be a smart investment.

spilledgrapejuice When my children were little, I was asked what color my carpet was. I answered “ketchup, grape juice, grass, oatmeal, sweat, mud, red candle wax, and toothpaste … with a hint of baby formula. But basically a light beige.” Removing stains from carpet was almost a full time job it seemed! If you are in the same boat remember these basic rules for carpet stain removal and keeping your rugs and carpets looking good.

Removing Carpet Stains

Carpet is basically just fibers (natural and man-made) that are woven into a netted webbing usually made of latex. These fibers are called “pile” in the industry. When removing a stain from carpet, always try to remove as much of the stain as possible from the pile without damaging the latex webbing at the base of the pile. If the webbing is damaged, the carpet will probably fall apart.

Five general techniques apply to all types of carpet stain removal:

  1. Remove the stain from the surface of the carpet first. Use a dry white towel for liquid stains and a spoon or butter knife for solids. Why a white towel? Colored towels may transfer their dyes to your carpet when you’re cleaning it, worsening your problem!
  2. For liquid stains, always blot – never rub. Rubbing only deepens the stain and embeds it into the pile. When blotting, start at the perimeter of the stain and move to its center in straight lines instead of circles.
  3. To treat stains embedded in the pile, use a blotting motion rather than trying to scrape up the stain from the bottom of the pile. A blotting motion will lift the stain up from its origin at the base of the pile.
  4. Never wet the pile excessively. Too much of any liquid (including water) can cause permanent damage to the pile, the latex webbing, or the carpet pad underneath. Too much moisture anywhere in your home can cause some bad juju.
  5. Don’t let cleaning agents such as detergent or rubbing alcohol contact the latex webbing. Chemicals in these cleaners can cause the latex to break down, loosening or even detaching the carpet’s pile.

How to Remove Chemical- and Oil-Based Carpet Stains

To remove carpet stains from oil-based sources (such as butter or grease), follow these steps:

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  1. Use cornstarch to absorb any portion of the stain on the surface of the carpet.
  2. Wait a few minutes and remove the absorbed material with a white paper towel.
  3. Lightly moisten a white cloth with rubbing alcohol and gently blot the remaining stain. The stain should transfer to the white cloth and be removed entirely.
  4. Check back in a few hours to see if more of the stain has resurfaced from the base of the pile.
  5. If the stain has reappeared, repeat the above steps, beginning with step 3, but apply a small amount of liquid detergent instead of rubbing alcohol. Repeat until the stain vanishes completely.
  6. To rinse the detergent from the pile, apply water to the stained area and blot with dry white paper towels.
  7. Use a spray bottle to spray the area with water and, rather than blotting, cover it with dry white towels and let the entire area dry for a few hours.
  8. If detergent also fails to remove the stain completely, then try an enzymatic cleaner or a specially formulated carpet stain remover designed to remove grease stains.

How to Remove Water-Soluble Carpet Stains

To remove carpet stains from water-soluble sources, follow these steps:

  1. For fresh stains, try blotting with a white cloth moistened with tap water. The stain should transfer from the carpet to the white cloth. Make sure to shift the blotting cloth continually to a clean section to ensure that the stain transfers effectively.
  2. For dry stains or liquid stains that have dried and set, apply a small amount of water to the stain by using a spray bottle. Wait a few minutes for the stain to moisten and follow the previous step.
  3. If the stain does not transfer to a moistened cloth, apply a small amount of liquid detergent to a cloth moistened with water and blot the stain until it vanishes completely.
  4. To rinse the detergent from the pile, apply water to the stained area and blot with dry white paper towels.
  5. Spray the area again with water and, rather than blot, cover it with dry white towels and let the entire area dry for a few hours.
  6. If detergent fails, then try a specially formulated carpet stain remover.

Remember, the sooner you can attack a stain, the better your chances for removing it from your carpet.

Photo by Daniel I. Bar

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 988 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.