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How to get rid of carpet stains

Need the best advice on how to get rid of carpet stains – even dried-in stubborn ones? Read our top tips.

Updated Reading Time: 7 minutesBy Cleanipedia Team

Person kneeling and cleaning a carpet.
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Whether freshly spilt or dried-in, any type of stain on the carpets looks unsightly. Acting fast is always the best advice when a spilt cup of coffee stains the carpet, but the reality is that sometimes stains sit for ages before we attempt to clean them. Or, we don’t even know they’re there until we move the sofa — argh! The good news is, most carpet stains can be removed with a bit of know-how. Here’s how to get rid of carpet stains using a variety of tried and tested methods.

How to get rid of carpet stains: the simple method

This method uses a simple soap and water solution which works well to lift out most freshly spilt water-based stains. Try using this method initially when treating water-based stains left by produce like fruit, milk, natural food colourings as well as fizzy drinks and jelly (if you need to know how to remove coffee stains from carpet, our tips will sort you out).

You will need:

  • Microfibre cloth or tea towel
  • Spare cloths
  • Spray bottle
  • Mild washing-up liquid
  • Cold water
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  1. Clean the stain quickly

    Do this as soon as possible after it’s been made. If stains are allowed to dry into the fibres, they’re much more challenging to get out. Fresh stains are usually still wet and come out with much less effort.

  2. Soak up liquid

    Use a microfibre cloth, a tea towel, or another type of clean cloth that won’t dissolve upon contact with water and blot the stain. Paper towels may seem like a good idea, but once they start to break up, small pieces of the tissue can become stuck to the carpet fibres.

  3. Spray the stain

    Fill a spray bottle with cold water, adding a teaspoon of mild washing-up liquid. Spray lightly onto the stained area – but do not saturate – and leave it to work in for for five minutes.

  4. Blot the stain

    Working from the outside in, encouraging the dirt to transfer to the cloth rather than to other parts of the floor. Never wipe stains, as this will simply spread the mark to a greater area of the carpet. If your cloth gets saturated with the stain, swap it for a new one and keep blotting until the stain has gone.

  5. Rinse the stain

    Using a clean, damp (not soaking) cloth, blot the affected area again to remove any traces of the soap solution from the carpet.

  6. Dry the area

    Soak up any excess moisture by blotting the stain with a dry cloth or towel.

  7. Hoover the area

    Wait for the carpet to dry, then hoover to revive the carpet fibres.

    Hoover regularly to make sure carpets and rugs are as dust-free as possible. The more dust and dirt that’s settled on the carpets, the more surface the stain has to cling on to.

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Removing heavy-duty water-based stains

Some water-based stains like red wine, coffee and blood can leave a mark if only treated with water and detergent, and may require an additional active ingredient.

In those cases, you can use a stain removal product or counteract the stain with soda water or tonic water. Pouring salt over it is also an excellent way to soak up the stain. If you need more advice on how to get blood out of carpet or how to remove red wine from carpet, our handy guides can help.

How to remove stubborn carpet stains

If soap and water haven’t worked and your stain is still lingering, you may need to use something a little stronger.

Before using any new method or product, it’s important to note that some stain removers, and ammonia, can cause damage to wool carpets or other natural fibres. So, it’s best to stick to gentler cleaning solutions for these types of carpets. Always follow the instructions on your chosen cleaning product’s label and test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the carpet first.

How to remove shoe polish from carpets

Shoe polish stains can leave a thick, sticky and unsightly residue on your carpet if you don't act quickly. To eliminate shoe polish stains, follow these steps:

  1. Remove all loose shoe polish by scraping the stained area first with a blunt knife or spoon.

  2. Remember not to rub the stain, but use a firm scraping motion to lift the top layers of shoe polish off the carpet.

  3. Sponge the area with water and some carpet stain remover.

  4. Rinse the sponge in a bucket of warm water whenever you see that it begins to pick up the shoe polish.

  5. Continue the above step until the stain has faded.

Did your nail varnish bottle take a spill during a DIY mani? Read our guide to removing spilt nail polish from a carpet.

How to remove oil stains from carpets

Don’t fret! As disastrous as they may seem, oil stains can actually be quickly removed from carpets with this easy process.

  1. Place a paper towel on the stained area and blot continuously. Keep blotting until the paper towel is no longer picking up any oil.

  2. Dab some rubbing alcohol onto the stain using a clean white cloth, blotting as you go. If this does not entirely remove the stain, mix a small amount of washing-up liquid with water and sponge directly on the stain.

  3. Rinse any soap residue away with a damp sponge and leave it to dry.

How to remove ink stains from carpets

The below method is excellent for removing black pen. It uses blotting alcohol, so always test on an inconspicuous area of carpet first.

  1. Dab the spot with a dry cloth to remove any noticeable ink.

  2. Apply blotting alcohol to a clean rag and continue to blot the spot until it has lifted out. The alcohol should combine with the ink to loosen the stain. Do not rub, or the stain may spread.

  3. Rinse the area with a clean damp sponge, then blot with a dry cloth to soak up any moisture.

  4. Or try the salt method. Cover the ink stain with a layer of salt, and allow it to sit for about 8 hours or overnight. Thoroughly vacuum the area the next day, and the salt should lift much of the ink with it.

  5. For a more in-depth guide to removing ink stains from carpets, including water-based inks, read our guide.

How to remove wax and gum from carpets

The trick to tackling wax and gum stains is to use ice to freeze the stain, but they can be easily removed. We show you how to clean carpet stains that want to stick around.

  1. Wrap some ice cubes in a thin cloth or plastic bag and hold it over the stain.

  2. Leave it there for a few minutes, or until the wax or gum has frozen.

  3. Then use a spoon or a blunt knife to gently peel the wax or gum from the fibres. Get rid of any fragments in the bin.

  4. For wax, put kitchen roll or a cloth over the stained area and place a warm iron over it. You will see it absorb the wax residue and lift out of the carpet. Repeat this step until all the wax has been removed.

  5. Rinse the area where the wax or gum was using a sponge dipped in a solution of water and some mild washing-up liquid.

  6. Pat the area dry with a clean towel or cloth.

How to remove rust stains from carpets

Rust stains can be incredibly challenging to remove from carpets because of their unique chemical composition. Rust contains iron oxide, and certain store-bought chemical stain removers can actually set, rather than lift rust stains – so only use a carpet stain remover made specifically for rust stains. You’ll get the best results when you mix suitable carpet stain remover with all-natural ingredients to help break down the rust:

  1. First, apply the rust carpet stain remover liberally over the stain with a sponge.

  2. Let it settle for about five minutes, then, gently rub the stain with a sponge soaked in warm water. You should see immediate results.

  3. Next, squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the stain and pour salt granules on top. Let the mixture sit for about 24 hours.

  4. The next day, rinse the area by blotting it with a wet towel and repeat if necessary.

  5. Hoover up the salt residue and leave to dry.

  6. Some stubborn stains require an altogether different approach to remove them – especially if you’ve got burn marks on your carpet. If you’re looking for advice on how to fix a burnt carpet, our tips and tricks will show you how.

How to remove carpet stains with vinegar

If you prefer to avoid using any chemicals and are wondering how to remove old stains from carpet with vinegar, this method combines vinegar with water and washing-up liquid and works well to help shift those really stubborn stains. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Combine two cups of warm water with one tablespoon of washing-up liquid and one tablespoon of white vinegar.

  2. Use a clean cloth to apply this solution to the stain, working from the edges inward.

  3. Blot with a clean, dry towel to help lift more of the stain.

  4. Repeat as needed.

  5. Use cold water on a clean cloth to dab at the stain and rinse away the cleaning solution.

  6. Blot with a dry towel and let the carpet air-dry.

How to clean carpet stains with baking soda

Never underestimate the cleaning power of baking soda. This kitchen cupboard staple can help add some extra oomph when it comes to removing those tough stains. As baking soda can stick to some types of carpet fibres, it’s important you test this method on a hidden area of carpet first.

  1. Sprinkle baking soda over the stained area and leave it to absorb for at least 15 minutes, or ideally overnight.

  2. Combine one cup of white vinegar with two cups of water in a spray bottle.

  3. Spray the stained area, which will bubble up and lift the stain to the surface. Leave to work for a few hours.

  4. Scrub the baking soda and vinegar paste to loosen it, before hoovering it all up.

  5. Rinse away any residue with a clean camp sponge and leave to air dry.

Originally published