9 DIY Solutions for Common Carpet Stains

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Coffee cup Spilled on carpet

Carpet isn't as trendy as tile or hardwood, nor as DIY-friendly as laminate flooring, but it's still a popular and versatile flooring option. It's cozy and comfortable underfoot, there's a color or pattern available to suit any decor and a price to fit any budget. Its real downside is that when it gets dirty or stained, you can't just toss it in the washer like you do with your clothes. When that happens, you could call in the pros or rent a carpet steamer, but first try one of these handy household hacks.

Credit: Jan Stromme/Photolibrary/GettyImages

Carpet isn't as trendy as tile or hardwood, nor as DIY-friendly as laminate flooring, but it's still a popular and versatile flooring option. It's cozy and comfortable underfoot, there's a color or pattern available to suit any decor and a price to fit any budget. Its real downside is that when it gets dirty or stained, you can't just toss it in the washer like you do with your clothes. When that happens, you could call in the pros or rent a carpet steamer, but first try one of these handy household hacks.

Salt

Sprinkle salt from a jar on a black background. Hand with a can of salt on a black background

Salt is an especially useful weapon in the fight against stains. First, it's really good at drawing moisture out of the carpet's fibers. That's important because for liquid spills, it's that moisture that carries the discoloration into your carpet's fibers. Second, the salt crystals act as a gentle abrasive to scour staining substances from the carpet itself. Just pour a small mound of salt onto the fresh stain and rub it in gently, then let it sit for a few minutes to draw out the stain before vacuuming it up. Salt also plays well with others: Double down by combining it with other stain-fighters like soda water or vinegar.

Credit: Yaroslav Mikheev/Moment/GettyImages

Salt is an especially useful weapon in the fight against stains. First, it's really good at drawing moisture out of the carpet's fibers. That's important because for liquid spills, it's that moisture that carries the discoloration into your carpet's fibers. Second, the salt crystals act as a gentle abrasive to scour staining substances from the carpet itself. Just pour a small mound of salt onto the fresh stain and rub it in gently, then let it sit for a few minutes to draw out the stain before vacuuming it up. Salt also plays well with others: Double down by combining it with other stain-fighters like soda water or vinegar.

Dishwashing Liquid

Close-Up Of Dishwashing Liquid Being Spread On Cleaning Sponge

The same liquid detergent you use to wash your dishes deserves an honored place in your stain-treating kit as well. Stir a few drops of dish soap into a cup of warm water, then use a spray bottle to mist the stained area heavily. Scrub it in with a soft cloth or a brush, then blot it up with your cloth. Dish soap is especially good at getting out food stains and anything greasy — that's what it's for — and once the stain is gone, you can rinse it away easily by blotting it up with a cloth soaked in clean water.

Credit: Michelle Arnold / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

The same liquid detergent you use to wash your dishes deserves an honored place in your stain-treating kit as well. Stir a few drops of dish soap into a cup of warm water, then use a spray bottle to mist the stained area heavily. Scrub it in with a soft cloth or a brush, then blot it up with your cloth. Dish soap is especially good at getting out food stains and anything greasy — that's what it's for — and once the stain is gone, you can rinse it away easily by blotting it up with a cloth soaked in clean water.

Shaving Cream

Man dispensing shaving cream into hand

This is a weird one, but it genuinely works. There are foamy stain removers and soapy stain removers, after all, and shaving cream is both soapy and foamy, so it's logical enough. Spray shaving cream directly onto the affected area, then rub it down into the pile of the carpet with a cloth or brush. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight, then scrub off the shaving cream with a wet cloth. It's great for tough stains from food or coffee spills, and unlike some DIY stain removers, its smell isn't overpowering or unpleasant.

Credit: Tetra Images/Tetra images/GettyImages

This is a weird one, but it genuinely works. There are foamy stain removers and soapy stain removers, after all, and shaving cream is both soapy and foamy, so it's logical enough. Spray shaving cream directly onto the affected area, then rub it down into the pile of the carpet with a cloth or brush. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight, then scrub off the shaving cream with a wet cloth. It's great for tough stains from food or coffee spills, and unlike some DIY stain removers, its smell isn't overpowering or unpleasant.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Cleaning

Another of the most versatile cleaning products in your house is hydrogen peroxide, and it's just as adept at sprucing up your carpets as everything else. Just spray the stained area with peroxide or wet a cloth and blot it in, then scrub at the stain with your cloth or a brush. If you want to help the peroxide cling to the carpet's fibers, make a paste of it with cornstarch or cream of tartar and scrub that into the stain with a brush. Scrub it off or let it dry and then vacuum it up. Peroxide also disinfects and deodorizes, so it's a great "full-spectrum" cleaner.

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Another of the most versatile cleaning products in your house is hydrogen peroxide, and it's just as adept at sprucing up your carpets as everything else. Just spray the stained area with peroxide or wet a cloth and blot it in, then scrub at the stain with your cloth or a brush. If you want to help the peroxide cling to the carpet's fibers, make a paste of it with cornstarch or cream of tartar and scrub that into the stain with a brush. Scrub it off or let it dry and then vacuum it up. Peroxide also disinfects and deodorizes, so it's a great "full-spectrum" cleaner.

Baking Soda

Close-Up Of Baking Soda In Wooden Spoon And Jar On White Background

When pets or toddlers have an "accident" on your carpet, or have too many treats and vomit in the middle of the floor, baking soda is your friend. Start by wiping up the mess as well as you can, then sprinkle baking soda over the entire area and rub it in with a cloth or paper towel. Once it's dry, you can vacuum up the residue. Baking soda doesn't just clean up the spill, it also disinfects and gets rid of the odor. That's important, and not just because the smells are unpleasant. Pets are creatures of habit, and once a spot smells of urine they're more likely to use it again for the same purpose.

Credit: Eskay Lim / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

When pets or toddlers have an "accident" on your carpet, or have too many treats and vomit in the middle of the floor, baking soda is your friend. Start by wiping up the mess as well as you can, then sprinkle baking soda over the entire area and rub it in with a cloth or paper towel. Once it's dry, you can vacuum up the residue. Baking soda doesn't just clean up the spill, it also disinfects and gets rid of the odor. That's important, and not just because the smells are unpleasant. Pets are creatures of habit, and once a spot smells of urine they're more likely to use it again for the same purpose.

Vinegar

Close-Up Of Vinegar In Jar On Table

Vinegar is well known for its prowess as a natural cleanser, and it has a place in your carpet-stain arsenal as well. Dilute the vinegar half-and-half with water, and scrub it into the stain with a soft cloth or a brush. Blot it up, and then repeat as needed. Vinegar's acidity makes it a natural grease-cutter, so it's handy for greasy stains from dropped food or drips from messy burgers or sandwiches. You can alternate it with ammonia or combine it with salt for extra cleaning power.

Credit: Eskay Lim / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Vinegar is well known for its prowess as a natural cleanser, and it has a place in your carpet-stain arsenal as well. Dilute the vinegar half-and-half with water, and scrub it into the stain with a soft cloth or a brush. Blot it up, and then repeat as needed. Vinegar's acidity makes it a natural grease-cutter, so it's handy for greasy stains from dropped food or drips from messy burgers or sandwiches. You can alternate it with ammonia or combine it with salt for extra cleaning power.

Soda Water

Lime and bubbles in a gin and tonic

If you're right on the scene when a spill happens, reach for the nearest bottle of soda water. Diluting the stain and keeping it wet helps prevent the stain from setting, and the effervescent bubbles in the soda water will help lift the potentially staining substance out of the carpet's fibers. Pour it liberally over a sponge or absorbent washcloth, then use those to scrub the stain and blot it up. Repeat as necessary. Beer, another quintessential foaming beverage, works the same way and may be even better for getting up coffee and tea stains. Both are best applied while the stain is fresh and hasn't yet set.

Credit: Image Source/Image Source/GettyImages

If you're right on the scene when a spill happens, reach for the nearest bottle of soda water. Diluting the stain and keeping it wet helps prevent the stain from setting, and the effervescent bubbles in the soda water will help lift the potentially staining substance out of the carpet's fibers. Pour it liberally over a sponge or absorbent washcloth, then use those to scrub the stain and blot it up. Repeat as necessary. Beer, another quintessential foaming beverage, works the same way and may be even better for getting up coffee and tea stains. Both are best applied while the stain is fresh and hasn't yet set.

Nail Polish Remover

Cropped Hands Of Woman Removing Nail Polish Against White Background

Some of the toughest stains of all come from spills like ink or paint, things which are intended to make a permanent mark. For those, you'll usually need some kind of solvent to remove the stain before it sets permanently. One you'll usually have around the house is nail polish remover. Use it to moisten an absorbent cloth, and then use the remover to scrub and blot the stain until it's gone. Paint thinner works much the same way, and so do gasoline and dry cleaning solvent if you happen to have one or the other in your basement or garage.

Credit: Birgit Korber / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Some of the toughest stains of all come from spills like ink or paint, things which are intended to make a permanent mark. For those, you'll usually need some kind of solvent to remove the stain before it sets permanently. One you'll usually have around the house is nail polish remover. Use it to moisten an absorbent cloth, and then use the remover to scrub and blot the stain until it's gone. Paint thinner works much the same way, and so do gasoline and dry cleaning solvent if you happen to have one or the other in your basement or garage.

Meat Tenderizer

Sliced papaya on wood

Another unconventional but weirdly effective stain-removing tool is enzyme-based meat tenderizing powder. The powder uses enzymes derived from papayas or pineapples to break down the proteins in tough meat, and it works equally well on tough protein-based stains from blood or food spills. Mix the tenderizer 50/50 with cold water, and let it stand for a half hour or so while it invades and breaks down the stain. Blot it up with a sponge and cold water, when you're done.

Credit: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages

Another unconventional but weirdly effective stain-removing tool is enzyme-based meat tenderizing powder. The powder uses enzymes derived from papayas or pineapples to break down the proteins in tough meat, and it works equally well on tough protein-based stains from blood or food spills. Mix the tenderizer 50/50 with cold water, and let it stand for a half hour or so while it invades and breaks down the stain. Blot it up with a sponge and cold water, when you're done.

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