Has a guest ever spilled wine or ketchup on your rug at a party? Have your kids every forgotten to remove their muddy boots before stomping up the stairs to their bedrooms? Or did your dog leave paw prints across the floor?

Whatever the reason, we have all had to deal with stains on carpets before. They are just a part of life. Thankfully, the faster we deal with them, the less of a problem they are.

Sometimes, when a stain is not noticed quickly or the first round of cleaning was not effective enough, more drastic measures are required. A simply spray and wipe is not always enough to remove the more intense dirt spots, and sometimes, like a recurrent nightmare, old spots can come back long after they are first cleaned.

How to clean a stained carpet

Why do stains come back sometimes? How do you clean a carpet stain properly and effectively?

In this article, we cover the basic techniques for cleaning carpets and provide expert tips from the masters. At the end, you will find a list of helpful resources in case you want to continue researching options.

Hopefully, with all of the information presented here, you will be able to tackle stains and keep your living space neat and tidy no matter what gets spilled, dragged, stomped, or smeared on your carpet.


How To Remove Heavy Stains From A Dirty Carpet


There are two main ways to remove stains from your carpet: by hand or by machine.

Removing stains by hand takes longer and is less effective than using a carpet cleaner or steam cleaner, but it is cheaper and most surface level stains can be dealt with manually. Most of the necessary items can be found around the house.

But for the heaviest stains and the dirtiest carpets, there really is no better option than a professional carpet cleaner or steam cleaner that is specifically built to handle deeply soiled floors. Spot cleaners can also handle intense small stains more effectively and faster than is possible without a motorized scrubbing or powerful suction.


How To Clean Stains From A Carpet Without Using A Carpet Cleaner Or Steamer


Most stains are small or surface level and do not require the use of a heavy duty powered carpet cleaner. For these situations a few items from around the house will be needed.

It is a good idea to gather these items ahead of time and put them together in a kit so that you can easily access them when a spill happens. Timing is important for handling surface level stains, so make sure to assemble you kit ahead of time.

You Will Need:

  1. White towels
  2. Paper towels
  3. Soapy water
  4. 3% hydrogen peroxide
  5. Ammonia
  6. Rubbing Alcohol
  7. White Vinegar
  8. Acetone
  9. Cotton Swabs
  10. Cotton Balls
  11. Toothbrush
  12. Butter knife or palette knife


With these items gathered in a bin or carrying case, most stains will be manageable, at least for an initial cleaning. You might have to address some stains more than once depending on severity.

Follow the instructions in this video to learn how to use the above materials for different types of stains:


How To Use A Portable Carpet Cleaner Or SteamerTo Tackle Intense Stains

As you can see, there are several techniques for cleaning stains out of carpets that do not involve a spot cleaner or vacuum of any kind. In fact, it is possible to tackle many stains without using a carpet cleaning solution of any kind either.

But when time and energy are not in great supply, having a small, portable carpet cleaner around makes life 1000x easier. Just pull it out and set it up, and let the machine do the work. Check out our list of the best portable carpet cleaners if that sounds like a good idea to you.

Here are the basic instructions for removing the hardest stains from the dirtiest carpets with a carpet cleaner:

  1. First, purchase a professional handheld carpet cleaner like the Bissell SpotClean Pro or the Hoover Spotless Carpet Cleaner. Make sure to find a lightweight machine that also carries enough liquid to avoid frequent refills.
  2. Optional: prepare the stain by removing any larger surface matter from the top of the discoloration. Be careful not to press on the stain while wiping or lifting material off of the top of the spot.
  3. Make sure to fill the spot cleaner completely full of warm water and cleaning liquid. Be sure to empty the dirty water tank first if the job is particularly heavy so that you don’t have to interrupt the cleaning cycle mid-way.
  4. Place the cleaner’s brushes on top of the stain or position the hose nozzle over the stain and apply a sufficient amount of cleaning solution to soak the stain.
  5. With the scrubbing brush, agitate the moistened carpet fibers to loosen the dirt and allergens from the soiled carpet fibers. If your carpet cleaner has a rotating brush head, use it. Otherwise, run the scrubbing brush vigorously over the stain in a back and forth or circular motion for about a minute or until the stain is loosened.
  6. Use the powerful suction of your machine to suck up the water and dirt that has been loosened and comb the carpet fibers with the grain of the carpet to restore their original look.


Resources For More Information

There are so many ways to clean different types of stains from different surfaces that it would be almost impossible to document all of the different methods in one place.


We have put together this expanding list of resources for addressing different types of stains. As we discover more resources, we will update this list, but for now these links should cover most of the bases.

The purpose of this list is to compile information for addressing all of the specific stains that might befall your humble abode.

For instance, did you know that salt works for some stains better than others, while vinegar is the only way to address some types of discolorations? Meanwhile, there are stains that require warm water but no other treatment – want to know what they are?

You will find answers to these questions and many more below.

For more general carpet cleaning tips, check out these techniques from wikihow.

Here are a few tips from Readers Digest that are more creative.

Finally, This Old House covers instructions for cleaning up the most common types of stains.

The information in this list should be enough to clean most stains, whether they are caused by pets or kids or anything else. Next time your carpet gets hit by falling debris from life’s unexpected messes, you will know what to do.

Feel free to leave tips and comments below. We will update this list with any new information as we come across it.

Thanks for stopping by!