Best DIY Carpet Cleaners for All Types of Stains

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Before calling a cleaning service, DIY it with these homemade carpet cleaners to help wipe out tough carpet stains, from red wine to pet urine.

If you’re wondering how to clean carpet stains, you’re not alone. No one is perfect. Whether it’s a red wine stain, dirt tracked in from the backyard, or a coffee stain, everyone’s carpet takes a beating once in a while. Here’s how to remove stains of all types.

How to clean carpet stains

This question can be a difficult one. The trick is to know exactly what type of stain you’re dealing with. Cleaning up coffee and cleaning up ink stains are two completely different stories. The good news? Everything you might need to tackle any carpet mess is probably already in your cupboards. In fact, you can clean carpet stains even if you don’t have a carpet cleaner using ordinary products you already have in your cupboard. Read on to learn how to use ordinary products like baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, and more, as DIY carpet cleaners. Here’s what you need to know.

Before you get started, here are a few quick tips:

  • Act fast. The longer you wait, the harder the stain will be to remove.
  • Blot, don’t rub. Rubbing will spread the particles and embed them deeper into your carpet’s fiber.
  • Perform a spot test. Before you use any stain remover on your carpet, DIY or otherwise, it’s always wise to do a spot test first to make sure no discoloration occurs. The backs of closets or leftover carpet scraps are perfect for this.
  • Less is more. If you saturate your carpet with too much stain remover, it will be difficult to remove. The excess cleaner will attract dirt and eventually result in a dark spot. To prevent this, apply your stain remover to your sponge or cloth, not to the carpet itself. This will allow you to control the amount of cleaner you apply to the stain.
  • Consult the manufacture’s guidelines. Always check the manufacture’s guidelines for your carpet before selecting a stain remover. According to Rochelle Wilkinson, owner of Dirt Detectives Cleaning in Phoenix, Maryland, carpets made of materials like silk or wool are usually not meant to get wet, so liquid stain removers like vinegar might not be an option.

If you don’t want to go the DIY, homemade carpet cleaner route, we can help with that, too. These are the best carpet stain removers, according to professional house cleaners.

Best DIY carpet cleaning solutions

Vinegar carpet cleaner

White vinegar is the superhero of stain removal and it’s one of the best natural carpet cleaners around. Try these different formulas for homemade carpet stain remover to remove a variety of common stains:

  • Rub light carpet stains with a mixture of 2 tablespoons salt dissolved in 1/2 cup white vinegar. Let the solution dry, then vacuum.
  • For larger or darker stains, add 2 tablespoons borax to the mixture and follow the same instructions as above.
  • For tough, ground-in dirt and other stains, make a paste of 1 tablespoon vinegar with 1 tablespoon cornstarch and rub it into the stain using a dry cloth. Let it set for two days, then vacuum.
  • For paint stains, use a solution of 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons laundry detergent, and two cups water; sponge away the paint before it sets in and rinse with cold water.
  • For fruit and fruit juice stains, mix 1 tablespoon laundry detergent with 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar and combine with two cups of water. Work the solution into the stain and blot.
  • For tea and coffee stains on your carpet, combine equal parts of white vinegar and water and blot the stain.

Ammonia carpet cleaner

Ammonia is a powerful stain remover, but it also gives off an extremely strong odor. If you’re using ammonia to get out carpet stains, be sure to open some windows to make sure the area you’re working in is well-ventilated. Also, ammonia is a cleaning product you should never mix together with bleach because the fumes are potentially deadly. Ammonia is particularly useful when it comes to neutralizing carpet odors, but you should exercise caution if you own a cat. Cat urine contains ammonia also, and if they smell it on your carpet, they may confuse it with a new litterbox and assume it’s OK to do their business there.

Here’s how to use a homemade ammonia carpet cleaner:

  • Mix together a solution of 1 cup clear ammonia in 1/2 gallon warm water.
  • Apply the solution to the carpet. let it sit for approximately 15 minutes.
  • Take a light-colored cloth or sponge and gently blot the area until the stain is gone.
  • Repeat if needed.

Baking soda carpet cleaner

Out of all homemade carpet cleaners, baking soda is your best choice to quickly clean wet stains like vomit or urine stains from your carpet because it will soak up the fluids and deodorize your carpet at the same time. Also, if you need to get out blood stains, here’s how to remove blood stains from carpet.

  • Blot the area first with a light cloth to soak up the excess moisture.
  • Pour baking soda over the affected area and pat gently with a paper towel.
  • Let the baking soda sit on top of the stain so it can absorb the mixture.
  • After an hour, vacuum up the baking soda
  • If the stain is still there, follow up with a store-bought carpet cleaner one of the other DIY carpet cleaning solutions listed here.

DIY dish detergent carpet cleaner

Dishwashing liquid works wonders in a variety of cleaning situations, including removing carpet stains. It’s hands down one of the best carpet spot cleaners around. Dishwashing liquid can help you remove chocolate stains from carpet, grease and oil stains, turmeric stains, and more.

  • Mix one tablespoon of a liquid dishwashing soap (experts recommend Dawn) with two cups of cold water.
  • Dip a white cloth into the mixture.
  • Gently blot the stain till it is gone.
  • Afterward, blot with cold water to soak up any remaining dishwashing liquid.

If you had an accident while giving yourself a manicure, here’s how to get nail polish out of just about anything.

Homemade carpet shampoo

Sometimes, you have to bring in some extra muscle power to remove tough stains from your carpet. This is especially true with smelly pet stains, and old stains that have allowed to set into your carpet. If you have access to a carpet machine-like BISSELL ProHeat 2X Revolution Pet Full Size Upright Carpet Cleaner and want to make a homemade carpet shampoo, you can do it with a little help from your laundry room. Simply mix half a cup of liquid laundry detergent like Tide Hygenic Clean, half a cup of a liquid fabric softener like Downy, 3/4 a cup of ammonia, and a gallon of water. It’s safe to use in your carpet cleaning machine as usual.

how to get stains out of carpetAlaina DiGiacomo/rd.com

Hydrogen peroxide carpet cleaner

Hydrogen peroxide is actually a mild bleach which means it does wonders when it comes to removing stains. Although it’s usually safe to use on carpet, be sure to perform a spot test first, especially with specialty carpets made of natural fibers like silk. Hydrogen peroxide is one of your best options for old, ground-in stains of nearly every variety, and luckily, it’s easy to use. Mix a teaspoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with a little cream of tartar or a dab of non-gel toothpaste. blot the paste on the stain with a soft cloth until the stain is gone. Follow up with a damp cloth to make sure any residue from the mixture is gone.

Homemade carpet deodorizer

Now that you know all about home remedy carpet cleaners, you may be wondering what to do if you’re carpet is smelly, but not stained. Your best bet here is baking soda. If you keep a box in your refrigerator to eliminate odors, you probably know how good it is at absorbing foul smells. It will work that same magic on your carpet. Simply sprinkle it on top of the stain and let it sit there as long as possible, even overnight is OK. Afterward, vacuum up the excess baking soda. Repeat if necessary.

P.S.—If you have wax on your carpet, don’t worry! Here’s how to remove candle wax from just about anything, including your carpet.

Tamara Gane
Tamara Gane is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest covering travel, lifestyle, history, and culture. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, NPR, Al Jazeera, Wine Enthusiast, Lonely Planet, HuffPost Food, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @TamaraGane