The kids tracked in mud. The puppy had an accident. That heartbreaking moment when your red wine glass hit the floor. Carpet stains are the worst. While it's easy to get overzealous when cleaning a carpet stain — More soap! Scrub harder! — both of those can actually be counterproductive.
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Luckily, tackling a carpet stain doesn't have to be complicated or involve lots of scary chemicals. While you do need something a bit more powerful than a regular carpet cleaner and deodorizer, just a few basic ingredients combined with a simple cleaning method can be just as effective. To remove stains and preserve your carpet, vacuum twice a week and then follow these steps for spot cleaning.
Things You'll Need
Plenty of paper towels or clean, dry towels
1/8 teaspoon of clear dish washing liquid, like Dawn
2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing
3% hydrogen peroxide
Soak up as much of the stain as you can before cleaning. Press paper towels or a dry towel into the carpet. Put a stack of books on top of the towels for firm, even pressure. Don't rub the carpet. You'll remove the protective coating on the carpet fibers and potentially damage (or mat) the carpet.
Note: If the stain is sitting on top of the carpet, as it tends to happen with pet accidents, first cover it with baking soda and let it sit long enough to dry things out. After it's dried a bit, carefully pick up as much of the baking soda as you can with a towel, then use a vacuum hose to suck up any remaining baking soda, and proceed with stain removal.
For most stains, a well-diluted cleaning solution is all you need. Add ⅛ teaspoon of clear dish washing liquid, like Dawn, to 2 cups of water. Do not use Castile soap. Plant tannin stains like coffee, tea, wine, and juice as well as ketchup and chocolate will, set with 'real' soap.
Note: If cleaning pet urine stains, replace 1 cup of water with 1 cup of vinegar.
Mist on lightly or apply sparingly with a sponge. Saturating the carpet with water can lead to mold and mildew. Again, press into the stain, don't rub.
Warning: Don't use soapy water on oil-based stains (think salad dressing, butter, mayonnaise) or ink stains. For ink, sponge with rubbing or denatured alcohol (try aerosol hairspray) and dab to transfer the stain to a paper towel. Zout will work on grease stains, but it's very concentrated and needs to be thoroughly rinsed. Use a wet/dry vacuum or a carpet cleaning machine until there are no more suds from the Zout.
If your stain is gone, hurray! After you breath a sigh of relief, don't forget to rinse out the soap and dry the carpet. Here's how: Mist water on the spot or blot with a clean, wet towel. Then use a dry towel to soak up any remaining water. Repeat until the suds are gone and no soap residue remains. Left behind, soap residue attracts dust and dirt, which can create future stains that discolor the carpet.
If the stain persists, try using 3% hydrogen peroxide. This is a bleaching agent, so be sure to first test it in an inconspicuous spot on your carpet before using on the stain.
Dab or spritz undiluted hydrogen peroxide onto the stain. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then blot with a towel. Repeat this process until the stain is removed.
Pro tip: If your carpet is light in color, you can combine Steps 2 and 4 and dilute a few drops of dish washing liquid directly into hydrogen peroxide. Used together, they're one of the best stain removers around. Best if used immediately and not stored for future use.
When the carpet is completely dry, sprinkle on scented baking soda to freshen the carpet and help remove any lingering odors. Let the baking soda sit overnight and then vacuum it up. Don't apply baking soda while the carpet is wet — you'll end up with wet baking soda goo that can be hard to remove.