By Ande Waggener
No matter how careful you were in choosing your rug or carpet material, you’re going to get end up with stains on them eventually, and some of those stains can be real doozies. If you hate cleaning with strong stain removing commercial stain-removers, you might find yourself pulling your hair out when you try removing carpet stains, unless you know how to get out tough carpet stains without chemicals.
Some of the most effective homemade stain removers use items we usually use for other things besides getting rid of tough stains. Some of these items still use chemicals, but the chemicals are generally milder than those found in commercial stain-removers. You’ll find seven of these items in this article, but first, here are some stain cleaning tips that will make cleaning carpet stains in general much easier.
Stain Removing Tips
The first step to effectively using stain removers is to set yourself up for the easiest stain removal possible. You only have to bring out the big-gun chemicals if you mistreat the stain to start with.
So keep these tips in mind when you first stain your carpet or rug:
- Act fast. When something spills on the carpet or rug, don’t wait until later to deal with it. Even if you have company, don’t be polite and say something like, “Oh, that’s okay. We’ll get it later.” The longer a stain interacts with carpet or rug fibers, the greater the chemical reaction between the fibers and stain will be and the harder it will be to remove.
- Don’t try to dig up the stain. Scooping food or soil out of the carpet tends to grind the materials further down into the fibers. If you have solid materials on top of the carpet, use a large spoon to gently scrape the material into a pile that you can then remove with a cloth.
- Blot first, go for water second. You'd be surprised how many stains can be removed with just water and elbow grease, so with most stains, start by blotting up the worst of the stain with nothing but a clean cloth. Blot as many times as it takes to completely absorb as much of the stain as possible. Then use a damp cloth to apply water to the stain. Blot again until the area is either clean or until it’s clear that you need another type of stain treatment.
- Don’t scrub a stain. If you attack a stain with a scrub brush or sponge, you’re going to damage the rug or carpet fibers. Always blot first, apply your stain solution second, and then blot some more.
- Always test your stain-removing solution on a hidden area of your carpet before you use it. Although the solutions below should be OK for most carpets, you won’t know for sure unless you test first.
7 Stain-Removing Household Heroes
Vinegar is one of the best cleaning powerhouses you can have in your home. It can do everything from removing soap scum to cleaning carpet stains. Here are three vinegar solutions that can help you take out tough carpet stains:
- A very effective general stain remover is a mixture of 2 tablespoons of salt and a ½ cup of white vinegar. Apply the mixture to the stain with a cloth. Let the area dry and then vacuum the area. If the stain remains, repeat the process but add 2 tablespoons of Borax to the mixture.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of laundry detergent with 1½ tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 cups of water. Apply the mixture with a cloth and then blot up the stain. This works well for fruit stains especially.
- Combine equal parts of white vinegar and water. Apply with a cloth and blot. This simple treatment is great for coffee or tea stains.
I bet you never thought of mixing cornstarch and milk to get a stain out of the carpet. But this one-to-one solution of milk and cornstarch is a great way to remove ink stains. Just make a paste of equal parts milk and cornstarch and spread it on the stain. Allow this mixture to dry. Gentle brush up the residue and then vacuum up whatever remains.
Cornstarch on its own is also a great way to soak up a grease stain. Just sprinkle cornstarch on the stain and let it sit for several hours. Then vacuum it up.
Salt is effective for three tough stains: wine, grease, and ketchup.
- To remove a red wine stain, blot up the stain. Sprinkle the area liberally with salt and wait a half hour or so. Vacuum up the salt, apply cold water to the area, and blot. Now vacuum again.
- To remove a grease stain, combine one part salt to four parts rubbing alcohol. Dab the mixture liberally onto the stain then blot with a clean cloth.
- To remove a catsup stain, just cover it with salt, let it sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum. Blot up whatever residue remains with cold water. Now repeat the process. Salt, vacuum, and blot with cold water until the stain is gone.
4. Baking Soda
If you're tackling vomit or urine stains, baking soda is your best bet. Gently wipe up as much of the stain as you can then sprinkle baking soda over the area and pat it in with a clean cloth or paper towel. Let this dry completely and then vacuum up the residue. Baking soda will not only clear the area, but it will also sanitize it and deodorize it.
5. Club Soda
If you have pets, you need to keep some club soda on hand because club soda is great for removing pet urine stains. All you need to do is blot up as much of the urine as you can then soak the area with club soda. Blot again and then repeat the blotting and soaking process with tap water or tap water combined with white vinegar.
Club soda also works well on coffee and tea stains. Use the same soaking and blotting process.
6. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide can be an awesome stain remover for stains that have gotten past you and seem to have appeared out of nowhere. In other words, when you have no idea what the stain is, reach for the hydrogen peroxide. Now, combine a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide with a half teaspoon of cream of tartar and a dab of non-gel toothpaste to create a paste. Because hydrogen peroxide can cause discoloration in some fibers, test this paste on a hidden area of your carpet before using it on your stain. If the test goes well, rub the paste on the stain with a cloth. Let it sit a few minutes then remove the paste with a damp cloth. You should now be able to blot up the stain.
7. Shaving Cream
A couple of tough stains respond very well to a treatment of shaving cream and water. You can remove set-in juice stains and grease or oil stains with shaving cream. Blot the stain and moisten it with water. Then just spray the stain with shaving cream and gently press it in with a cloth. (If you only have the gel-type shaving cream, squirt some in your hand, wet it, and work it into a foam before you apply it to the stain.) Wait a few minutes and then remove the shaving cream with a damp cloth. “Rinse” the area with another damp cloth application and blot up the moisture.
With the above stain-removing solutions now in your cleaning repertoire, you should have no trouble removing tough stains from your carpets and rugs anymore.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Ande Waggener