How to Remove Tough Carpet Stains


Tips on Dealing with Tough Carpet Stains and Spills

Carpets are a long-term investment and when they get stained, it isn’t an option to simply dispose of them. Food, grease, outside dirt and pet urine are tough to remove but using the right technique can get rid of the stains.



Below is a comprehensive guide to provide you with the best tools, cleaning supplies and techniques you will need to remove tough stains. We will provide 3 examples of common dirt (including red wine, pet stains and foul odors) and then tell you how to remove them as quickly and easily as possible.

1. The Basics Of Stain Removal

The sooner you clean a spill or mess on your carpet, the more likely is that you will be successful. Immediate cleaning can prevent a stain becoming tough or permanent. The moment you notice a mark, clean it!

Step – 1 Remove any solid debris using a fork, spoon or blunt (butter) knife. Don’t push down on the debris as this will drive it deeper into the fibers of the carpet making it more difficult to remove.

Step – 2 Dab the stain with a damp, white cloth or paper towel. A cloth that is too wet will cause the stain to spread as will rubbing. You may have to dab for several minutes before the stain begins to lift so you will need to be patient.

Step – 3 Pre-treat the stain using a stain-removal solution. You can find a list of certified products on the Carpet and Rug Institute website. Most of these certified products can be found in your local supermarket. Follow the instructions on the label carefully.

Step – 4 Rinse the stain using cold water. Never use warm or hot water as this will set most stains. Don’t use too much water which will cause the stain to spread. Dab with a dry, white cloth or paper towel to remove as much excess moisture as possible.

The entire process – from steps 1 through 4 – may need to be repeated a few times to remove stubborn stains.

2. Removing Red Wine Spills

It doesn’t only happen in the movies – red wine spills are more common than you would think. So what to do when it happens on your carpet?

Step 1 – Dab the spill with a paper towel or dry cloth to remove as much excess moisture as possible.

Step 2 – Dab the spill with a damp, white cloth or paper towel. This will dilute the stain and begin removing it.

Step 3 – Use an appropriate stain remover for red wine and follow the instructions on the bottle. Pet stain removers are effective at removing red wine stains. Leave the stain remover for the recommended time to allow it to work (usually about 5 minutes). Remember to first test a hidden spot of your carpet to ensure that it is color fast. Leave it for a few minutes and if the colors don’t run or fade, the stain remover should be safe to use on other areas of your carpet.

Step 4 – Rinse the spot with cold water and dab immediately with a dry, white cloth or paper towel to remove excess moisture. A white cloth will allow you to see how much red wine you are removing from the carpet and prevents colors from the cloth being transferred to the carpet.

The process – from step 1 through to step 4 – may need to be repeated several times before removing the red wine entirely.

Simply spraying stain remover and leaving it is not sufficient to remove red wine stains. Also, one cleaning is not going to be enough. We found that it took multiple repetitions of the process to remove all signs of the red wine and only if the stain was still wet when we started. Stains that have been left for longer than 5 minutes have had a chance to soak into the fibers and are more difficult to remove. Spills that have been left to dry take far more time and work. Carpet cleaning appliances are far more effective at removing residual red wine stains.

3. Removing Pet Urine

Your pet may be a part of your family but can really cause problems when they decide to urinate on a rug or carpet. Pet urine is noxious and requires special treatment. The CRI warns to avoid using steam cleaners on urine as the intense heat can actually set the stain and the odor permanently.

They do however recommend using the basic stain removal process described above with the exception of using a stain remover that is specifically designed to treat pet stains. Pet stain remover contains bio-enzymes that break down biological matter like urine and feces. Remember to blot and not rub and use cold water to rinse. The process should be repeated until the stain is no longer visible and the odor is gone too.

Using a wet vacuum will make the process faster by drawing out the excess moisture along with the urine before and after rinsing.

4. Removing Bad Odours From Carpets

Smelly carpets are just as offensive as stained carpets but getting rid of odors can be more difficult. Most carpet cleaners only mask the odor for a short time instead of removing the smell. To get rid of bad odors, use the following process:

Step 1 – Dab the offending area with a damp cloth and then a dry cloth to remove excess moisture.

Step 2 – Liberally sprinkle baking soda on the entire area and leave to work for about 30 minutes. Baking soda or bicarbonate of soda draws out moisture along with odors.

Step 3 – Vacuum the baking soda from the carpet using a regular vacuum.

Step 4 – Repeat the process until the odor is entirely eliminated.

Our test with vinegar showed that bad odors are easier to eliminate if the area is treated within 5 minutes of being contaminated. Also, multiple repeats of the process were necessary to reduce the odor or remove it entirely. Odor removing carpet shampoo used with a mechanical carpet cleaner and extraction is also effective at removing bad odors from carpets.

5. Prevention Is Better Than Stain And Odor Removal

Preventing stains from setting in in the first place is much easier than trying to remove them. Once again, clean spills and messes immediately after they have occurred. The CRI also recommends vacuuming carpets at least once a week. High traffic areas should be vacuumed twice a day. Carpets should be professionally cleaned at least every 12 to 18 months to remove dirt and to increase longevity.

6. DIY Carpet Cleaning

If you have carpets, it may be a good idea to invest in a quality carpet cleaning machine. These machines dispense diluted carpet shampoo directly onto the pile and have rotating brushes that drive the shampoo into the fibers while removing dirt and grime. The cleaner also extracts dirt, excess moisture and detergent from the carpet through a backward motion.

A basic carpet cleaner costs as little as $100. Quality carpet cleaners are however going to cost more but will provide a far better carpet cleaning experience. And, if you don’t want all the hassle of this job, you can always leave the carpet cleaning to a professional.