How to remove stains from carpet – from red wine to grease and coffee stains

If you're wondering how to remove stains from carpet, there are plenty of different methods – whether you're dealing with pet stains, alcohol spills, or food mess

Cream bedroom with green fold out sofa
(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Knowing how to remove stains from carpet is difficult, as some stains can feel impossible to remove. Plus, you want to return your flooring to its former, super-clean glory without damaging it in the process.

Investing in one of the best carpet cleaners as well as regular sessions with your best vacuum cleaner is the best starting point for how to clean carpets and will keep them in good condition for the most part. But accidents and spills are a fact of life, whether it’s food, drinks, dirt, or even pet stains. So, finding a way to handle stains as they happen is vital – because the longer you leave it, the trickier it can be to get out. Plus, different kinds of stains often require different cleaning methods in order to remove them effectively. 

We spoke to cleaning and carpet experts to find out how to remove stains from carpet quickly, easily and most importantly – correctly.

How to clean most stains from a carpet - step-by-step

neutral bedroom with pale neutral carpet, beige walls and a wicker chair and headboard

(Image credit: Carpetright)

This method should help you to remove most stains from your carpet – though some will need specialised treatment, which we'll address later. 

What you’ll need

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Blunt knife or spoon
  • Kitchen towel or microfibre cloth
  • Baking soda

1. Remove excess material from the stain

When it comes to how to remove stains from carpet, the first step is always to get rid of any excess material around the stain; be it extra liquid, food, oil, or other *ahem* bodily excrement. Pick up any excess with a kitchen towel or your hands, and then you’re ready to tackle the stain itself.

Cleaning expert at MyJobQuote Sarah Dempsey, advised, 'If the stain contains solids or is a bit chunky, try to get as much of it up with a blunt knife or spoon beforehand.'

2. Dampen the stain and blot

Add a small amount of water to your stain, and then gently blot at it with a kitchen towel, or a clean microfibre cloth. Sarah explained, 'Avoid scrubbing the stain as this can make it even worse, causing the stain to embed deeper into the carpet. Instead, wet the stain and use a blotting technique.' Gently but forcefully dabbing at the wet stain in order to absorb as much liquid and dirt as possible.

As a tip, Sarah advised, 'When wiping a stain, always wipe from the outside in to prevent the stain from spreading further. And avoid scrubbing the area with a coloured cloth as this could result in the colour spreading to your carpet, creating an even worse stain.'

Cleaning solution in a glass bowl

(Image credit: Mark Scott)

3. Add a cleaning mixture

Sarah advises, 'Use a mixture of one part white vinegar, and one part water.' You can mix this together in a bowl, or once mixed, add it to a spray bottle for a super easy way to apply it to your carpet.

'Apply this to the stain and allow it to sit for a few minutes,' Sarah said. You could use one of the best upholstery cleaners here instead, but it's likely that this mixture will be more effective.

4. Leave it to dry

After a few minutes, come back to the stain, and as per Sarah’s instructions, 'Blot the stain with clean water and allow it to dry.'

It may be helpful to open your doors and windows, to help the area dry. Try to avoid patting it dry with a dry kitchen towel, as this can bury the stain in even further.

Once it is dry, you should see a stain-free carpet!

5. Use baking soda if the stain remains

baking soda and flour in glass jar

(Image credit: Future PLC/Andrew Woods)

However, some stains can be tougher to get up. If yours is still there, experts advise using baking soda on any particularly stubborn marks.

'If the stain remains, apply some baking soda to the area and leave this to do its magic overnight. Then, vacuum up the baking soda,' Sarah said. Baking soda can also be used if you're wondering how to clean a rug.

White room with dressing table and mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How to remove pet stains from carpet

It’s not pleasant, but if you have cats, dogs or other pets, knowing how to get all sorts of pet stains (be it faeces, urine or vomit) out of your carpet is essential – because we all know that our furry friends have accidents sometimes.

Lily Cameron, a cleaning supervisor at Fantastic Services, warned, 'If it’s wet, first soak up the moisture by blotting without smearing or rubbing.' Or, if it's a number two, Johanna Constantinou, Brand and Communications Director at Tapi Carpets, explained, 'In this case, you’ll want to scoop up as much as you can and begin to blot the remaining mess with paper towels, to reduce as much moisture as possible.'

dog at the top of stairs with Tapi Carpets carpet - from Instagram @Lunabushellcockapoo

(Image credit: Tapi Carpets)

After this, tackle both the stain and the odour by following these steps:

  • First, apply the vinegar and water mixture from above: 'Vinegar (one of the best natural cleaning hacks) is a great disinfectant and perfect for cleaning pet stains from your carpet,' Sarah said. 'Pour some of this solution over the stained area, and then lightly scrub the area with a clean, white cloth or soft brush.' 
  • Then soak up that excess moisture: 'Once you’ve finished scrubbing, blot up as much of the moisture as you can, and then leave the carpet to air dry,' Sarah said.
  • Get rid of any odours: Pet stains can come with a smell. To get rid of them try using white vinegar. 'Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1/4 cup of warm water, and spritz on the stain,' suggest Lily. 'Another effective method is to mix 1/4 cup of water with laundry detergent in a spray bottle and spray it on the spot. Allow the mixture to soak for a few minutes, blot, rinse with warm water, and repeat as many times as necessary until the scent has gone.'

If you’re dealing with vomit, Johanna also suggests an additional step at the start; 'Coat with baking powder and leave for a while to reduce acidic odours. Vacuum it up, then blot with a damp cloth and your carpet cleaning solution.'

Once you've followed all those steps Johanna says, 'Spray with carpet-safe disinfectant to kill any remaining bacteria.'

How to remove red wine stains from carpet

Spilling red wine on a carpet – particularly a lighter-coloured carpet – is terrifying, given its deep dark colour. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not impossible to clean up! 'Begin by blotting up as much of the wine as possible with a dry, white cloth or a piece of kitchen roll,' says Sarah.

Then, you can clean it in much the same way as other carpet cleaning methods, though you’ll need a slightly stronger solution. Sarah suggests a 'cleaning solution of one tablespoon of dish soap, one tablespoon of white vinegar, and two cups of warm water.'

She advises pouring some of the solution onto the stain, before using a clean cloth to blot at it (don’t leave it to set in!) Then, she says, 'Repeat this step until the stain vanishes.'

How to remove coffee stains from carpet

Breakfast bar against wall in kitchen with yellow metal bar stools

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Coffee stains can also feel particularly scary, especially, as Lily explained, 'If coffee stains aren’t treated properly, they can leave your carpet looking filthy; the noticeable brown tone can easily be mistaken for an uncleaned pet stain.'

So in order to remove it, you’ll want to act swiftly. Lily explained, 'First, dry the spot by blotting with a dry towel.' Then, she suggests using an equal mix of vinegar, water and non-bleach detergent (or washing powder), to treat it. She suggested, 'Spritz this mixture on the spot, then rinse, and repeat, until the stain disappears. If this mix doesn’t work, you can also prepare a mixture of 1/4 cup of bleach to 1 cup and 1/4 cup of water in a spray bottle.'

How to remove grease stains from carpet

Grease stains – be they from food, personal products, or from cooking, can leave a dull, dirty look. In order to remove them, Sarah Dempsey advises first using cutlery to get at the stain.

She said, 'Start by removing as much of the grease solids as you can with a dull knife or spoon. Avoid rubbing the area as this will only push the grease deeper into the fibres and increase the mass of the stain.'

Then, it’s time to use that old faithful ingredient – baking soda. 'Sprinkle some baking soda over the stain to absorb all of the oil, and work this into the fibres with an old toothbrush. Allow the baking soda to sit on the stain for a minimum of 15 minutes,' she said. After this, all you need to do is vacuum up the baking powder.

How to remove old stains from carpet

bedroom with milkshake colours

(Image credit: Alternative Flooring)

Acting quickly is usually your best bet if you're wondering how to remove stains from carpet efficiently – but sometimes, we don’t have the time or the inclination to deal with them then and there. Or, what if you have moved into a property with pre-existing stains that need tackling? In this case, is it even possible to remove old stains from carpet?

Sarah told us, 'Although it can be quite difficult to remove old stains, it’s not necessarily impossible. The best approach is to rehydrate a set-in stain. Once it’s rehydrated, you can then clean it as if it is a new stain, following the above method.'

'If the stain remains, repeat the above steps until it has completely disappeared,' she said. 

Alternatively, a steam cleaner can often help you to tackle some of the oldest, most set-in stains. Johanna said, 'The hot steam in a steam cleaner will break down the stubborn substances stuck into the carpet. If you use one, allow the moisture to sit in the carpet before running a vacuum over it, to pick up the grime and dirt that’s been removed.'

What carpet stains cannot be removed?

Knowing how to remove stains from carpets is one thing, but there are some things that will present a particular cleaning challenge. Sarah told us, 'The most difficult carpet stains to deal with are red wine, blood, ink, and cooking oils.'

However, Sarah explained that 'There are no carpet stains that can’t be dealt with. While some may, unfortunately, leave some small staining behind, there are things you can do to make a stain seem less visible, such as the above methods.'

As mentioned, stains become more difficult to remove the longer they are left to sit. And, if you don't know what caused the carpet stain, it can be twice as hard to remove it. So in order to avoid a tricky cleaning task, always address stains as soon as possible, and use the correct cleaning method, if possible.


 Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist and editor, now working in a freelance capacity specialising in homes and interiors, wellness, travel and careers. She was previously Lifestyle Editor at woman&home, overseeing the homes, books and features sections of the website. Having worked in the industry for over eight years, she has contributed to a range of publications including Ideal Home, Livingetc, T3,Goodto, Woman, Woman’s Own, and Red magazine