After years of hardwood casas, I spent the entire last year living in a pad with wall-to-wall carpeting. Personally, I loved the plush softness under my feet. My parrot, in contrast, loved the opportunity to fling everything from tea to Cheerios into the thick pile and watch me scramble around to clean it. In other words, even with the best of intentions and under the best of circumstances, life happens to carpeting as much as it does to the rest of us. As a gal with a modest income, I learned a lot about removing all kinds of stains quickly and inexpensively in that year—here's hoping what I learned will help you too!

1. Common water-soluble stains

Examples: Soda, tea, fruit juices, milk or ice cream, mud or dirt, food, washable inks, watercolors or latex-based paints

Recipe: 1/4 cup of white vinegar, one teaspoon of non-bleach detergent, four cups water

How to use: First, use a blunt knife to remove any excess material. Then use a white towel to blot (not wipe) excess moisture from the stained area. Pour the recipe into a spray bottle and spritz liberally onto the stained area. Let the recipe soak in for 7-10 minutes (more if the stain is deep). Rinse with a bit of warm water. Then blot again. Repeat until the stain is no longer visible.

2. Difficult water-soluble stains

Examples: Blood, wine, coffee, Kool-Aid (and similar colorful liquids)

Recipe 1: 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1 cup cool water

Recipe 2: 2 tablespoons grease-fighting detergent, 1 cup cool water

Recipe 3: (for color-safe carpets only): 1 part chlorine bleach, 5 parts cool water

Recipe 4: (for red wine stains only): 1 part white wine or white vinegar, 1 part cool water

How to use: First, blot up any excess with a white paper towel. Next, select the appropriate recipe. Spritz the recipe liberally onto and around the stained area and allow to soak in for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with cool water. Then use a new white towel to blot up the liquid. Repeat until the stain is no longer visible.

4. Pet or people urine and other waste or vomit

Examples: Young kids (especially those in potty training) or pets are the usual suspects here

Recipe 1: 1/4 cup white vinegar, 4 cups warm water

Recipe 2: 1 teaspoon stain-fighting laundry detergent, 4 cups warm water

How to use: You can try each recipe and see which works better depending on the extent and age of the stain. Remove any excess waste matter first and dispose in a hygienic location. Then blot more excess from carpet. Next, liberally spray the recipe of your choice and allow to soak in for 3-5 minutes. Blot with a clean towel. Rinse with warm water and spray again. Repeat until stain is no longer visible.

5. “Category 5” stains

Examples: fat, wax, oil, gum, nail polish, glue, tobacco burns, ink stains

  • Fat, Wax, Oil: Lay a paper towel over the stained carpet area. Prepare your iron on the "warm" setting. Iron on the paper towel. As you iron, check periodically until you see the substance begin to adhere to the paper towel. Then simply peel off the paper towel.
  • Gum: Use ice to freeze the gum, then break it off with a blunt object (this also can work for wax).
  • Nail polish: For nail polish stains, soak a paper towel in nail polish remover, then blot the stain until the polish is gone.
  • Glue: For glue stains, use rubbing alcohol soaked into a paper towel. First simply press the towel into the stained area. Then rub gently until the glue comes off.
  • Tobacco burns: For tobacco burns from cigarettes, cigars and pipes, take a blunt knife and scrape against the edge of the burned portion of the carpet to remove the charred portions.
  • Ink stains: For ink, dampen a cloth or paper towel with rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, hairspray, white wine, or another agent with a high-alcohol content. Dab and blot only until the area is damp with the solution. Let it dry a bit. Then vacuum over the area. Repeat until the stain is no longer visible.


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