Photo of a red wine stain removal on carpeting
Photo: Getty Images

Keep your carpet looking good by acting fast when you spot a stain—whether it's a drink someone spilled, mud your dog tracked in, or (gulp) other types of pet messes.

Below, our guide for handling carpet stains of all stripes. (Take our quiz to see whether you know the right ways to tackle household and laundry stains.) 

Before you use a cleaning product, test a small spot before applying it to the entire area to ensure that it won’t discolor your carpet. Also, check the carpet manufacturer’s recommendations.

Common Stains on Carpet

Wine, Juice, or Soda
Act quickly, gently blotting the liquid with a white cotton cloth. Mix 4 cups of water, a tablespoon of dish soap, and a quarter-cup of white vinegar, and apply using a clean sponge. Soak the area with the mixture, allowing 5 to 10 minutes for it to work on the stain. Blot again—don’t rub—with a clean cloth. Repeat these steps until the stain is gone.

Blood
Apply a small amount of cold water to the stain as quickly as possible and blot with a white cotton cloth. Never use hot water because it will set a blood stain. Repeat until the stain is gone.

Pet Stains on Carpet

Pet Poop
Remove the waste, then use an old spatula or butter knife or a spackle tool to carefully lift any residue from the carpet.

More on Cleaning

Soak the area with a laundry stain remover or other product designed for pet stains according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then use a clean wet sponge dampened with a combination of cold water and laundry detergent to blot the area.

Pet Urine
Blot the urine with a white cotton cloth. Spray the area with one part white vinegar and one part water to neutralize the uric acid. Then mix a teaspoon of clear, mild, nonbleach laundry detergent into 4 cups of water and apply to the stain.

Rinse with water, then press with a clean cloth over the area to absorb the water. Repeat these steps until the spot is gone.

 

We tested two small Bissell carpet-cleaning appliances against Resolve spray cleaners. Find out what works best to remove stains.

 

Outdoor Stains on Carpet

Grass
Dip a clean white towel in 1 cup of cold water mixed with a quarter-teaspoon of laundry detergent. Blot the stain gently. Check to see whether the grass stain has transferred from the carpet to the towel. Blot and check until the stain is no longer visible, changing towels as needed to avoid restaining the carpet.

Mud
Let the mud dry completely or it may become much more difficult to remove. Once it has dried, slowly vacuum over the area in all directions to pick up loose dirt. Soak a white cotton cloth in 1 cup of lukewarm water and a teaspoon of dish soap, and apply. Then use a clean white cloth to blot the area. Repeat these steps until the stain is gone, changing cloths as needed to avoid restaining the carpet.

Paint
For a water-based or latex paint stain, if the spot is still wet, blot with a white cotton cloth dampened with warm water. (A white cotton cloth is best for removing stains to ensure no transfer of dye.) Repeat until the paint is gone. If the paint is dry, consider using a carpet cleaner to remove it.

Oil/Grease
Some greasy stains can be removed with a dab of mild dish detergent. Apply a small amount with a white cotton cloth, then blot dry. If that doesn’t remove the stain, use a cloth to apply a small amount of dry-cleaning solvent. (You can purchase it online.) Blot, then rinse. If residue remains, sprinkle baking soda onto the spot and vacuum once it appears that the baking soda has absorbed the stain.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article appeared in the June 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.