How to get rid of tough carpet stains (yes, even cat urine)


Brian Bennett / CNET

Thick rugs and rugs stained with dog urine, grease, and food are difficult to manage. However, don’t throw them away. First consider trying to reverse the damage yourself.

This guide lists the tools, techniques, and supplies you need to remove unsightly stains and odors from carpets. You will also learn what to do right away when accidents happen to minimize damage. I’ll also show you the effects of three common types of dirt, from red wine and unpleasant odors to heavy food stains. Then I will do my best to clean them, so I hope you can too.

Read more: The best wireless vacuum cleaner for 2020

Basic stain removal

The faster you act, the more likely you are to successfully remove a carpet stain. Speed ​​can also prevent a stain from appearing in the first place. Once you notice a stain, move quickly.

First, if there are physical remains, remove them with a fork or spoon. Be careful not to use too much pressure. You want to avoid pressing the material deeper into the carpet fibers. Then gently rub with a damp cloth or paper towel. Use plain cloth or paper towels without colors or prints and gently press on the stain; This process can take several minutes, so be patient.

Now pretreat the area with a stain removal solution. The Carpet and Rug Institute maintains a list of cleaning products that it certifies. You can also find similar products sold online and in supermarkets. Lastly, rinse the stain with cold, never hot, water and pat dry again.

You may need to repeat the process several times for difficult spills.

A red wine stain can really ruin your carpet day.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Treat with red wine

It is a cliche, but it happens. Someone has dropped a large glass of red wine on their beautiful light colored rug. Now what? Dry the spill first with a damp cloth or paper towel. The idea here is to remove as much wine from the floor as possible. Any remaining wine should also be diluted with cold water with a cloth or towel.

Now you will want to apply some carpet stain remover. They usually come in the form of a spray bottle and costs around $ 11. I found that formulas marked as “pet stain remover” or in similar language work best.

However, before establishing the solution, it is a good idea to test the color fastness of your carpet. Choose a small place that is hidden, for example, under the couch or sofa, and hit it with a bit of the stain remover. If there is no change after a few minutes, you are ready to go.

Now apply enough stain remover to cover the stain. Let stand for at least 5 minutes, then pat dry again with another paper towel or damp cloth (again, using cold water, not hot). Repeat the procedure if necessary. With tough stains, it will take multiple rounds.

The spray stain removers alone did not lift the wine stains. The 24-hour stain (right) was particularly harsh.

Brian Bennett / CNET

In my tests, I found that one cleaning was not enough. It was only after several sessions that all traces of the red wine tone completely disappeared. It was also much easier to remove the recently spilled wine (in 5 minutes) than if it stayed overnight. As expected, both carpet cleaning appliances were better at removing residual wine from the fibers of the carpets.

Electric carpet cleaning appliances like this Hoover SmartWash really do work through residual wine stains.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Elimination of stains caused by urine from dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats are adorable, but they can often cause great headaches, such as when they urinate on their carpet or rug. Powerful and harmful, you should be especially careful with urine from Fido and Whiskers. According to the CRI, never use a steam cleaner to treat urine stains. The high heat from that equipment will likely establish both stain and odor.

The CRI advises treating the problem area first as it would with other spots and spills. Dry with a color-safe material (plain white, without patterns or prints) to absorb as much moisture as possible. Then use a stain remover designed for pet mess. Always remember to dry rather than rub to work in the detergent. Repeat the process until the stain and odor are removed.

Another option is to use a household carpet cleaner, also known as a vacuum cleaner. After that, you can rinse the area with cold water.

Get rid of smells on the carpet.

To remove unpleasant odors from the carpet, first dry the heavily affected spots with a damp cloth. Then pat the area dry with a clean (dry) cloth or paper towel. Now give the mat a healthy pinch of baking soda. After 30 minutes, vacuum the carpet with a standard vacuum. Repeat if the smell persists.

For this test, I used white vinegar as a contaminant. I had some success with the home method. A recent smelly spill (in 5 minutes) was easier to neutralize. The vinegar left overnight took more work to remove. Either way, I had to make numerous applications for baking soda to significantly reduce the aroma.

As for the mechanized solutions, perhaps it was the combined power of the shampoo to combat odors plus strong suction. Whatever the reason, both electric cleaners managed to remove all traces of funk from my test mats.

Read more: The best wireless vacuum cleaner for 2020

Oh boy, that’s a nasty mess.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Dealing with vomit

One of the worst materials to contaminate carpets is vomit. Whether the source is dog, cat, or human, vomiting is sure to ruin your carpet unless you act quickly. Start by removing any solid matter first. Gently use a fork or spoon to lift the material, and be sure to use a light touch. Too much pressure runs the risk of working the material deeper into the mat.

Then treat the exposed area with plenty of stain removal solution. After sitting for at least 5 minutes, pat dry with a damp cloth or paper towel. Again, be prepared to repeat the procedure if necessary.

Gently scrape off solid chunks with a fork or spoon.

Brian Bennett / CNET

To test this technique, I created a mixture to simulate the harmful properties of vomiting: homemade nacho sauce. Its ingredients were strong cheddar cheese and chopped chopped tomatoes. I applied equal amounts of the things, in two sections, to my test mat. One of them did my best to clean up after 5 minutes. The other one I didn’t touch for 24 hours.


After all my cleaning efforts, I was very successful with lifting the nacho cheese stain which was quickly cleaned (left) while much of the night stain remained (right).

Brian Bennett / CNET

I couldn’t remove the damage even after cleaning it with both spray solution and carpet machines. Still, I had better luck cleaning up the spill fast. The section of the carpet that sat overnight was hardened and appears to be permanently dirty.

Much TLC

Prevention is also a good medicine for carpets. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends at least a weekly vacuum regimen, and up to twice a day for high traffic areas. The industry group also says that carpets should be professionally cleaned every 12 to 18 months.

Hoover SmartWash Shampoo for $ 199 and dries rugs automatically.

Vacuum cleaner

Consider a carpet cleaner

Another method is to clean carpets with a carpet cleaning machine. These appliances look like regular upright vacuums but they work very differently. Machines like this pump detergent liquid into the mat underneath as you push them forward.

Rotating brushes rub the fibers of the carpet and the mat (mixed with the liquid from the shampoo) along the way. Pulling the machine back over the same area allows you to vacuum the remaining remaining solution along with loose dirt.

They cost as little as $ 100 for a basic model like the Bissell TurboClean PowerBrush pet. You can also splurge on the new $ 199 Hoover SmartWash. Unlike the PowerLifter, the SmartWash mixes its detergent concentrate with water as you go.

An added nifty feature, the SmartWash automatically switches between shampoo and dry modes by pressing it back and forth. With other cleaners, including the PowerLifter, you must do this manually.