Sad but true: Coffee stains, wine spills, and muddy footprints are simply a part of life. Sure, there are ways you can try your best to prevent the mess in the first place — asking guests to take their shoes off or buying a stain-resistant carpet, for example — but your best bet is knowing how to get rid of them before they happen.
While vacuuming on a regular basis will keep your carpet from looking dingy and dirty, tough stains are something that even the best vacuum can’t handle.
Whatever the problem, there’s a specific solution or cleaning product to make your area look brand-new (or at the very least, clean) again. Here, Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, shares how to clean carpet from all-too-common stains, including red wine spills, caked-on dirt, and pet messes.
For most stains, follow these instructions to clean your carpet:
- Take two empty spray bottles, and fill one with cold water. In the other, mix 1/4 teaspoon mild dishwashing liquid, like Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap, and 1 cup warm water.
- Spray the detergent solution onto an absorbent cloth (not the carpet — you don’t want to wet it too much), and dab (don’t rub!) it on the spot. As the stain dissolves, blot with a clean section of cloth. Keep applying and blotting until the stain is gone.
- Spray another cloth with the cold water, and use it to rinse the detergent solution from the carpet, then blot again with a dry cloth.
- Pile a stack of paper towels on the wet spot, and place a heavy pot on top. “Overnight, the towels will soak up any residual stain deep in the carpet. In the morning, fluff the fibers with your fingers and allow to air-dry,” Forte suggests.
- If the stain remains, try a more targeted approach based on the stain you’re dealing with.
How to Refresh Carpet With Baking Soda
Looking to take a more natural approach?
Lightly sprinkle baking soda to freshen up dingy carpets. After sprinkling it on trouble spots, work it into a pile with a soft brush and let it sit for 15 -30 minutes before vacuuming. Start with a new vacuum bag or clean cup and filter to make sure your vacuum’s suction is at its best to pick up the fine powder from the carpet.
How to Remove Pet Stains From Carpet
No matter how cute your four-legged friend is, the poop and urine stains they leave behind certainly aren’t. To remove pet stains, use a carpet cleaner with enzymes that also work to destroy odor-causing bacteria. After spraying the cleaner, work it in with a clean, damp cloth, rinse the area with a clean, damp cloth, and cover with the same cloth for up to 12 hours. An added bonus: The enzyme-packed cleaners, like Bissell Professional Pet Stain and Odor Removing Formula, takes away odors, preventing pets from soiling the same spot over and over again.
How to Remove Red Wine Stains From Carpet
When your wine takes a tumble, try your best to blot as much spilled wine as possible, even standing on absorbent cloths if necessary. Saturate the stain with Wine Away and let sit for up to five minutes. Blot the area until the stain is completely gone and remove extra residue with a damp cloth.
How to Remove Coffee Stains From Carpet
No matter what color carpet you have, first try to blot up as much of the coffee as you can. Then, mix one tablespoon of liquid dish soap, one tablespoon of white vinegar, and two cups of warm water. Using a clean, white cloth, sponge the stain with the mixture, applying a little bit at a time and blotting frequently with a dry cloth until the stain disappears. Sponge with cold water and blot dry.
How to Maintain the Carpet in Your Home
Focus on high-traffic areas. In between heavy-duty cleanings, hit any dingy areas of your carpet with a powdered or foam carpet cleaner, like Resolve High Traffic Carpet Foam or Resolve Carpet Cleaner Powder. Apply it according to the package directions, then vacuum.
Keep dirt where it belongs (outside). Your best bet: Try implementing a no-shoes-in-the-house rule. Stow extra slippers or flip-flops next to a shoe rack near your door, and encourage family members to make the switch inside. Stash a broom or rechargeable stick vacuum in a closet near the entryway to collect dirt before it makes it way to doormats. If you also place doormats outside your door, it gives guests a place to wipe their feet before they go inside.
De-grit doormats regularly. Interior doormats can only stop dirt from being tracked inside if they’re clean. If the care tag allows, toss mats into the washing machine on the gentle cycle on warm, and tumble-dry low or air dry. If you’re short on time, vacuum the front and back of the mat to loosen any embedded dirt, even if it’s rubber or plastic. Then flip the mat over, and vacuum up the grit that came out. For a quick refresh, take the mat outside for a good shake.