The Best Carpet Stain Removers
Look no further! These five products will lift pesky spots with ease, lending stress-free, stain-busting power to your carpet cleaning routine.
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- BEST OVERALLNaturally It's Clean Carpet Stains & Odors CleanerCheck Latest Price
- BEST FOR GREASE SPOTSFolex Instant Carpet Spot RemoverCheck Latest Price
- BEST FOR WINE STAINSChateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover SprayCheck Latest Price
A dark carpet stain can ruin an otherwise beautiful living space. At the very least, an obvious stain can be an eyesore and a source of annoyance. Frustratingly, the more you rub and worry, the more noticeable such stains can become—unless you have the right cleaning product. With a well-formulated carpet cleaner, old and new stains can fade away to nothing.
Here’s the tough part: deciding on the best carpet stain remover to buy. To start, read our guide to understanding and choosing between the many different options available today.
- BEST OVERALL: Naturally It’s Clean Carpet Stains & Odors Cleaner
- BEST FOR GREASE SPOTS: Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover
- BEST FOR WINE STAINS: Chateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover Spray
- BEST FOR PET MESSES: Bissell Professional Stain & Odor
- MOST ECO-FRIENDLY: Puracy Professional Carpet Cleaner Machine Detergent
Key Shopping Considerations
While many carpet cleaners claim miraculous results, the key is to find a formula gentle enough to keep pets, humans, and the environment safe—without sacrificing cleaning power or stain-busting efficacy.
Type of Stain
First, it is helpful to know the properties of those stains that can be especially tough to remove without the correct formula.
- Grease and oil stains are composed of water-insoluble lipid molecules. In other words, water alone won’t budge stains caused by fat. You need a product that contains surfactants, which are compounds that break down the barrier between water and fat, allowing cleaning agents to penetrate and remove oily stains from dense fibers.
- Dark red food stains are extremely stubborn, thanks to natural tannins in wine, fruit juices, coffee, tea and more. These darkly colored, organic molecules are often used as natural dyes but can have the unintended effect of badly staining carpets and fabrics. So you’ll want a cleanser that can lift red marks without bleaching your carpet.
- Pet messes can cause smelly, hazardous stains to form if not dealt with immediately. In addition to nasty odors, pet accidents can breed bacteria if they sit in your carpet for too long. You’ll want to lift as much soiled matter as possible before addressing the underlying stain. You should look for products that completely break down urine and feces into their basic elements and dissolve stains, along with odors.
Cut through the list of unpronounceable ingredients by understanding what, exactly, makes a carpet cleaner work. Two potent compounds and bioactive agents are found in various stain removers, each useful for different household purposes.
- Surfactants: If you have a grease or oil stain, you’ll want a formula that contains powerful surfactants. These compounds lower the surface tension of water. This has the effect of making water molecules “slipperier” and more likely to stick to grease and oil molecules, lifting them from your carpet or fabric surface. Surfactants can be synthetically created in a lab, or derived from natural substances like coconut and palm oils. Plant-based surfactants are increasing in popularity, especially in cleaning and personal care products, as they tend to be gentler and more environmentally sustainable. Look for carpet cleaners that contain plant-based surfactants and use words like “biodegradable” and “non-toxic” on the label.
- Enzymes: Many carpet cleaners use enzymes to break down stains into their component elements. Enzymes are proteins that speed up biological processes, like digestion and decay. These substances are especially helpful when tackling organic stains, including food, blood, and waste. Enzyme-based stain removers are designed to completely clean and destroy odors, rather than masking nasty smells with heavy fragrances and deodorants.
Safety and Eco-Friendliness
Many carpet cleaners contain a host of heavy chemicals and synthetic compounds including:
- chlorine or peroxide
- petroleum-based byproducts
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
- CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)
- propellants and aerosols
- optical brighteners
- artificial fragrances and deodorants
These chemicals are combined to create a potent cleaning formula that is effective, but also harsh. For example, the popular carpet cleaner RESOLVE received an F grade by the Environmental Working Group due to its adverse health effects and risks of environmental damage.
Fortunately, it is now possible to find carpet cleaners that rely almost solely on plant-based cleansers, natural deodorants, and essential oils. Thanks to consumer advocacy and industry research, these safer, healthier products are beginning to replace heavy chemical solutions, and, in some cases, are proving highly effective. According to WebMD, when considering “green” or “eco-friendly” products, it is necessary to do a little research, read up on the product from independent sources, and determine whether the company truly stands behind its marketing claims.
There are three basic methods for applying stain remover to your carpet. The one you choose depends on the size and type of the stain, as well as your carpet’s fiber and care instructions.
- Spray-On: Many stain removers are spray-on formulas. Nothing could be easier right? Just spray, wait a few seconds to a few minutes, then wipe clean. In general, this is true, however, read product instructions carefully to make sure it is designed for your particular carpet or fiber surface. Delicate materials like wool, sisal, and cotton may require special handling or specialized products.
- Sit and Soak: Enzyme-based formulas often need much longer to work than chemical or surfactant-based formulas and may need to sit for several hours to several days to dissolve stains completely. Enzyme sprays may also require additional steps, like covering the treated area with a damp cloth to speed the chemical reaction.
- Shampoo: While sprays help target spots, concentrated liquid detergent is best for larger stained areas. These liquid formulas are also great for cleaning soiled rugs that can be thrown in your washing machine or hand washed. Again, read product instructions to determine how much water to add and what types of carpeting it is intended for.
In the case of all stain removers, you’ll want to patch test your chosen product first, if possible, before spraying over a larger, more visible area. Find an inch or two of carpet behind your furniture, or under a rug. Apply the product according to instructions and wipe clean. Make sure no carpet color is lifted and no fiber damage is observable.
Our Top Picks
These five formulas meet the standards outlined above for effectiveness in stain removal, thanks to active ingredients that are powerful without heavy chemicals. The best carpet stain remover options ahead won’t damage your carpets or your health, and they have also proven their worth in households across the country.
1. BEST OVERALL: Naturally It’s Clean Carpet Stains & Odors Cleaner
Naturally It’s Clean is exactly what it claims to be: a non-toxic carpet cleaner, safe for kids, pets, and life in general. Powered by plant-based enzymes, Naturally It’s Clean is pH neutral and biodegradable, without VOCs, propellants, or artificial fragrances. The light lemon scent comes from an essential oil and the odor-eliminating formula breaks down stains and smells into their basic elements, erasing spots without discoloration or heavy scents. The application is simple: shake, then spray generously on the target surface. Allow it to soak for a few minutes, then wipe clean or scrub with a sponge for stubborn stains. Repeat as needed.
2. BEST FOR GREASE SPOTS: Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover
A favorite with experts and customers alike, Folex is a spot remover extraordinaire. The brand promises instant results (no rinsing or vacuuming). This non-toxic formula contains no irritating VOCs, CFCs, heavy scents, or petroleum byproducts, so it won’t irritate your skin, eyes, or lungs. The active ingredient is a water-based surfactant that lifts dirt and grease with ease. Folex is safe to use around children and pets as long as it is applied as directed. Folex claims it is also safe for any colorfast carpets and upholstery that can be dampened with water. Spray on and watch Folex dissolve stains before your eyes.
3. BEST FOR WINE STAINS: Chateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover Spray
Chateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover has harnessed the power of science to rid your carpet of wine stains and more. This spray contains biodegradable surfactants that lift stains from carpets and fabrics—without the bleaching properties of peroxide, chlorine, or phosphates. Instead, the formula is specially designed to work on dark-colored tannins. So if you have a red food or beverage stain, Chateau Spill may be the product for you. It is easy to use—just spray, blot, and watch the stain fade away.
4. BEST FOR PET MESSES: Bissell Professional Stain & Odor
Bissell’s Professional Stain & Odor Remover is an enzyme-based formula free of heavy metals, phosphates, and dyes. Designed for removing especially tough stains—including motor oil, spaghetti sauce, and even blood—the patented, odor-busting technology is perfect for pet messes too. Be patient and allow the product time to work. First, remove as much physical dirt as possible, then spray the stained area. Cover with a moist towel and allow 12 to 72 hours to sink in. If kept moist, the probiotic enzymes continue to multiply and clean the soiled area completely.
5. MOST ECO-FRIENDLY: Puracy Professional Carpet Cleaner Machine Detergent
Puracy’s concentrated liquid is derived from 99.5 percent natural ingredients, including grapefruit essential oil and zinc ricinoleate, a natural mineral-based odor remover. This carpet shampoo will clean and deodorize most carpets, upholstery, and other washable surfaces thoroughly—without heavy chemicals. The formula is free of sulfates, phosphates, animal by-products, chlorine, bleach, dyes, petrochemicals, caustics, perfumes, and optical brighteners. And while it is labeled a “carpet shampoo,” Puracy can be used as a spot treatment as well. Best of all, this gentle yet tough formula is safe for your kids and pets to come into contact with. Just dilute and apply according to product instructions, then breathe a sigh of relief.