A dark, unmissable carpet stain can ruin the look of a beautiful living space. At the very least, it can be an eyesore and a source of annoyance. Yet the more you rub and try to remove some stains, the more noticeable they can become—unless you use the right cleaner. With an appropriately formulated carpet cleaner, old and new stains can fade away to nothing.
Since it’s always best to lift a stain while it’s still fresh, it’s helpful to keep a bottle or two of carpet spray around the house. Armed with the right products, you won’t be caught off guard when accidents occur. So which stain remover is best?
Keep reading to learn about important shopping considerations that help narrow the field of options, and explore some of the best carpet stain remover formulas for home use. For wine stains to pet messes, below are some of the top products that clean a range of troublesome spots.
- BEST OVERALL: Naturally It’s Clean Carpet Stains & Odors Cleaner
- BEST FOR GREASE SPOTS: FOLEX Instant Carpet Spot Remover
- BEST FOR WINE STAINS: Emergency Stain Rescue Chateau Spill Red Wine Remover
- BEST FOR PET MESSES: Bissell Professional Stain & Odor
- BEST FOR HIGH-TRAFFIC AREAS: Resolve Carpet Triple Oxi Advanced Stain Remover
- BEST FOR KILLING GERMS: Woolite Advanced Stain & Odor Remover + Sanitize
- BEST FOR CARPET CLEANERS: Hoover Oxy Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo
- BEST SCENTED: ANGRY ORANGE Enzyme Stain Cleaner & Odor Eliminator
- MOST ECO-FRIENDLY: Puracy Professional Carpet Cleaner Pet Stain Remover
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Carpet Stain Remover
While many carpet cleaning products claim miraculous results, the key is finding a formula gentle enough to keep pets, humans, and the environment safe—without sacrificing cleaning power or stain-busting efficacy. Some carpet cleaners also offer the bonus of being safe and effective for use on upholstery, pet beds, and car interiors, too.
First, it is helpful to know the properties of certain stains, some of which 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. A product that contains surfactants, compounds that break down the barrier between water and fat, allow cleaning agents to penetrate grimy surfaces and remove oily stains from dense fibers.
- Dark red food stains are extremely stubborn, thanks to natural tannins in wine, fruit juices, coffee, tea, beets, pomegranates, or berries. These darkly colored, organic molecules are often used as natural dyes but can have the unintended effect of badly staining carpets and fabrics. So a cleanser needs to lift red marks without bleaching the 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 on a carpet for too long. Lift as much soiled matter as possible before addressing the underlying stain. Use a cleaner that completely breaks down urine and feces into their basic elements to dissolve pet stains, along with tackling odors.
Cut through the list of unpronounceable ingredients by understanding exactly what makes a carpet cleaner work. Two potent compounds and bioactive agents are found in various stain removers, each useful for different household purposes.
A formula meant to tackle grease or oil stains will contain 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 carpet or fabric surface. Surfactants can be synthetically created in a lab, or they can be 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 “nontoxic” on the label.
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 acids, chlorine or peroxide, petroleum-based byproducts, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), phosphates, propellants and aerosols, sulfates, optical brighteners, as well as artificial fragrances and deodorants.
These chemicals are combined to create a potent cleaning formula that is effective, but also harsh. Some brands receive poor grades from the Environmental Working Group due to adverse health effects and risks of environmental damage. Those with sensitivities or for whom eco-consciousness is a priority should check each product’s health ratings before purchasing.
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.
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 a carpet. The one you choose depends on the size and type of the stain, as well as the carpet’s fiber and care instructions.
- Many stain removers are spray-on formulas. Just spray, wait a few seconds to a few minutes, then wipe clean. However, read product instructions carefully to make sure it is designed for a particular type of carpet or fiber surface. Delicate materials like wool, sisal, and cotton may require special handling or specialized products.
- 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 also may require additional steps, like covering the treated area with a damp cloth to speed the chemical reaction.
- While sprays help target spots, concentrated shampoo or liquid detergent is best for larger stained areas. These liquid formulas also are great for cleaning soiled rugs that can be thrown in a washing machine or hand-washed. Again, read product instructions to determine how much water to add and what types of carpeting it cleans.
Patch test a chosen carpet spot remover first, if possible, before spraying over a larger, more visible area. Find an inch or two of carpet behind furniture or under an area rug. Apply the product according to the instructions and wipe clean. Make sure no carpet color is lifted and no fiber damage is observed.
Our Top Picks
The following carpet stain removers are effective stain-busters, thanks to powerful active ingredients. Among the best carpet stain removers, these products won’t damage your carpets, most are nontoxic, and they’ve proven their worth in households across the country. Check out some of the best in their respective categories.
The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: Naturally It's Clean Carpet Stains & Odors Cleaner
Naturally It’s Clean is exactly what it claims to be: a nontoxic carpet cleaner that’s 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.
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.
A favorite with experts and customers alike, Folex Carpet Spot Remover is a stain-remover extraordinaire. The brand promises instant results, no rinsing or vacuuming needed. This nontoxic formula contains no irritating VOCs, CFCs, heavy scents, or petroleum byproducts, so it won’t irritate 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. The formula is safe for any colorfast carpets and upholstery that can be dampened with water. Spray on and watch Folex dissolve stains.
Chateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover by Emergency Stain Rescue has harnessed the power of science to rid 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 there is a red food or beverage stain, Chateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover may be the product to choose. It is easy to use—just spray, blot, and watch the stain fade away.
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 cleaning pet messes, too.
First, remove as much physical dirt as possible, then spray the stained area. Cover with a moist towel and allow 12 to 72 hours for the formula to sink in. Be patient and allow the product time to work. If kept moist, the probiotic enzymes continue to multiply and clean the soiled area completely.
Foot traffic can push stains deeper into carpets and make them harder to remove. For cleaning high-traffic areas, consider a deeply penetrating stain remover like Resolve Carpet Triple Oxi Advanced Stain Remover.
This carpet stain remover contains Resolve’s Triple Oxi formula to help break down stains and neutralize odors. The formula penetrates deep within carpets to tackle set-in stains and to keep tough stains from reappearing. Although powerful, this spray is safe to use around kids and pets. As a bonus, it starts working in just 30 seconds, so just spray, clean, and keep going on with the day.
Some of the worst stain-causing spills can leave nasty germs behind. Many carpet stain removers don’t kill bacteria, leaving these troublesome germs on everyday surfaces. To tackle stains and bacteria, consider trying Woolite Advanced Stain & Odor Remover + Sanitize.
The hydrogen peroxide–based formula has stain-busting ingredients that also kill 99.9 percent of bacteria on soft surfaces. By eliminating bacteria, the spray goes beyond cleaning to eliminate odors and leave surfaces sanitized.
The spray is safe to use on carpets, upholstery, pet beds, couches, rugs, and more to lift daily messes and keep surfaces clean and bacteria-free.
Using a stain removing formula in a carpet cleaner can pack a one-two punch against food stains, pet accidents, and other household stains. The Hoover Oxy Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo is a concentrated formula for use in full-size carpet cleaning machines.
This cleaning solution features Hoover’s Oxy formula for excellent deodorizing and stain-fighting power on colored stains. The cleaner works to quickly and permanently remove spots and stains when used in a carpet cleaning machine.
The stain-fighting power doesn’t stop with carpets—the formula is safe to use on carpets, home upholstery, car interiors, and stairs to break down and lift away everyday household messes. Plus, a pleasant Ocean Breeze scent leaves carpets smelling as fresh and clean as they look.
This carpet and upholstery stain remover from Angry Orange is designed for pet stains, but it’s also an excellent pick for tackling other troublesome spots. The formula contains enzyme ingredients that break down stains and odors, finishing the job with a natural citrus scent to combat tough smells. The fresh enzyme formula starts cleaning as soon as it comes in contact with the stain and continues breaking down spots for up to 80 hours after application.
As a pet- and kid-safe product, this stain removing spray is suitable for a range of surfaces, including carpets, pet beds, wood floors, and litter boxes. Pet accident spots and lingering pet urine smells can become a distant memory with this fragrant stain cleaner.
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 byproducts, 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 contact with kids and pets. Just dilute and apply according to product instructions.
FAQs About Carpet Stain Remover
With prompt treatment and an effective stain remover, carpet stains can become a problem of the past. The right carpet stain removers can lift tough stains, banish bad smells, and keep carpets cleaner for longer. If you’re still deciding on the best carpet stain remover for your needs, consider the following frequently asked questions and answers.
Q. Does vinegar remove carpet stains?
Yes, vinegar can remove some carpet stains. Try a solution of equal parts vinegar and water to loosen stains.
Q. Does hydrogen peroxide remove carpet stains?
Yes, hydrogen peroxide can be an effective homemade stain remover. However, since hydrogen peroxide can bleach some fabrics, it’s best to do a small spot test before use.
Q. What stains cannot be removed from carpet?
Substances that irreversibly damage the carpet color or fabric will cause permanent stains (for example, bleach). Certain messes like red wine, chocolate, grease stains, and pet urine stains are notoriously hard to remove, and it’s best to deal with them right away. Leaving spills to sit for too long (like overnight) can cause permanent staining.
Q. How do I protect my carpet from getting dirty?
The easiest way to protect carpets is to keep them from getting dirty in the first place. Keep shoes off carpets and clean carpets regularly by vacuuming at least twice a week and deep cleaning every 6 months. Clean spills promptly with a stain remover to prevent stains, and consider using a carpet protector spray to make spills easier to clean.
Whether you have messy kids, accident-prone pets, or are just a little clumsy yourself, spills happen in most every home. A carpet stain remover can help keep carpets and upholstery stain-free. The best carpet stain removers are effective and easy to use, so there’s no need to panic after every spill. With a reliable carpet stain remover, keeping carpets clean is simpler and stress-free.