The Best Carpet Stain Removers of 2022

These stress-free, stain-busting cleaning products help lift pesky carpet stains with ease.

By Andréana Lefton and Jasmine Harding and Anne Holub | Updated Jul 1, 2022 9:06 AM

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The Best Carpet Stain Remover Options

Photo: Anne Holub

Carpet lends comfort, warmth, and beauty to a home, but it can hold on to common spills and soils with more tenacity than a lot of hard flooring. A dark, unmissable carpet stain can ruin the look of a lovely living space, yet the more you rub and try to remove some stains, the more noticeable they can become. Even everyday dirt tracked into the home from outside can dig in and become challenging to vanquish. That’s why there’s a whole niche of cleaning products directed at removing carpet stains—some general purpose and others targeted to specific problems.

It’s always best to lift a stain when it’s still fairly fresh, so it’s wise to keep a container of carpet cleaner handy to use when accidents occur. Still, with so many products on the market—some of which make pretty incredible claims—we decided to test some of the most popular to determine their performance on typical stains that are likely to occur in households with dogs or kids or with the occasional spill of a wine glass or plate of fried chicken. Not only did we consider how well the products work, we also looked at how easy and convenient they are to apply.

For best results, follow directions carefully when using any stain remover. Some note to rewet the stain first if it’s dried out, while others recommend multiple applications or pre-treatments if a stain is especially stubborn. Wait times differ as well—one product may begin to lift a stain immediately, while another may take a day or longer and may require a wet cloth be placed over the area.

Keep reading to learn about important shopping considerations that help narrow the field of options, and learn the pros (and occasional cons) of some of the best carpet stain remover formulas for home use.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Woolite Advanced Stain & Odor Remover + Sanitize
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo
  3. BEST FAST-ACTING: Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover
  4. BEST FOR WINE STAINS: The Hate Stains Co. Chateau Spill Red Wine Remover
  5. BEST ENZYMATIC: Bissell Professional Pet Stain & Odor Remover
  6. BEST FOR MULTIPLE SURFACES: Nature’s Miracle Advanced Stain and Odor Eliminator
  7. BEST FOR GROUND-IN DIRT: Resolve Carpet Triple Oxi Advanced Stain Remover
  8. MOST ECO-FRIENDLY: Naturally It’s Clean Carpet Stains & Odors Cleaner
  9. BEST OXY-POWERED: Bissell Pro Oxy Power Shot

ALSO TESTED: ScotchGuard Rug & Carpet Cleaner and Angry Orange Enzyme Stain Cleaner & Odor Eliminator

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Options

Photo: Anne Holub

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Carpet Stain Remover

Although many carpet cleaning products claim miraculous results, the ideal formula will be gentle enough to keep people, pets, and the planet 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. So keep the following in mind when perusing products to find the appropriate stain zapper.

Stain Type

First, it’s 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—allows cleaning agents to penetrate grimy surfaces and remove oily stains from dense fibers.
  • Dark-red food stains are extremely stubborn because of natural tannins in wine, fruit juices, coffee, tea, beets, pomegranates, and berries. These darkly colored organic molecules, often used as natural dyes, can have the unintended effect of badly staining carpets and fabrics. The trick to trouncing these stains is finding a cleaner that can 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 the carpet for too long. Lift as much soiled matter as possible, then use a cleaner that completely breaks down urine and feces into their basic elements to dissolve pet stains and remove odors.

Active Ingredients

There are basically two main potent compounds and bioactive agents used in various stain removers.

A formula meant to tackle grease and oil stains will contain powerful surfactants. These compounds lower the surface tension of water, making water molecules “slipperier” and more likely to stick to grease and oil and lift it from carpet and fabric surfaces. Surfactants can be synthetic or derived from such natural substances as coconut and palm oils.

Plant-based surfactants are increasing in popularity 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 such as “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, such as 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 mask smells with fragrances or deodorants. Oxidative enzyme is now such an effective and commonly used stain-buster that it is often mentioned in product names—using the shorthand of “oxi” or “oxy.” One caveat about enzymatic cleaners is they often require fairly lengthy wait times to work effectively.

Safety and Eco-Friendliness

Many carpet cleaners may contain heavy chemicals and synthetic compounds. These may include acids, chlorine or peroxide, petroleum-based byproducts, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), phosphates, propellants and aerosols, sulfates, optical brighteners, and sometimes artificial fragrances and deodorants.

These chemicals are combined in some of the most effective stain removers that receive poor grades from the Environmental Working Group because of 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, more sound products are beginning to replace heavy chemical solutions and, in some cases, are proving highly effective.

When considering “green” or “eco-friendly” products, it’s wise to do a little research. Read up on the product from independent sources to determine the veracity of a company’s marketing claims.

Application Method

The application method chosen will depend 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, allow the product to work for 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 such as wool, sisal, and cotton may require special handling or specialized products.
  • While sprays target spots, a concentrated shampoo or liquid detergent is best for larger stained areas and overall cleaning. These liquid formulas are typically used with a carpet-cleaning machine, though some can be used in a washing machine or as a hand-wash for area rugs. As always, read product instructions to determine how much water to add and what types of carpeting it cleans.

Pro tip: Patch test an inch or two of carpet behind furniture with a carpet stain remover before using it on a larger, more visible area. Apply according to instructions to ensure no carpet color is lifted and no fiber damage occurs.

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Options

Photo: Anne Holub

Our Top Picks

The following carpet stain removers proved to be effective in our hands-on tests. These products, most of which are nontoxic, won’t damage carpets and are popular in households nationwide. Check out some of the best in their respective categories.

Best Overall

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: Woolite Advanced Stain & Odor Remover + Sanitize
Photo: amazon.com

Some of the worst stain-causing spills can leave nasty germs behind. Woolite Advanced Stain & Odor Remover + Sanitize is an excellent general-purpose stain remover, with a hydrogen peroxide-based formula that kills 99.9 percent of bacteria on soft surfaces. This powerful product attacks such stubborn stains as red wine, pet messes, mud, chocolate, coffee, and grease on carpet and other soft surfaces, such as upholstery and bath mats.

Fortunately, users needn’t worry about this peroxide formula bleaching the color from carpets. In our testing, the product removed strong smells and dark ketchup and chocolate stains with no color change to carpet fibers. And although the spray formula has a somewhat lengthy wait time of an hour, after that period and some gentle blotting with a microfiber towel (per the recommendations), the stains were gone.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Spray
  • Waiting time: 1 hour
  • Cautions: Not for use on polypropylene/olefin or wool fibers

Pros

  • Sanitizes
  • Will not bleach color
  • Tackles pet stains
  • Cleans upholstery and other surfaces

Cons

  • 1-hour wait time

Get the Woolite carpet stain remover on Amazon or at Bissell.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: Puracy Professional Carpet Cleaner Pet Stain Remover
Photo: amazon.com

Puracy Natural Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo is made from 99.5 percent natural ingredients, including grapefruit essential oil and zinc ricinoleate, which is a mineral-based odor remover. It’s enzyme-based, so it’s effective on pet messes as well as other organic stains. Plus, as a concentrated liquid that users dilute with water, it’s also quite affordable.

Puracy will clean and deodorize most carpets, upholstery, and other washable surfaces thoroughly, yet it’s free of sulfates, phosphates, animal byproducts, chlorine, bleach, dyes, petrochemicals, caustics, perfumes, and optical brighteners. And although it’s labeled a shampoo, indicating use in carpet-cleaning machines, it can be used as a spot treatment as well

To test, we diluted Puracy in water in a bucket and applied it to chocolate and ketchup stains with a clean sponge. Stains started to come up right away, though it took a bit of blotting and several applications for the dark stains to disappear completely. We didn’t test the carpet shampoo in a cleaning machine, but we were impressed enough with the spot-cleaning results to expect it to work quite well that way.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Sponge or machine
  • Waiting time: None
  • Cautions: None (can be used on any water-safe surface)

Pros

  • Concentrated formula goes a long way
  • Works as a spot cleaner or in a machine
  • Enzyme-based, yet works fast

Cons

  • Not as convenient or effortless as spray formulas

Get the Puracy carpet stain remover on Amazon or at Chewy.

Best Fast-Acting

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: FOLEX Instant Carpet Spot Remover
Photo: amazon.com

Folex Carpet Spot Remover gives stains the boot quickly, yet its nontoxic, odor-free formula contains no irritating VOCs, CFCs, or petroleum byproducts that can irritate skin, eyes, and lungs. The active ingredient is a water-based surfactant that lifts dirt and grease. Applied as directed, Folex is safe to use around children and pets and is suitable for any colorfast carpets and upholstery that can be dampened with water.

However, we found the label claim of “no rinsing” to be a bit misleading, as we found during testing that Folex requires the same spray-and-blot technique as most other stain spot removers. We fully saturated stained areas with Folex, then went at it with a damp sponge—and it did work fast. Mud and dirt came up particularly quickly, while acidic tannin stains required repeated treatments. We recommend reaching for Folex if a bunch of dogs and kids come tromping through the house after playing out in the yard.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Spray
  • Waiting time: None
  • Cautions: Test on hidden area first

Pros

  • Nontoxic
  • Works fast
  • Safe on most water-friendly surface

Cons

  • Less effective on acidic food stains

Get the Folex carpet stain remover at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Lowe’s.

Best for Wine Stains

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: The Hate Stains Co. Chateau Spill Red Wine Remover
Photo: amazon.com

The aptly named Chateau Spill Red Wine Stain Remover by The Hate Stains Co. contains biodegradable surfactants that lift stubborn dark tannin stains from carpets and fabrics. Free of peroxide, chlorine, and phosphates, it does the trick without bleaching the color out of carpet fibers. It can also be used on fabric, whether hand-washing or in the machine.

In testing, we followed the label instructions by rewetting a dried wine stain with water. We then sprayed on the product and were impressed to see the stain fade almost instantly. Giving the spot a gentle blot with a clean cloth eased out the stain fully. This stain remover also proved pretty effective on other acidic stains, including tomato sauce and chocolate. However, it wasn’t completely effective on dried mud.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Spray
  • Waiting time: None
  • Cautions: Dried stains should be rewet with water

Pros

  • Safe for carpet and fabric
  • Works fast on tannin stains
  • Also available in single-use wipes

Cons

  • Slight odor perceptible during use
  • Expensive

Get the The Hate Stains Co. carpet stain remover on Amazon or at Ace Hardware.

Best Enzymatic

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: BISSELL Professional Stain & Odor
Photo: amazon.com

Bissell Professional Pet Stain & Odor Remover relies on an enzymatic formula to banish pet faux pas and other especially stubborn stains, including motor oil, spaghetti sauce, and blood. Tough as it is on nasty messes, it’s free of heavy metals, phosphates, and dyes. Just use according to directions and be patient.

After removing as much solid refuse as possible, spray the stained area; cover with a clean, moist towel; and let it sit for 12 to 72 hours. During our test, we made sure to keep the area moist, which allowed the probiotic enzymes to continue multiplying and attacking the soiled area. We found this Bissell product to be worth the wait on most acidic stains such as tomato sauce and red wine, but we were a bit disappointed by its performance at removing chocolate.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Spray
  • Waiting time: 12 to 72 hours
  • Cautions: Test first on hidden area of carpet/upholstery

Pros

  • Designed for pet stains
  • Removes acidic stains as well
  • Ready-to-use spray

Cons

  • Slight odor while wet
  • Lengthy wait time
  • Performed only moderately well on chocolate stains

Get the Bissell pet carpet stain remover on Amazon or at Chewy.

Best for Multiple Surfaces

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: Nature's Miracle Advanced Stain and Odor Eliminator
Photo: amazon.com

Nature’s Miracle may be the best general-purpose product to reach for in homes where stains and odors occur on a variety of surfaces. It contains both enzymes and surfactants to tackle pet accidents and other bio-based messes. The ready-to-use spray is safe on most carpets and wood floors as well as other hard and soft surfaces. Just be sure to avoid using other cleaning agents when first removing solid waste; the instructions caution that doing so before applying Nature’s Miracle may lessen the efficacy of the product.

Spray the affected area and let the product sit for 15 minutes, then blot the stain and odor away. In testing, we were particularly impressed by the design of the applicator, which allowed the spray to cover a fairly large area. And though we considered the scent of Nature’s Miracle to be a bit off-putting, it dissipated as the product dried.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Spray
  • Waiting time: 15 minutes
  • Cautions: People and pets should avoid treated surfaces until dry

Pros

  • Treats stains and odors
  • Works on various surfaces
  • Spray applicator covers a large area

Cons

  • Off-putting odor while wet
  • Must wait 15 minutes for full effectiveness

Get the Nature’s Miracle carpet stain remover on Amazon or at Chewy.

Best for Ground-in Dirt

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: Resolve Carpet Triple Oxi Advanced Stain Remover
Photo: amazon.com

Foot traffic can push stains deep into carpets and make them harder to remove. For cleaning areas such as entryways, consider the enzymatic formula of Resolve Carpet Triple Oxi Advanced Stain Remover. It tackles both fresh and set-in stains while neutralizing odors.

It purports to banish a host of tough stains, including tomato sauce, salad dressing, motor oil, vegetable oil, makeup, red wine, food grease, pet stains, coffee, mud, dirt, and grass. In testing, we found Resolve Triple Oxi to be highly effective at removing dried mud—likely to occur in high-traffic areas—but less effective on acidic stains. We were impressed that the easy-to-apply spray worked fast, starting to lift stains in just 30 seconds.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Spray
  • Waiting time: 30 seconds
  • Cautions: Test on small area first

Pros

  • Works fast
  • Tackles a large array of stain types

Cons

  • Less effective at removing acidic food stains
  • Strong odor

Get the Resolve carpet stain remover on Amazon or at Target.

Most Eco-Friendly

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: Naturally It's Clean Carpet Stains & Odors Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

Naturally It’s Clean is a nontoxic carpet cleaner that’s safe for use around children and pets. Powered by plant-based enzymes, Naturally It’s Clean is pH neutral and biodegradable, without VOCs, propellants, or artificial fragrances. The product’s citrus scent comes from an essential oil, and the odor-eliminating formula breaks down stains and smells into their basic elements. It’s also safe to use on natural fibers, such as wool and cotton.

To use, shake well and spray generously on stains, and let it sit for 15 minutes. In testing we found that this natural cleaner required some scrubbing with a sponge and a few repeat applications to banish stains. We also found the lemon scent to be a bit overpowering. But folks who want a completely eco-friendly formula may be willing to work a bit harder to be gentle on Mother Earth.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Spray
  • Waiting time: Up to 15 minutes
  • Cautions: Test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous spot

Pros

  • Plant-based enzymes
  • Safe for use around people and pets
  • Safe for synthetics, wool, and cotton fabrics

Cons

  • Not very effective on acidic food stains
  • Lemon scent is strong

Get the Naturally It’s Clean carpet stain remover on Amazon or at Naturally It’s Clean (as a kit).

Best Oxy-Powered

The Best Carpet Stain Remover Option: Bissell Pro Oxy Power Shot
Photo: amazon.com

Thanks to its strong oxy formula and a high-pressure stream of delivery, Bissell Pro Oxy Power Shot spray hits stains hard by getting down deep between thick carpet threads. Indeed, the power-shot delivery system may splash, so protect or remove nearby furniture and other items before use. To use, simply spray, wait a minute, and blot up such stains as red wine, pet soils, coffee, and motor oil. The product worked well on stains in testing, but we found the label’s claims to be a bit heavy on the hype. Despite its somewhat heavy detergent-like smell, this Bissell product is VOC-free and even has eco-friendly packaging.

Product Specs

  • Application method: Spray
  • Waiting time: 5 minutes
  • Cautions: Do not mix with bleach

Pros

  • High-powered spray gets deep into carpet pile
  • Requires only blotting after application
  • Ready-to-use spray

Cons

  • Strong scent
  • Splash possible from powerful application system

Get the Bissell Pro Oxy carpet stain remover on Amazon or at Bissell.

ALSO TESTED

ScotchGuard Rug & Carpet Cleaner

Although ScotchGuard is a well-known brand when it comes to stain prevention and cleaning, this foam carpet cleaner didn’t penetrate our test carpet very deeply. Carefully working the product into the carpet after the suggested waiting period, per the instructions, didn’t yield much in terms of stain removal, either.

Angry Orange Enzyme Stain Cleaner & Odor Eliminator

Despite having an enzymatic formula, this product didn’t remove stains nearly as well as we had hoped. Plus, its orange scent was so overpowering, we believe that it worked mostly to cover up rather than eliminate odors. We weren’t angry—just disappointed!

Our Verdict

The Woolite carpet stain remover has a fairly long waiting period (about an hour), but it proved to have the most stain-banishing success in our tests, earning the best overall award. We also recommend our best bang for the buck pick, Puracy carpet stain remover, because of its great performance, natural ingredients, budget-friendly price, and versatility, since it can be used in a carpet-cleaning machine and as a spot remover.

How We Tested the Best Carpet Cleaners

We conducted testing using identical carpet samples and a set of common stains, including dirt/mud, tomato sauce, chocolate sauce, cooking oil, coffee, and red wine. (Full disclosure: We did not encourage our pets to soil the samples, so we did not report about product effectiveness on pet stains in our reviews). We let the stains set for about an hour, applied the cleaner, let it work for the recommended amount of time, and then attempted to remove the stains per the product’s instructions.

We utilized a testing rubric to rank cleaners on a 0 to 4 scale in terms of their ability to remove stains and noted any inconsistencies against the instructions. We also evaluated products based on their ingredients, ease of use, speed of effectiveness, cost, and, of course, performance in stain removal.

FAQs

Prompt-as-possible treatment with a quality stain remover is the best way to get rid of carpet stains. The right removers can also banish odors. For those still deciding on the best carpet stain remover, the following question-and-answer section may help.

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, because 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 such as bleach that alter carpet color or fabric will cause permanent damage. Red wine, chocolate, grease, and pet urine are notoriously hard to remove and are best dealt with immediately. Leaving spills to sit overnight can cause permanent staining.

Q. How can a home’s occupants protect carpets from getting dirty?

Having family members and guests remove shoes before walking on carpet will help keep outdoor dirt and grime from coming off on the carpet. Vacuuming at least twice a week and deep cleaning every 6 months will remove dirt that’s inevitable from everyday use. A carpet protector product can keep stains from sinking in, any spills should be removed promptly with a stain remover.