DIY Cleaning & Organizing

How To: Get Rid of Every Carpet Stain

When holiday guests gather in your home to enjoy festive food and drink, there are bound to be a few accidental slops and splatters that could make your carpets a casualty of the celebration. Any number of foodstuffs and beverages can stain, distracting you from the party and straining your composure as host. Don't lose your cool! Let us teach you how to treat all manner of stains so you can save your furnishings (and your friendships) from ruin.
Donna Boyle Schwartz Avatar

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Before You Start…

When you spot a spill, get to work quickly to prevent it from turning into a stain. In any of these scenarios, start by scraping away excess material, being careful not to rub in or spread the mess. Then blot the spot with paper towels and water before moving on to other remedies. Thinking about using a commercial spot remover? It’s a good idea to test it out in an inconspicuous area of the carpet to make sure the cleaner doesn’t do more damage.

Candle Drippings

Sometimes the warm glow, fragrance, and ambience of candles isn’t worth the waxy mess. Scrape up the drippings, lay down a paper towel, and run an iron set to low heat over the area. As the wax liquefies, the paper towel will absorb it. Continue until all the wax is absorbed.


Coffee, an entertaining essential, can leave behind nasty stains. Once you’ve soaked up the spill with clean towels, rinse the area with lukewarm water and blot again; repeat until the towel comes away clean after blotting. Still see a stain? Try rinsing with a mixture of one cup of white vinegar and three cups of water until the discoloration disappears.

Cheese Dip

Cheesy dips can spell trouble when spilled. Blot the spot with a pad moistened with dry-cleaning solvent (like Guardsman or Dryel), and change the pad as the solvent picks up the stain. If some stain remains, use an enzyme presoaking solution—but not on carpet constructed of wool or silk fibers. When the stain is gone, flush thoroughly with warm water and allow your clean carpet to dry.


To remove lipstick, nail polish, and other makeup, first carefully scrape off the excess with the blunt edge of a knife or spoon. Apply a little rubbing alcohol or non-acetone-based nail polish remover to the stain and blot with a clean cotton swab. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.

Red Wine

Red wine—and its nonalcoholic cousin, grape juice—may be the most common and damaging stains. If you see a spill, blot the area with clean towels right away, then apply a home remedy of white vinegar followed by plain water. You also can try a carpet shampoo at full strength; rinse thoroughly with water.


Gravy and other butter- or oil-based sauces can be tricky to remove. Cover the spill with talcum powder, cornstarch, or baking soda, and leave for 10 to 20 minutes to absorb the oil. Lightly vacuum the powder, being careful not to smear the stain. Then moisten a sponge with rubbing alcohol and blot to remove the last traces.

Berry Juice

Cranberries, strawberries, or other berry treats can be difficult to remove if not treated immediately. After you’ve removed the fruit, carefully blot with a solution of 2/3 cup of rubbing alcohol and one tablespoon of white vinegar. Apply three to four times with a clean cloth, then rinse with cold water.

Tomato-Based Sauce

Tomato-based dips like cocktail sauce or salsa can devastate light-colored carpets. Treat with a mixture of one cup of vinegar and three cups of water. Blot with clean towels, and repeat until the area is clean. If a stain remains, try adding a few drops of dishwashing detergent to the diluted vinegar. Always rinse with warm water.

Chewing Gum

An ice cube can help you get out of sticky situations created by chewing gum. First, press the ice to the gum to freeze it, then pry it up from the carpet with a spatula. You can also try using a dry-cleaning solvent like Guardsman or Dryel.


Be careful when sharing holiday spirits! Beer can be problematic to clean up because it contains sugar. If the sugar is left behind in your carpet fibers, it will over time attract dirt and debris and evolve into a gray stain. Blot with clean towels, then saturate the area with a mixture of one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent and one quart of water. Rinse with warm water, then blot dry.