If you’ve ever had a coffee stain, red Kool-Aid stain, or grape juice stain on your carpet, then you need to know how to remove carpet stains! Keep reading to discover the amazingly easy, chemical-free way to remove even old carpet stains!
Okay, friends…let’s just say I move a lot. A LOT, a lot. I’ve typically been a renter, so I’ve picked up some really good household cleaning tips and tricks along the way, because I’m also one of those people that insist on getting my full rental deposit back when I move from a place. I got to cheat a little, when it came to picking up these life hacks, because I also worked in apartment management for a long time (24 years), so I got to pick the brains of the vendors and contractors who worked for me over the years.
Cleaning carpets can be especially troublesome.
A lot of people opt to have no carpeting at all in their homes, due to pet messes, allergies, and toddlers. For those of us who don’t have a choice, however, and who still enjoy clean carpet (and want our deposits back!), a good regimen for carpet care is essential, right?!
In this post, I’m catering more to families, and all the lovely things we give our toddlers to drink in sippy cups.
And then there’s my husband and his coffee mug that he likes to sit directly on the floor…’cause that will never just fall over on the carpeting, right? LOL So, I’m focusing on removing common ‘liquid-y’ stains out of carpeting…of any color and type!
With all the carpet stain remover solutions out there on the market today, which put money into someone else’s pocket, what’s the best way to keep our carpet clean? Carpet Cleaning Chemicals? Carpet cleaning machines? A combination of both?
Believe it or not, there is a crazy, radical, amazing secret for how to clean your carpet that you simply won’t believe until you try it. And it costs practically nothing! Lean in close.
Are you ready?
How to Remove Carpet Stains
What You Need to Spot Clean Carpet Stains
- Clean, absorbent towels (white is best, but only so you can see what you’re doing)
- Quantities of cold tap water
- White paper towels (important again so you can see what you’re doing…colored towels make it difficult to tell if you’re finished)
And, believe it or not, that’s it! No chemicals. No machines! Just water!
Let me briefly explain it to you the way it was explained to me (because I was once an unbeliever too!). Here’s the long and short of it:
Soaps and detergents contain what are called surface active agents, or surfactants.
Surfactants help water molecules to bind to dirt and grime so it can be washed away, but here’s the problem. If ALL of the soap or detergent is not washed completely away when you are done, then you leave behind an agent that continues to collect more dirt and grime…that’s its job, after all!
Have you ever cleaned a carpet stain, only to find that the stain is back and bigger than before only a few weeks later? I have – here is why:
Imagine this with me – you put soap or spot carpet cleaner, or whatever on your carpet stain to ‘clean’ it up. You scrub, you rub, you rinse, you wipe, you let it dry. It looks pretty good! But, anywhere from a few days to weeks later, the shadow of the stain is back, and it seems to be a little bigger and gets darker with time. That is because when you used soap or detergent on the stain, those surfactant molecules spread out and did their job…they attracted the dirt right to them!
The issue is that most people don’t take the time and diligence to rinse every molecule of soap out of the carpet as part of the process, so those surfactants continue to attract dirt…new dirt and grime every time someone walks over that area with their shoes on.
And because you always clean an area a little bigger than the original stain, that spot that looked good when you were done is now bigger the next time around because the cleanser is spread throughout a larger area.
I was shocked to find some carpet cleaning products out there will literally tell you there is NO rinsing needed at all – you can either vacuum away the residue, or supposedly just let the carpet dry that way. My recommendation? Run the other direction!
A carpet cleaning machine might work just as effectively…for a while, but machines clog and break down and need cleaning themselves. Plus they are so freaking expensive! The majority of machines rely on chemicals too, which means you’re adding soap to your carpet (see prior warning about soap!) and if your machine doesn’t do a perfect job of thoroughly rinsing all of the chemicals back out of the carpet, you’re back to square one with a larger stain a few days down the road.
The biggest problem with machines over time is that they tend to lose suction. Again…if you’re not sucking all of the chemicals and detergents back out of your carpet, you’ll end up with a bigger, darker stain again in the end.
Okay, science lesson over. Now, for some real pictures of me cleaning up common carpet stains most families will experience at least once.
How to Remove Red Kool-Aid Stains from Carpet
In all my years and types of experience, this has to be the most common issue I’ve seen in apartments. Whether it’s toddlers with their leaky sippy cups, teens with their red solo cups, or older teens and adults with their jello shots and wine glasses…red stains are a bane to carpeting!
I’ll be honest. Red is a lot harder to get out once it dries, so the real key here is to get it while it’s fresh!
1. Immediately blot the spill with an absorbent white towel so you can get as much of the original liquid up as fast as possible. 2. Flood the area of the spill with cold, clear tap water and let it soak for about 10-20 seconds. Don’t let it sit too long – it could cause the spill to spread, especially if you didn’t do step #1! 3. Take a second towel and soak up as much of the new liquid as fast as you can. I recommend wearing shoes or bare feet so you can stand on the towel for extra leverage. This is not fun when done in socks…just sayin’!
4. Look at your towel. If the towel looks like all you got up is kool-aid (or jello juice or wine), then soak again with cold water and repeat, but if you’re getting a lighter color, move on to the next step. 5. I recommend white paper towel for the final blotting – patterned or colored paper towels will always work, but it’s harder to see how clean they actually are. The key to ensuring the stain is gone is to be able to see no more red on the paper towels…that’s when you’ll know you’re done! 6. Don’t expect the carpet to be dry yet – it takes time. Avoid the area and make sure no one walks across it until it is completely dry! If you have a ceiling fan in that room, turn it on. You can also point a standing fan or box fan directly at the stain to assist in drying the area more quickly.
That’s all there is to it! Just be sure to keep going back through the steps and soaking the area with cold, clear water, then blotting again until you see no more color on your paper towel. Here are my results of the Kool-Aid stain clean up, after drying!
How to Clean Grape Juice Stain Out of Carpet
Growing up, my mother’s seemingly irrational fear of grape juice was widely known throughout our household. You didn’t dare get caught with a cup of grape juice anywhere beyond the boundary of the tiled kitchen floor. Note, I said ‘didn’t dare get caught’ – I didn’t say ‘didn’t dare take a cup in your bedroom’. Kids will be kids, after all, right? If only my mother had known…
For grape juice stains on carpet, follow the same steps as above for Kool-Aid spills. You may have to soak a few more times with the water to be sure to pull all the purple dye out, but it works just as well! Here are my results of the grape juice carpet stain removal, after drying:
How to Get Coffee Stains Out of Carpet
Sigh…coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but I know a lot of you out there are and can sympathize with this one. My husband is a coffee drinker – the blacker the better. He is also a leave-his-cup-sitting-straight-on-the-carpet kinda guy, no matter how close the aptly named coffee table is to his chair. I can’t explain it and I’ve given up trying. At least I don’t freak out anymore when the toe of his shoe accidentally knocks over his coffee mug.
I even taught him this simple trick and yes, he actually does it on his own now, which prevents him from having to hear me ‘discuss’ how disappointed I am later! LOL
Here are my results from cleaning up the coffee spill on the carpet, after drying, using the same carpet stain removal process using water above:
How to Remove Old Set In Carpet Stains
When spills get away from you, unnoticed for a while, and have dried and set, using water as a carpet stain remover is still a great solution to try before you go spend money on fancier, packaged products and machines. Plain old water won’t work on all carpet stains, but why not try it first? It doesn’t cost anything and won’t hurt your carpet, so the effort is not a wasted one.
Here are some lovely carpet stains that my husband hid from me (under the throw rug you see in the bottom of the picture) before I taught him how to take care of spills.
I followed the same “how to remove carpet stains” steps listed above using cold water and towels, with the exception of blotting first. Instead, start with soaking the area with clear, cold water. Believe it or not, I only soaked this area one time for this treatment!
Check out my great results!
How to Remove Stains from Carpet – Review
1. Deal with the carpet stain as soon as you possibly can – try not to let it soak in or dry!
2. Get as much of the original liquid out with an absorbent towel as you can first.
3. Soak the area with clear, cold water – do NOT use soap! If you did not catch the stain and it is dry, soak the area really well and let it sit for a while so the water has time to loosen up the stain. Again, do NOT use soap!
4. Use an absorbent towel to soak up the water as much as possible.
5. Use white paper towels to continue blotting until you see no more color on your towels.
6. Repeat the water soak/rinse and blotting as many times as needed until your towel shows only clear fluid.
7. This particular method is particularly recommended for ‘liquid-based’ stains. My good friend, Katelyn, will be writing soon about stains of a different nature, so watch for her installment as well!
Be sure to check out these great cleaning tutorials too!
If you want this and other amazing cleaning tutorials in an easy to access, printable version, be sure to check out my ebook Speed Clean the Deep Clean: A Collection of Time-Saving Cleaning Tutorials and Tips for Busy Moms.