Written by Julia MacDougall
Updated May 17, 2023
While more and more homeowners are replacing their wall-to-wall carpeting with real or synthetic hardwood flooring, there are still many who prefer to cover their bare floors with luxurious-feeling carpeting. However, because carpets consist of a bunch of absorbent fibers, it is very easy for carpets to get visibly dirty or discolored.
While regular vacuuming helps to remove dust and debris, it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to cleaning the liquids or wet solids (hello, slime) that land on your carpeted floors. Those with kids, pets, or messy hobbies are very much aware that removing carpet stains requires special cleaners, a sponge or a clean cloth, and a whole lot of elbow grease.
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
When it comes to cleaning impossibly tough stains, Woolite Instaclean has your back. Out of all of the carpet stain removers we tested, this carpet spray had the best stain removal performance; it removed almost all chocolate stains and easily dispatched the rest of the stains we tried, including tomato sauce. Even better, it removed nearly all of the odors that accompanied each stain.
To apply this spot cleaner, you simply spray it on the stain, give it a few seconds to soak in, blot the stain with a clean cloth, and reapply as needed. After the stain is gone, dry the stain with a second, clean cloth.
Best of all, Woolite Instaclean is billed as safe for kids and pets. While you should obviously prevent small children and animals from ingesting any sort of cleaner, this carpet stain remover is safe as long as it is used (and dried) appropriately.
Excellent stain removal performance
Safe for kids and pets
None that we could find
Biokleen Bac-Out Stain + Odor Remover
As we become more aware of our impact on the environment, more people are looking for eco-friendly alternatives to the products we use every day. Biokleen Bac-Out Enzyme Stain Remover does a killer job of removing tough test stains; and only left behind a slightly darker-colored stain halo when it came to chocolate. Where the Biokleen was applied multiple times (i.e. on our two most difficult stains, chocolate sauce and tomato sauce), the stain odors were almost entirely eliminated and instead replaced by the light scent of lemon.
This spot cleaner doesn’t need to set in for any length of time; you just spray it, blot the stain, and repeat as necessary.
The Biokleen carpet spray is non-toxic, phosphate-free, and primarily consists of plant-derived ingredients.
Excellent stain removal performance
None that we could find
Buy now at Amazon
$9.99 from Target
Bissell Pro Oxy Power Shot
The Bissell Professional carpet stain remover does an outstanding job removing stains; after four rounds of cleaning, only faint hints of both chocolate sauce stains and tomato sauce stains remained. Smells related to the stains remained, but further applications of this product would likely remove those odors altogether.
Even better, this product comes in a spray can; those with limited hand strength will appreciate how much less effort it requires to aim and spray this cleaning solution onto a moderately-sized stain than it does when using a carpet stain remover in a normal spray bottle. As the cherry on top, this Bissell carpet spray is labeled as safe for kids and pets.
Great stain removal performance
Easy to use
Safe for kids and pets
None that we could find
Angry Orange Odor Eliminator
If you’re looking for a carpet cleaning spray that can tackle tough stains and smelly odors, Angry Orange is the way to go. This orange-scented cleaner doesn't just cover up the odors accompanying the test stains, it removes them altogether (one of the only products we tested to do so).
While it’s excellent at odor removal, Angry Orange struggled a bit when it came to our tests stains. This spray managed to remove almost all of the tomato sauce stain, but there was still a distinct halo of chocolate sauce left behind after our scrubbing attempts.
One last thing to keep in mind: if you have pets at home, do your best to prevent them from accessing areas where you’re using the Angry Orange cleaner. A warning on the label states that “Cats and birds may be sensitive to concentrated levels of certain ingredients [in the Angry Orange carpet spray].”
Some pets may be sensitive to certain ingredients
Buy now at Amazon
Hoover Oxy Tough Stain Remover
Hoover Oxy is one of the more effective carpet stain removers we tested. While the chocolate sauce stain was still visible, most of the darkest part of the stain had been removed. The tomato sauce stain was mostly removed as well. After multiple applications, only a slight scent of chocolate sauce remained.
One thing to note: The directions on this cleaning product recommend that you let the stain remover sit for 10 minutes after applying it to the carpet; we got pretty good results by following those directions. However, if the stain is in an area where it cannot be left unattended or blocked off from kids and pets, we instead recommend using one of the carpet stain removers that can be reapplied immediately.
Great stain removal performance
Needs to sit for 10 minutes before being blotted
Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator
While the Rocco & Roxie carpet cleaner wasn’t able to defeat the tomato stain on our test carpet, it was one of the few carpet cleaners we tested that almost entirely removed the chocolate sauce stain. Similarly, we were still able to smell the tomato sauce in the carpet fibers, but the scent of chocolate was almost gone.
Rocco & Roxie is safe to use around kids and pets, so you should be able to remove even the toughest set-in stains after a few applications.
Safe to use around kids and pets
Uneven stain removal performance
Buy now at Amazon
$19.99 from Target
Nature's Miracle Advanced Stain & Odor Eliminator
Nature’s Miracle is a brand that pet owners have sworn by for years; as we found out during testing, that brand loyalty is well earned. This carpet cleaner removed almost all of our two toughest test stains: chocolate sauce and tomato sauce. It was mostly successful at removing the stain odors as well, although the tomato sauce smell lingered a bit.
This carpet spray has to sit for 15 minutes before you can start to blot it away. Furthermore, the directions on the back of the bottle say that after you blot the sprayed section of the carpet, that it should be left to dry for 24 hours. This could be fine, except that there’s a warning on the bottle that states that pets should be kept away from that section of the carpet while it's drying. So, if you’re unable to keep your pets away from the stained area for 24 hours, it may make more sense to use a product that doesn’t have to dry for such a long period of time.
Effective stain remover
Not safe for pets while drying
Buy now at Amazon
As you might expect, our testing of various carpet stain removers mostly focused on actually getting stains out of carpets. We applied five different stains to a gray, medium-pile carpet square: chocolate sauce, milk, tomato sauce, fox urine, and dirt. In this case, we used fox urine as a proxy for household pet urine (since there's no easy way of getting our hands on cat or dog urine, while fox urine is often used to keep critters out of backyards, and can be purchased on Amazon).
Each carpet cleaner had its own stain-covered carpet square. After letting the stains sit on the carpet square for days untouched, we then followed the application directions on the label of each carpet stain remover.
For the carpet stain removers that are meant to be applied and reapplied continuously until the stain is gone, we sprayed and blotted the stain four times in a row. For those that need to sit undisturbed for more than 10 minutes before blotting and reapplication, we sprayed and blotted the stain three times.
After the carpet square had completely dried, we then vacuumed each carpet square and evaluated the stain and odor removal performance of each carpet stain remover. We also scored the cleaners on their ease of use, scent, and special features (e.g. safe for use around kids and pets, eco-friendliness, etc.).
What You Should Know About Carpet Stain Removers
How Do I Clean My Carpets?
If you get a stain on your carpet, it’s always better to try to remove the stain as quickly as possible. The longer the stain sits in your carpet, the more the stain can be absorbed into the carpet fibers.
As soon as the stain lands on your carpet, the first thing to do is to wipe up what you can with a clean dry cloth. If the stain is wet or liquid-like, dampen the cloth before trying to swipe up the stain.
Once you’ve manually removed as much of the stain as possible, follow the directions on the bottle and apply the carpet cleaner to the carpet. Very recent stains should come up with one or two applications, but older or set-in stains may require many more applications of the carpet spray.
In general, the most effective way to clean something is to rely on both chemical (i.e. cleaning products) and mechanical (i.e. scrubbing) action. The cleaning products are typically made of chemicals that help to separate the stain from the surface, while the scrubbing physically lifts and removes the stain from the surface. With carpets, the same logic applies, but the scrubbing has to be done a bit more carefully that it would on a sealed floor surface.
The directions on most carpet cleaners tell you to blot the stain after applying the carpet spray; the term “blot” is often used in place of the word “scrub” because the word “blot” implies that you should be gently pressing the dry or damp cloth into the stain, rather than applying pressure to the carpet in a circular motion (e.g. scrubbing). While blotting is usually enough to remove a very recent stain from a carpet, it might not get the job done on older stains.
The “blot” vs. “scrub” language choice is important because if you apply a carpet cleaner to a stain and then scrub the stain with a sponge or a brush, you run the risk of increasing the footprint of the stain on your carpet, since there’s a chance the brush or sponge motion will actually push the stained material into the previously unstained carpet fibers surrounding the stain.
After you’re done removing the stain, it is best to either dry the carpet manually or to cordon off the area until the carpet dries. As with all cleaning supplies, it is best to do what you can to limit the likelihood of the carpet cleaner being ingested by a child or a pet.
If, however, you'd prefer to own a product that does a lot of the scrubbing for you, you can purchase a carpet cleaner. While vacuum cleaners are geared towards removing dry debris such as dirt and dust, carpet cleaners have built-in water tanks and shampoo dispensers and are meant to tackle liquid or wet stains on carpet surfaces.
When Should I Call a Professional Carpet Cleaning Service?
As long as it falls within your budget, time, and room constraints, it’s rarely a bad idea to use a professional carpet cleaning service. From a more practical perspective, though, most people tend to call in the professionals only when faced with very difficult stains or when the carpet discoloration is more widespread than a few spots. Carpets that experience heavy use, such as those at doorways or in hallways, can often take on a dingy appearance over time; this type of staining would be prohibitively time consuming for a normal person to take on with a bottle of carpet cleaning spray. Carpet cleaning services use professional-grade equipment to tackle the accumulated dirt that has been sitting in your carpet for months or years.
One thing to keep in mind is that professional carpet cleaning often requires that the room(s) with newly-cleaned carpet should be left to dry for a minimum of 6 hours; if you’re getting your carpets cleaned, be sure to figure out ahead of time how the traffic patterns in your home will change to accommodate one or more rooms being inaccessible for hours at a time.
For those who have an abundance of patience and want to save some cash, it is also possible to rent a carpet cleaner at most major home improvement stores. Again, though, once you’ve finished the carpet cleaning process, you’ll have to let the carpets dry for at least six hours.
How Often Should I Clean My Carpets?
Because carpets are fibrous, the amount of dust, pollen, and other smaller particles that collects in carpets is much higher than it is on sealed floor surfaces such as hardwood and tile. As such, it is recommended that you vacuum your carpets at least once a week, with more frequent vacuuming for high-traffic areas. While vacuuming helps to remove debris from your carpets, it also plays a key role in improving your air quality; this is especially important in households where residents have allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues.
However, carpet manufacturers do not consider vacuuming to be enough when it comes to cleaning your carpets; they recommend that you have your carpets professionally cleaned once every 1-2 years in order properly maintain the integrity of your carpet and the cleanliness of your air.
Are Carpet Stain Removers Dangerous for Kids and Pets?
Many cleaning solutions contain ingredients that are poisonous. If anyone or any pet in your household has ingested cleaning chemicals, call 911 or your regional Poison Control center immediately.
It can be difficult to protect kids and pets against carpet cleaning products because in addition to the danger of them accidentally being ingested, these products can linger on your carpet while they dry. While no floor cleaning product is ever 100% safe for kids and pets, certain cleaning solutions are billed as “pet safe,” which indicates that the number and/or amount of the toxic ingredients are much lower than they are in typical cleaners.
In general, if you’re concerned about carpet stain removers being ingested or licked by children and pets, we recommend that you avoid carpet cleaners that ask you to let the product dry over a period of hours. In this case, it is better to use carpet sprays that dry quickly or that can be blotted with a cloth until they are dry.
If you have more serious concerns about the ingredients in carpet stain removers, we recommend checking the EPA’s Safer Choice products database for household products (not just cleaners) that have to meet certain standards in terms of their ingredients, packaging, and performance.
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Meet the tester
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
See all of Julia MacDougall's reviews
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|Best Overall: Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Oxy Stain Remover||Amazon||4.9|
|Best Budget: Kids 'N' Pets Instant All-Purpose Stain & Odor Remover||Amazon||4.6|
|Best Eco-Friendly: Biokleen Bac-Out Stain + Odor Remover Spray||Amazon||4.7|
|Best for Pet Owners: The Spruce Stain & Odor Remover||Amazon||4.8|
Hot Water Extraction
Otherwise known as steam cleaning, this is easily the most common professional carpet cleaning technique. Steam cleaning uses hot water at high pressure to penetrate into carpet fibers, breaking down the dirt and bacteria stored deep within. The hot water is then extracted via vacuum.
Mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of Dawn dish soap, and fill with water. Spray the solution liberally on the stain and let it soak for 5-10 minutes. Then, blot the stain with a clean, dry towel until it is removed.How do you get deep old stains out of carpet? ›
Try Baking Soda + Vinegar
Sprinkle a layer of dry baking soda on the stain. Then, mix a cup of white vinegar with a cup of water and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle. The vinegar will foam when it hits the baking soda which will clean the stain. Leave it to sit for a few hours.
Mix 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup borax, and 1/4 cup vinegar, then apply this paste to deep stains or heavily soiled sections of carpet. Allow the paste to sit on the carpet for several hours until it dries completely, then vacuum it away.What is the best carpet stain remover home remedy? ›
Make a paste using equal parts vinegar and baking soda, and then mix the paste with warm water to create a paint-like consistency. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the paste onto the stain. Then, use warm water to clean the area with a cloth or sponge.How do you remove set in stains? ›
- Apply white vinegar to the area, let it soak in for a couple minutes.
- Pour salt onto the stained area, then work it in with your fingers.
- Put the garment in the sun and let it air dry.
- Wash as usual.
- Check to see if the stain's gone, repeat the steps if not.
Using a hydrogen peroxide with a concentration of higher than 6% will most likely bleach out your carpet's color dyes. Hydrogen peroxide solutions commonly used in households is diluted to a 3% grade. However, there's still the risk that the solution can bleach your carpet, depending on the dye.Does Mr clean Magic Eraser work on carpet stains? ›
Use a Magic Eraser to Remove Carpet Stains
Everyone seems to have at least a couple of carpet stains that are too stubborn to remove with regular carpet cleaner. Surprisingly, the Magic Eraser works on carpet! With a damp Magic Eraser, wipe the stain, going over it multiple times. Goodbye stain!
Professional cleaning is indeed successful in removing stains from your carpet. With a little professional help from us and the use of top-notch cleaning equipment that we use, you can restore the look of your living room's carpet.
Even if you have a pristine white carpet that has been splashed with juice, WD-40 is still a great option for removing the stain from the carpets. The first thing you need to do is blot the entire stain using a dry towel. Don't rub it as the stain will become larger and more difficult to remove.Can I get rid of year old stains on carpet? ›
Combining baking soda with vinegar is one of the most versatile carpet cleaners for old stains. Measure a half cup each of baking soda and vinegar into a gallon of water and mix well if you're working on a large stain.Does hydrogen peroxide clean carpet stains? ›
Hydrogen peroxide has many uses, but it is most commonly known as a disinfectant or bleaching agent. When used on carpets and rugs, it can help to remove stains and dirt. Its chemical formula is H₂O₂.Can Dawn remove carpet stains? ›
Dawn liquid dish soap effectively cuts through grease, making it suitable for removing greasy carpet stains. Protein stains on your carpet, such as cat urine or spilled milk, pose a cleaning challenge. Use a cleaning product containing enzymes, such as Dawn Plus, to tackle protein stains.How do you remove unknown set in stains? ›
Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent with enzymes with 1 cup of water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar and stir. Use a Dobie All Purpose Cleaning Pad to apply the detergent-vinegar mixture to your unidentified stain. Blot with the pad until the stain is gone.Can professional carpet cleaners get most stains out? ›
Professional carpet cleaners are great at getting out tough stains. However, if a stain goes deeper than the carpet itself, it can be difficult to fully remove it. As a professional I've been able to clean many stains even some of the ones I mention below.How does vinegar remove old carpet stains? ›
Of all the options, white vinegar is the best alternative for cleaning tough stains because of its main ingredient, diluted acetic acid. This makes it an excellent absorbent for most stubborn carpet stains.Can old stains still be removed? ›
Yes, you should be able to. Soak the item of clothing in warm water, then apply a few drops of dish soap on the stain. Hold the material around the stain and start rubbing the sides against each other to work up a lather. This will help the fabric absorb the soap.What is the best stain remover for set in stains? ›
OxiClean has the best overall value for its ability to tackle tough, set-in stains on clothes and throughout other household areas. We think it's the best laundry stain cleaner on the market and can replace several products in the laundry room. OxiClean is also easy to use in most cases.What is the hardest stain to remove? ›
- Hot Cocoa. ...
- Poop. ...
- Blood. ...
- Permanent Marker. ...
- Tomato Sauce. ...
- Grass Stains. ...
- Red Wine. ...
After the carpet has dried completely, spray hydrogen peroxide in enough quantity to get the stained area uniformly wet, then leave it alone overnight The peroxide will have a mild bleaching effect.How long to leave hydrogen peroxide on carpet stain? ›
Place the hydrogen peroxide on a spray bottle. Spray it on the old stain. Saturate the stain if you must loosen up the stain's particles. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes.Can you put baking soda and peroxide in a carpet cleaner? ›
Baking soda is not only efficient but also very safe for use in removing bad odors. Give it some time to work its magic as you mix a half a cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide and a tsp of dishwashing detergent. The great thing about hydrogen peroxide is it won't bleach your carpet at this percentage.What is the secret behind the Mr Clean Magic Eraser? ›
The secret behind these types of erasers is a material commonly called melamine foam. With just a little water, melamine foam can dig in and destroy stains that other products can't touch.How to remove old stains from carpet with vinegar and baking soda? ›
- Pour a little vinegar to cover the stain.
- Sprinkle baking soda over the vinegar.
- Let the vinegar and baking soda bubble up and absorb the stain.
- Rub away stain with damp white cloth – let dry and vacuum up!
Before you retire to the couch, rinse out your Magic Eraser and give your newly freshened surfaces a water wipe down, too. If what you cleaned will come in contact with food, you'll need to wipe it with a wet rag or paper towel, so it will be ready for the next time you meet again.What stains are permanent on carpet? ›
Certain types of fibers, such as wool, cotton, silk, and some nylons are particularly susceptible to permanent staining from coffee, tea, wine, etc. Be aware of hot liquids, especially. Of course, bleach and household chemicals (see below) can cause permanent staining as well.Will a steam mop get stains out of carpet? ›
Steam cleaning is highly effective at removing stains, but it's not foolproof. There are a couple of situations where your stains may persist even after steam cleaning. In this case the backing of the carpet may also be stained as the thinning left it exposed.Does Stanley Steemer remove carpet stains? ›
Stanley Steemer Spot Remover™ is safe to use on natural and synthetic carpet fibers. It's an easy and effective carpet stain remover that helps get stains out of carpet.Can hydrogen peroxide and iron remove carpet stains? ›
Spray hydrogen peroxide onto stains, then cover them with a damp white towel. Place a steam iron—on the lowest setting—atop the towel (make sure it doesn't touch the carpet). Take care not to inhale the steam. Iron the towel for 10 to 15 seconds.
Removing oily stains, such as tar, shoe polish, bike grease, crayon and lipstick, from clothes can be a nightmare. Place the stained area on an old, clean towel or a wad of paper towels then spray with WD-40. Wait a few minutes then dab gently with a clean cloth or paper towels.Is it worth cleaning 20 year old carpet? ›
In general, carpet that is more than 20 years old should be replaced. Dust, dirt and debris build up in the fibers and underneath the carpet, even if it is maintained regularly. This can lead to allergy problems and odors.Why do old carpet stains come back? ›
There are two primary causes of carpet re-spotting: Wicking and Residue. One originates below the carpet fibers, in the backing or pad of the carpet. The other originates in the carpet fibers themselves. Stains that resurface as a result of wicking originate below the carpet fibers.Is vinegar or hydrogen peroxide better for stains? ›
Hydrogen peroxide works differently than vinegar and is better at removing different types of stains. Hydrogen peroxide doesn't actually remove stains—it just makes them invisible! It breaks up strong chemical bonds in stains including ink, and in doing so it makes the stains colorless—but they're still there!Does dawn and hydrogen peroxide stain remover? ›
Miracle Stain Remover
It was essentially 2 parts hydrogen peroxide, and 1 part Dawn dish soap. Now, it can be any dish soap quite frankly, although Dawn does work really well, but so do other dish soaps. The most important thing here is that you treat the stain the way you would treat any stain.
Don't mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar together in the same mixture. This can create peracetic acid, which may be toxic and can irritate your throat and lungs, eyes and skin. You can, however, alternate spraying hydrogen peroxide and vinegar on a surface. Just make sure to wipe the surface between sprays.Does vinegar discolor carpet? ›
Trust us on this; the vinegar will not remove stains that are embedded in your carpet and may, in fact, harm your carpet fibers. You'll end up with the same dirt you had before, but with the added problem of color fading and changes in carpet texture.Will vinegar remove carpet stains? ›
Try using white vinegar (you may also substitute white vinegar for white wine) to perform this action. Simply mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with a quart of warm water and spritz on the stain. Allow the vinegar spray to soak for several minutes and then proceed with the blot technique until stain is gone and spot is dry.How long do you leave baking soda and vinegar on carpet? ›
How long do you leave baking soda and vinegar on carpet? For maximum stain-removing power, you should let the solution of vinegar and baking soda sit on your carpet for about 3 hours.Can carpet cleaners remove all stains? ›
Yes, in most cases. It depends heavily on the type of stain. For example, a lipstick stain is waxy and will require something more than steam to break down. The best plan is to spot clean your stains before beginning steam cleaning.
Baking soda is a natural carpet cleaner that tackles yellow stains quite well. Simply mix 1 cup of baking soda with ½ cup of water and apply to the stained area. Use a soft-bristled brush and work the baking soda deep within the carpet fibres. Repeat until the yellow stain is fully removed from the carpet.What do carpet manufacturers recommend for cleaning? ›
Use Steam Cleaning
Steam cleaning is a huge recommendation from many manufacturers. For some, it's even a requirement for the homeowner to steam clean their carpets on a regular basis to maintain a warranty. Hot water extraction or steam cleaning is one of the most popular ways to clean carpets.
1. Chlorine Bleach and Color-Safe Bleach. Diluted household bleach is one of the most effective stain removers for clothes and linens.How do you remove stubborn unknown stains? ›
Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent with enzymes with 1 cup of water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar and stir. Use a Dobie All Purpose Cleaning Pad to apply the detergent-vinegar mixture to your unidentified stain. Blot with the pad until the stain is gone.What is a home remedy for stubborn carpet stains? ›
Make a paste using equal parts vinegar and baking soda, and then mix the paste with warm water to create a paint-like consistency. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the paste onto the stain. Then, use warm water to clean the area with a cloth or sponge.Will hydrogen peroxide remove carpet stains? ›
Hydrogen peroxide has many uses, but it is most commonly known as a disinfectant or bleaching agent. When used on carpets and rugs, it can help to remove stains and dirt. Its chemical formula is H₂O₂.