Martha Stewart’s Ultimate Guide to Carpet Stain Removal

man cleaning

If you have a busy household, you probably have to deal with stains on a regular basis!  Children, pets and messy house guests all have occasional accidents which can result in ugly carpet stains.  Thankfully, there are many ways to deal with carpet stains.

One of the best resources for stain removal tips is Martha Stewart.  Martha has written about many tried-and-tested carpet stain removal tips over the years.  This article will share a few of Martha’s best tips for carpet stain removal!

Tip #1 — Prepare a Stain Removal Kit
Prepare a kit that contains the items you need for carpet stain removal.  Ideally, these items should be kept in a box or tray and be easily accessible.  The items in the kit should include:

  1. White cloth and paper towels
  2. Both plain and soapy water in spray bottles
  3. White vinegar
  4. Rubbing alcohol
  5. 3% hydrogen peroxide and a diluted ammonia solution
  6. Nail polish remover
  7. Cotton swabs and cotton buds
  8. A toothbrush
  9. A butter knife to remove hard debris

These components will remove most of the stains that occur in your home.  By keeping them in a single container you can quickly respond to carpet stains, which is very important.  The faster you begin to work on the stain, the more likely you are to be successful!

Tip #2 — Always Blot or Scrape First!

blot cofee stain

One of Martha’s most important tips for preventing and removing carpet stains is to act quickly!  Immediately use white paper towels or white cotton towels to blot liquids that have been spilled on your carpet. 

This will remove any liquid that is lying on top of the carpet before it can penetrate into the carpet fibres.  Blot very gently to avoid spreading the stain.  Never rub spilled liquid initially, because it will push it deeper into the carpet and worsen the stain.

For solid or gelatinous substances like mud, peanut butter, gravy, cream or ice cream, a solid utensil like a butter knife may be used to scrape the top layer off.

Tip #3 — Synthetic Carpets Are Treated Differently to Wool Carpets

synthetic wool

Most spills on synthetic carpets can be cleaned by simply blotting and spraying with warm water.  If the stain is stubborn, one of the tougher ingredients from your carpet cleaning kit will have to be used.  The ingredient to use depends on the type of stain — explained below.

The same is true of wool carpets, except you should avoid using ammonia or other alkaline substances.  They can damage the wool fibre and discolour it.

Tip #4 — Understand The Type of Stains You Are Dealing With

persistent stain

Most carpet stains fall into one of three categories.  There are general stain removal approaches for each category that can be quite effective.

Water Soluble Carpet Stains
A water soluble stain is one that will dissolve when water is applied.  This category of stains includes milk, mud, most foods, soda, ice cream, gravy, berries, excrement, food dye, jelly, certain inks, and latex paint.

  1. If it is a thicker substance, like jelly, scrape it off with a butter knife. 
  2. Blot with white paper or cloth
  3. If the stain persists use a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar with 1 litre of water
  4. Continue to blot with paper or cloth

You could also try using a few drops of hand dishwashing soap mixed with water.  Don’t use laundry detergent as it is too alkaline.  

Combination Water Soluble Carpet Stains
There are some stains that are partially water soluble.  They will usually require a combination of cleaning techniques to remove.  These stains include blood, melted chocolate, vomit, wine, soy sauce, tomato sauce, tea, mayonnaise, and mustard. 

Many of the products that fit into this category are quite acidic, and can permanently stain your carpet very quickly.  The general technique for removing them is:

  1. If it is a thicker substance, like melted chocolate, scrape it off with a butter knife. 
  2. Blot with white paper or cloth
  3. For non-wool carpets, use a solution of 1 tablespoon of ammonia with 1 cup of water
  4. For wool carpets, use your spray bottle of detergent and water
  5. Continue to blot with paper or cloth

Insoluble Carpet Stains
These are stains that cannot be removed with water.  They include paint, engine oil, certain soils, butter, lipstick, margarine and gum.  Gum can be removed by freezing it, chipping it off, then removing the excess with baking powder.  For oil stains:

  1. If the material is relatively solid, like lipstick, carefully remove it from the top of the carpet
  2. Sprinkle baking soda over the stain and let it absorb the moisture for about 20 minutes
  3. Vacuum it up

Rubbing alcohol can also be used for oil stains.

Tip #5 — Handling Persistent Stains and Cigarette Burns
If you have a very small stain that refuses to respond to any form of treatment, you may have to perform carpet surgery! 

  1. Cut the offending fibres out of your carpet. 
  2. Cut some clean fibres from a part of your carpet that is never seen or rarely seen.  That may be in the cupboard or under a piece of furniture. 
  3. Finally, glue those clean fibres onto the location where your damaged carpet was.

Tip #6 — Be Careful with Dyed Carpets and Commercial Cleaners
If you have a stubborn stain, you may be tempted to use a strong commercial product.  Be careful!  Some commercial products are quite harsh and can attack the protective layers on synthetic or dyed carpets, leading to discolouration.

Instead, try hydrogen peroxide for stubborn berry, candy, chocolate, gravy and ice cream stains.  Buy 3 percent solution and use full strength.  Just follow the blot, spray, blot pattern.  

Handling Common Stains
Here are the processes for handling some common stains around the house:

Grass Stains
If you have children or animals in the house, this is one of the most frequent carpet stains you will see!  Grass stains can be a little tough because of the chlorophyll they contain.

To remove chlorophyll, try using rubbing alcohol, then blot it with paper or white cloth.  If the stain remains, use a strong white vinegar solution with 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon dishwashing detergent.

Red Wine
One of the most common spills around the house if you like to throw parties.  
In addition to using the standard solution of white vinegar to remove this stain, you can also try:

  1. Blot the stain, then apply salt to the stain, let it soak up the wine then vacuuming it up
  2. Blot the stain, then apply 3% hydrogen peroxide solution

Pet Stains
Urine can be very damaging to your carpet and must be removed as soon as possible.  Blot the stain immediately, then use your bottle of water and detergent.  Blot with a soapy cloth, then blot the stain with a clean cloth.  If the stain persists, use a mild white vinegar solution.

Blood Stains
Blood can be slightly tricky to remove from carpet because it contains protein and coagulants.  For synthetic carpets, you can use a mixture of 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon detergent and 1/2 teaspoon ammonia.  Use a squirt bottle to apply the mixture and blot the stain out.

Acidic Stains
Ammonia is very useful for removing stains caused by acidic beverages because it is alkaline.  Some acidic substances include tomato sauce, orange juice, soft drinks and soy sauce.

Blot the spill, then use 1 tablespoon of ammonia in 1/2 cup water.  Remember — you should NOT use ammonia on wool carpets (use plain water instead).

Oily Stains
Thick polishes, hand lotion, makeup, crayon and wax are all fairly oily substances.  Rubbing alcohol is very effective at disintegrating the oil and allows you to remove the stain easily.  Apply a small amount and blot with paper until gone.