House Cleaning Pro Tips: The Best Carpet Cleaning Solutions


Carpet Cleaning Solutions that work!
Carpet Cleaning Solutions that work!

What really works?

When it comes to cleaning your carpet, and especially getting out stains, you can find thousands of blogs and articles touting solutions.

Google lists 34,100,000 pages for “cleaning carpet stains”!

Several resources suggest using household items that “Grandma used” such as vinegar, baking soda, salt, and even tea leaves. Even with the same basic “ingredients”, there are a variety of mixtures for these cleaning solutions. And, conflicting information about which items work on which stains! So, we tested several to help alleviate the confusion.

The Most Controversial Cleaning Solution for Carpet Stains…

House Cleaning - Vinegar vs. Baking Soda
For cleaning up Coffee and Tea Stains, Say NO to the Vinegar and YES to Baking Soda Paste!

There were many conflicting solutions about cleaning up coffee and tea stains. Several sources said to use vinegar, while some said DON'T use vinegar on coffee stains... Consequently, this was the first cleaning test we did.


For Coffee and Tea Stains, Say NO to the Vinegar and YES to the Paste!


So, I have a friend who has ignored her carpet stains for quite a while (we might even say years), and we got to talking about how many DIY options there are and discussing what really works. We decided to test the mixtures described below on her light rose-colored carpet, which has mainly coffee stains – some really old. Pictured below is one of the larger, darker, and older coffee stains – Before, During, and After testing cleaning with baking soda paste vs. vinegar.


Coffee Spills and Stains - Vinegar vs. Baking Soda
Really Old Coffee Stain - Cleaning Results of Baking Soda vs. Vinegar

1. Before: carpet with old coffee stain, before treating with any cleaning solution.

2. During: Half of stain we lightly sprayed a cleaning solution made with 1/4 cup of white vinegar mixed with 1 cup water, and the other half we treated with a paste of 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1 tablespoon water (this makes enough baking soda paste for a square about 3" x 3").

a. Vinegar side is the right half of the stain. We let the vinegar spray sit about 5 minutes, then blotted repeatedly with several clean paper towels.

b. On the left side, we let the baking soda paste sit for several hours to let the carpet dry thoroughly, then we vacuumed to clean up the paste.

3. After: Results of Attempt #1 to remove a very old (and the darkest) coffee stain show that the baking soda side is much cleaner.

4. Comparison to color of clean area of carpet


Outcome of test – Did the stain come out?

If you were to grade each cleaning solution on a scale of A-F, what is your evaluation? (Please share in comments below!)

We were astounded at the difference! The baking soda paste cleaned up the stain so well that the true colors of the carpet showed through. You can see in picture #3 above how obvious it is that the rest of that high-traffic area needs to be cleaned too!

Maybe the vinegar solution works on fresh coffee stains, but based on this one treatment, we give the Vinegar mix a D+, and the Baking Soda Paste an A+


Cleaning up Coffee Stain Tests 2-4…


How to clean coffee stains in carpets
How to clean up coffee stains - tests 2-4

Test 2 > Baking Soda Sprinkled

So, for the second test, we checked another Baking Soda solution to remove the part of the coffee stain that the vinegar left. This cleaning mixture is essentially the same formula as the baking soda paste; the main difference is how it's applied.

  • If it’s an old stain, mist lightly with water from a spray bottle before distributing baking soda.

  • If it’s a fresh spill, blot with a clean section of your cleaning rag, an old towel, or paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible.

  • Sprinkle baking soda liberally on the damp area.

  • Quick Tip: Especially if the stain is a larger area, and/or if your baking soda is lumpy, shake it through a fine sifter to distribute the baking soda evenly over the area to be cleaned.

  • Leave the baking soda on the stain until it’s dry – usually several hours, then vacuum.

As you can see in image #5, the stain is lightened, but still obvious.

Test 3 > “The Most Versatile (fall-back) DIY Cleaning Solution”

  • Mix 1 teaspoon Hydrogen Peroxide with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar and ½ teaspoon of water to form a paste. (It’s a pretty THIN paste!)

  • Gently rub the paste onto the stain, then rinse with clean water on a sponge, paper towel, or other clean rag.

  • After the area has dried, vacuuming will help make the cleaned spot blend back in with the surrounding carpet.

After this test, image #6 shows that more of the coffee stain is removed… We haven’t tested on other stains, so maybe it really is the “most versatile”.

Test 4 > Back to the Baking Soda Paste…

You can see in picture #7 above that the original, worst, darkest coffee stain is finally gone! And that the rest of the carpet definitely needs some attention!

Conclusion: Baking Soda Paste Wins, Hands (or Feet) Down!


House Cleaning Test on Coffee Stain - vinegar vs. baking soda
So brew and enjoy your coffee and tea without fear! Stains on the carpet CAN BE cleaned up!

Assessing Your Carpet Cleaning Needs


When cleaning up carpet stains, one of the first things to consider is the type of carpet you have. The fabric content, color, and whether or not a stain guard has been applied, will determine what products are going to work the best. If at all possible, get the manufacturer’s recommendations and follow them! Also, it’s always smart to test a small inconspicuous area of your carpet with any cleaning solution you use to make sure there isn’t a negative or unexpected reaction.


Vacuuming regularly helps keep your carpet clean. One way to know if you need to do a deeper clean on your carpets is to wear a light-colored pair of socks, and walk around your house as you normally would throughout the day.

At the end of the day, look at the bottoms of your socks... If they're clean, either you're not walking enough, or your carpets and floors are impressively immaculate! If they're dirty, it may be time to consider doing a deep clean on your carpets and rugs. Especially if you've vacuumed recently.



Use your socks to assess how clean your carpet is!
Use your socks to assess how clean your carpet is!

In general, the most thorough method we’ve found to deep clean your carpets is to vacuum first, treat stains, and then steam clean. For extra dirty carpets, you may want to pre-spray the entire carpeted area with a cleaning solution, and maybe even agitate the pre-spray into the carpet fibers with a brush before the steam cleaning step. (This may be a special attachment that comes with your vacuum cleaner).


Most steam-cleaning machines recommend a specific rug cleaner/shampoo to use with their machine, but OxiClean Carpet Steam Cleaning Machine Solution has produced excellent results for us. Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle, as using too much can damage your carpet. Also, be patient! Most carpets will take a minimum of 6-8 hours to dry after steam cleaning.


Don’t ruin all your hard work by not letting the carpet dry thoroughly before walking on it or moving furniture back into place!


Best DIY Carpet Cleaning Solutions for Removing Stains


As for DIY “home-made” carpet cleaning solutions, the type of stain is another thing to consider. Whether the spill is acidic or alkaline is one part of deciding which cleaning formula will work the best.

For super-detailed info, if you want to get to the science behind what cleaners are the most effective for different stains, MarthaStewart.com has an excellent article called “Detergent, Degreasers, Abrasives, and Acids: Understanding the Four Types of Cleaning Agents and What They Do”.

beverages causing tough carpet stains that need practical cleaning solutions
Stains on carpets and rugs from beverages and other substances create a range of cleaning challenges!
Pro Cleaning Tip: The general rule for any carpet stain is BLOT; don’t rub! When blotting, use a white absorbent material such as paper towels, microfiber cloths, or a dry cotton towel, washcloth, or rag. (Some colored materials can make the stain worse).

More Common Carpet Stains – and How to Treat Each with Inexpensive DIY Cleaning Solutions


For wine, pop or Kool-Aid™ spills, fats or vegetable spots, and pet stains,

the most effective combination that we’ve found is:

1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup water, a few drops of dish washing liquid, and a tablespoon or two of baking soda (maybe more if the stained area is really big!)

  • Sprinkle the area with the baking soda first.

  • Mix the liquid “ingredients” in a spray bottle, shake it up some, then spray on the spot. Note: when vinegar mixes with the baking soda, you’ll notice it foams up.

  • Allow spray to soak into the carpet fibers for 10 minutes or so, then blot.

  • Repeat if necessary to remove the stain and odor.

If you don’t have any vinegar handy…

  • Blot with a clean section of your cleaning rag or paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible.

  • If it’s an old stain, mist lightly with water from a spray bottle before distributing baking soda.

  • Just sprinkle the spill or stain thoroughly with the baking soda!

  • Leave the baking soda on the stain until it’s dry – usually several hours, then vacuum.


How to clean up pet messes easily while neutralizing the odor
Did you know you that the same cleaning solution that is best for pet "accidents" can be used for several beverage spills?

For ink or magic markers, you’ll be amazed at how easy this is!

  • Spray some hair spray on the ink mark or spot then blot.

  • Don’t have hair spray? Rubbing alcohol does the trick too! Just pour some on a paper towel, cotton balls, or other white absorbent material, and blot the stain away!

  • No alcohol on hand? Reach for that WD-40 can, and spray the spot. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Using a sponge that’s been dipped into warm, soapy water (and then wrung out), clean up the oil-dissolved ink.

For cleaning up blood on carpets and rugs…

Of course, find the source of the bleeding and stop that first! But the sooner you can start cleaning this type of spot, the better!

  • BE SURE TO USE COLD WATER!

  • Rinse and blot repeatedly using a clean part of your rag or paper towel.

  • A second option is to make a paste using equal parts meat tenderizer and COLD WATER.

  • Apply to the blood spot and let it sit for ½ an hour or so.

  • Use COLD WATER to clean up the paste (and the stain).

For blood stains on fabrics, take them to the sink!

  • Run COLD WATER over spot while rubbing gently. If the blood has dried, this might take a while.

Whether on carpet or fabric, most hand soaps and dishwashing liquids can be mixed with the COLD WATER to help loosen the blood stain.


For cleaning up grease and oils…

Three options top the list for these types of carpet stains.

  1. Cornstarch works great for soaking up oil or grease on your carpet. Generously sprinkle the cornstarch on the spot(s), and let it sit for several hours. Simply vacuum to complete the stain removal.

  2. For really nasty grease spots, you’re actually going to RUB instead of BLOT! Mix 4 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part salt and rub that stain! If you can determine the carpet’s natural nap, rub in the same direction. Again, keep using a clean part of your cloth or paper towel until all of the grease is removed.

  3. Another way to lift grease stains out of your carpet is to mix equal parts of salt and baking soda. Sprinkle over the grease spot and use a toothbrush or any small stiff brush to work these abrasives into the greasy area. Let the mixture sit on the spot for at least 5 hours, then vacuum.

Yes, grease, oil, and blood are the exceptions to rule... You read that right where it said to RUB (instead of BLOT, which is the norm)!

Oh! Did I mention… For all of the home cleaning remedies we researched, “Repeat if needed” was almost always at the end of the instructions!


Professional Carpet Cleaning Solutions for Removing Stains

Obviously, there are several commercial products available that are specifically formulated to deal with carpet stains. Our favorite is OxiClean™ Carpet & Area Rug Stain Remover, although Bissell® Carpet Cleaning Formula, and Resolve® Carpet Cleaner also work well on a variety of carpet stains.


Don’t want to DIY? You can always hire a carpet cleaning service! Caravel Cleaning Company provides recurring cleaning services, but we recommend Puentes Carpet Cleaning in Oxnard for professional carpet cleaning. We’ve met these folks, and they attain to the same high standards that we do in providing you with excellent service.


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Watch for more house cleaning tips & tricks from the Cleaning Crew at Caravel Cleaning Company in Oxnard, CA - We can't wait to Help You Keep Your Home Shipshape!

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