How To Spot Clean Carpet

Updated on September 2, 2022

Are you wondering how to spot clean carpet? I think one thing anyone that’s ever had carpet can agree on is that it’s a pain to clean pretty much anything out of it. Whether it’s juice, coffee, paint, urine, or feces, a spill on your carpet means it will never look the same again.

Or does it? If your toddler has ever spilled their juice or your dog has had an accident on your carpet then you’ve had the thought, “well, I guess it’s time to put a rug over that stain.” Push that thought out of your head right now!

Luckily, it’s very easy to get nearly any type of spot or stain out of your carpet for good with things you probably already have in your home. You don’t even need a small carpet cleaner! It’ll just take a few supplies and a bit of elbow grease and your carpet will be good as new.

Related: How to Shampoo Carpet By Hand

Scrubbing vs. Blotting

Which is better? The short answer is blotting. It’s better for a couple of reasons.

First, scrubbing can damage your carpet fibers. If you get the stain out but ruin your carpet fibers, you haven’t really fixed the problem, you’ve just created a new one.

The second reason you should blot rather than scrub is that blotting lifts the stain out while scrubbing pushes it deeper into your carpet, and possibly into the padding underneath. The only way to fix that is to remove that carpet and padding and start from scratch.

Who wants to do that? I know I don’t!

What Are You Removing?

There are so many things that can stain your carpet. A lot of them can be removed easily with a combination of water, dish detergent, and some white vinegar. But how do you figure out what’s the best solution for your mess?

First, you need to determine if it falls into one of three categories – water-soluble, special water-soluble, or other. Depending on which type of stain you’re dealing with, you may be able to blot it out with just some water and white vinegar.

But why does that matter? All things are not created equally. Some spills require more work or harsher chemicals depending on what they’re comprised of.


  • Fruit (juices and jellies included)
  • Soda
  • Feces and urine
  • Mud
  • Food coloring
  • Wet paint

Special Water-Soluble:

  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Tea
  • Vomit
  • Wine
  • Mustard


  • Fats, oils, wax
  • Burns
  • Gum
  • Nail polish

Once you determine where your mess falls, you’re one step closer to carpet that’s as good as new.

Before You Blot

The first step with any spot cleaning is to make sure to clean up anything that’s sitting on the surface of the carpet. This applies mostly to feces and vomit, as the rest of the messes are usually liquid.

If the mess is a liquid spill, you should soak up any excess liquid. You can do this by setting a white rag on the spot and stepping on it or blotting it with your hand. Either way will work just fine.

Water-Soluble Messes

Water-soluble messes are the easiest to clean up, as they have the least amount of chemicals binding to the fibers of your carpet. Since these items are so simple, you don’t have to use much to clean the stain.


  • 2 cups cool water
  • 1 tbsp dish soap
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

Once you have your solution mixed, you can put it in a spray bottle or simply pour it on the stain for cleaning. Don’t pour too much otherwise you’ll end up with a big puddle on your carpet. Cleaning is as simple as wet, blot, repeat. Make sure you use clean rags, preferably white, so you don’t transfer anything to your carpet.

Special Water-Soluble Messes

If your stain falls under special water-soluble, don’t worry! These messes are still very easy to clean.


  • 1 cup cool water
  • 1 tbsp ammonia

Follow the same instructions for cleaning as the water-soluble stains.

Other Messes

If you’ve got anything else spilled on your carpet, there are more ways to clean, all of which will leave your carpet fresh and clean!

Fats, Oils, Wax

With fats, oils, and waxes, they come out best with heat. You’ll want to put a couple of layers of paper towels over the spill and run a warm (not hot!) iron over the spot. The oily residue should absorb into the paper towel with ease.


Burns can definitely be tricky. If it’s a small burn from a cigarette, you can try to scrape off the charred bits and hope for the best. Larger burns may require that bit of your carpet to be replaced.


Gum is usually pretty easy to clean from your carpet. Most often, it hasn’t had a chance to get smashed in, so you can simply set an ice cube on it, let the gum harden, and shatter with a spoon or butter knife. You can pick most of the pieces up, then vacuum the remaining pieces before they soften and get stuck again.

Nail Polish

Simply blot with nail polish remover. Sounds easy, right?

Things To Remember

Here are a few tips to help you with your spot cleaning adventure.

  1. Make sure you blot from the outside in. This prevents the stain from spreading.
  2. If the ammonia for the special water-soluble messes doesn’t seem to do the trick, you can do 1 part non-chlorine bleach to 5 parts water. Make sure not to use this solution on any material that will be negatively affected by bleach!
  3. Always rinse and blot the affected area with clean water once you see that the spot has been cleaned. This removes any cleaning solution left in your carpet.
  4. If the stain you removed was something that is particularly smelly (ie urine, feces, vomit) you can sprinkle baking soda on the spot once it’s dried completely, let it sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum up the baking soda to pull out any residual smells.


All in all, cleaning your carpet is a lot easier than most people think it is. I hope this short guide has helped you learn how to spot clean your carpet and remove anything that has spilled on your floor!