How to Get Red Wine, Coffee, & Tomato Sauce Stains Out of Carpet

Here's how to get stains out of carpet right away, before they set.

After a carpet spill, doing the right thing—right now—can make the difference between a complete recovery and permanent damage. You can treat most food or drink spills with the steps shown here, whether it’s wine, coffee or spaghetti sauce.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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Step 1: Use the wet/dry vacuum first

Getting as much of the liquid and solids out of the carpet as quickly as possible is the single most important part of removing a carpet stain. But blotting and scooping can actually drive the stain deep into the carpet backing and pad. Instead, reach for your wet/dry vacuum and vacuum up the spill. Convert your wet/dry vac to wet mode by removing the paper filter and installing a foam cover (if equipped) before sucking anything up (Photo 1).

Step 2: Apply a cleaning solution

After sucking up as much of the spill as possible, resist the temptation to hit the stain with strong cleaners like vinegar and hydrogen peroxide right out of the gate. Those products can set the stain and even discolor your carpet. They can be used in some cases to remove a stubborn stain, but only as a last resort after you’ve used a milder cleaning solution.

If you keep a store-bought carpet stain removal product on hand, great. Use it. If not, you can make your own by mixing 1/4 teaspoon dish soap (clear is best) to 1 cup of water. Pour the homemade solution into a spray bottle and apply a generous amount to the soiled area, but don’t saturate it. Let the cleaning solution soak into the fibers for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.

Step 3: Blot from the outside in

Blot the stain with a clean white cloth (dyed fabric can transfer color to the carpet), working from the outside in (Photo 2). Your goal is to move the carpet fibers, spread the cleaner slightly, and soak up the stain. Avoid aggressive blotting, scrubbing and stomping on the blotter. That just drives the stain deeper into the pile, backing and padding, making stain removal even more difficult. After blotting, use your wet/dry vac again to remove as much cleaning solution as possible.

Step 4: Rinse, rinse, rinse

Leaving cleaning solution in the carpet is a big mistake. The leftover cleaning chemicals attract dirt, causing the spot to get soiled faster than the rest of the carpet. Even if you remove the stain, you’ll eventually have a dirty area at the exact spot of the stain. Plus, the rinsing step helps remove any leftover stain liquid. So rinse the stained area multiple times with clear water (Photo 3). Vacuum the rinse water between applications and continue vacuuming until you remove as much final rinse water as possible.

Leaving food or organic matter in your shop vacuum will turn it into a stinky science experiment in no time. So clean it right away (Photo 4).

Step 5: What to do next

Our techniques won’t set the stain or damage your carpet, so if your stain is particularly stubborn, you can proceed to the next level and follow specific spot removal advice. Pet vomit, and fecal and urine stains, require additional neutralization and disinfection steps. Find advice and get more carpet cleaning tips for pet owners.

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