The Best Nontoxic Methods for Spot Cleaning Carpets and Rugs

01/27/2017 02:55 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2017

By Meg Padgett, Houzz

Carpets and rugs are comfortable underfoot, but they're also magnets for stains. From holiday gatherings to everyday use, carpets and rugs often take a lot of abuse.

But keeping your floor coverings looking their best is easier than you may think. A simple detergent solvent made with ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 teaspoon dish soap and warm water in a spray bottle can remove many household stains.

Caution: Before you tackle any stain on your carpet, always test the cleaning solution on a scrap or inconspicuous area for colorfastness. Don't forget to read the manufacturer's cleaning instructions for both synthetic and natural-fiber rugs. If you have an antique or delicate rug, consult an expert carpet cleaner before attempting any DIY methods.

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Debbie Basnett, Vintage Scout Interiors
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Food and Drink

Clumsy eaters and drinkers can wreak havoc on your carpets. Make stains disappear with these simple methods:

  • Many food and drink stains can be removed with the above-mentioned detergent solvent. Spray it liberally onto the stain, blot and rinse with warm water until the stain has been removed.
  • To remove wine stains, begin by blotting the stain immediately. For very light-colored carpets, pour hydrogen peroxide on the stain and sprinkle on a large amount of baking soda. Let it sit a few minutes, then clean it up and rinse with water. Note: A 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide (which is what's available at most drugstores) should work on most carpets, but always test it on a small, hidden area of your carpet before cleaning a stain. Alternatively, you can also try club soda or diluted white vinegar.
  • Remove gum by freezing it with ice cubes placed in a plastic zip bag and shattering the gum with a blunt object, then vacuum up the chips. Clean the remaining stain with the detergent solvent.

Tip: Never rub a stain, as that can push it deeper into the fibers; instead, blot repeatedly.

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Terracotta Design Build
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Pets

Pets can be your carpet's worst enemy. Show those stains who's boss with these methods.

  • Blot the wet stain and dispose of any solid material. Apply a carpet cleaner, such as the detergent solvent. To remove any lingering smells, sprinkle the carpet with baking soda once it's dry, let it sit 30 minutes and then vacuum.
  • If the stain has already dried, wet it with warm water and then proceed with the method above.

Tip: Always use a clean, light-colored rag. When the rag becomes dirty, replace it with another clean rag to avoid spreading the stain.

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Alexander Johnson Photography
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Kids

Playtime can be rough on carpets. Give these common children's stains a much-needed time-out.

  • Crayon: Use the detergent solvent and blotting method to tackle this waxy stain. If the crayon is melted into the carpet, use the ice method to freeze the melted crayon, break it with a blunt object and then vacuum the rug clean.
  • Paint or ink: Quickly blot a fresh paint stain until most of the paint has been removed. Apply rubbing alcohol to a cloth and blot; repeat until the stain is gone. Rinse with warm water.
  • Glue: Apply an acetone nail polish remover, then blot. Repeat and rinse completely when the stain has been removed.
  • Blood: Always use cold water when trying to remove a blood stain; warm water will cause the stain to penetrate further into the carpet, making removal even more difficult. Dab the white vinegar mixture (with cold water) on the stain and repeat until the stain is gone.
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Artistic Designs for Living, Tineke Triggs
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Dirt, Oil and Tar

Tracked-in gunk turns carpets into a dirty mess. Get them looking like new again with these methods.

  • Dirt and mud: Vacuum up any loose dirt, apply the detergent solvent and blot. Repeat until the carpet is cleaned.
  • Oil or grease: Blot the stain to remove any excess. Sprinkle a liberal amount of cornmeal on the stain; the cornmeal acts as an absorbent. Brush the area with a stiff-bristled brush (test first in an inconspicuous area to avoid any damage). Vacuum up the cornmeal, apply the detergent solvent and blot clean.
  • Tar: Blot the stain, removing any excess tar. Apply the detergent solvent and blot clean.

Spot cleaning carpets isn't easy — it often takes multiple attempts and a lot of elbow grease. If the methods above fail you, you may need to contact a professional cleaner or rent a steam cleaner.

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