Does Vinegar Discolor Your Carpet?

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Vinegar is one of the natural remedies for stained surfaces including carpets. Vinegar contains acetic acid which can clean and dissolve stubborn stains effectively. Knowing that it contains acid, people frequently ask us: does vinegar discolor carpet?

Does Vinegar Discolor Your Carpet?

White vinegar and apple cider vinegar do not discolor a carpet. However, some kinds of vinegar such as balsamic and brown vinegar can stain a carpet. Still, you should give extra care to carpets with natural fabric such as wool when using vinegar for cleaning to avoid damage.

The amount of acetic acid in vinegar is different based on its type. The most recommended vinegar for cleaning is white vinegar and apple cider, which usually contains 5-7 percent acetic acid. Regardless, you should dilute vinegar in water before you use it for cleaning to avoid damage.

Vinegar for cleaning

How Does Vinegar Work as a Carpet Cleaner?

Vinegar naturally contains acetic acid. This acid is strong enough that it can dissolve even grime and limescale. You should combine vinegar with water to make a milder cleaning solution though. Also, there are surfaces that you shouldn’t clean with vinegar such as hardwood.

The acetic acid in vinegar breaks into (1) hydrogen and (2) acetate when diluted in water. In simple terms, the hydrogen breaks the structure of stains, whereas the acetate, which also has an extra electron in it, serves as the magnet. With the presence of water in the solution, it rinses out the stain.

Aside from dirt and stains, vinegar helps remove bad odor. Also, don’t worry about the vinegar smell during application. This would wear out once the carpet dries.

Is Vinegar Safe to Use on Carpets?

Vinegar is safe to use on carpets when you combine it with the right amount of water. Adding water ensures it achieves the correct PH level necessary to remove stains with little to no harsh reactions.

Without water, the acid level could be too high for the carpet to handle, especially natural fabrics. However, you should also note that the acetic acid content in each type of vinegar is different. The most concentrated form available to consumers has 30 percent acetic acid. You might want to just pass on this since you won’t really be needing this much strength for a carpet.

On the other hand, apple cider vinegar has the mildest concentration. However, for some people, it is safest to use white vinegar, especially on white carpet because apple cider has a dark orange to brown color.

What Stains Can You Remove With Vinegar?

You can remove almost any kind of stain using vinegar, including alkali-based and acid-based stains. In fact, vinegar can also remove stains caused by other types of vinegar.

Aside from using vinegar as a regular carpet cleaner,  you can also use it to remove the following stains:

  • coffee
  • red wine
  • pet waste and urine
  • ketchup
  • tea
  • bubblegum
  • sauces

To get best the results, try to remove stains as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remove stains completely.

Man trying to remove carpet after being discolored by vinegar

How Do You Use Vinegar to Clean Carpet?

You can use vinegar with or without dish soap to clean carpets. For simple cleaning and deodorizing effects, you can just use a vinegar-water solution and transfer to a spray bottle. Just add a drop of fragrance oil to mask the vinegar smell.

Using Vinegar as Liquid Cleaner

This solution is great for simple cleaning and new stains. This can also help remove bad odor.

Things you will need:

  • 1 part water
  • 1 part white vinegar or apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • spray bottle


  1. Mix vinegar, water, and dish soap and transfer in a spray bottle. 
  2. Set the sprayer into mist setting and spray directly on the carpet.
  3. For spills, make sure to soak up the liquid using a cloth first. Dry the area as much as possible before spraying the vinegar solution.
  4. Do not wipe or scrub. The key is to just blot the area to clean. Do this to avoid the stain from spreading.
  5. Do not rinse. Allow the carpet to dry.

Using Vinegar as Paste Cleaner

For old stains or dark-colored stains that are difficult to remove, you can use undiluted white vinegar and apply only on the stained area. Alternatively, here’s how you can make a paste cleaner for tough carpet stains using vinegar.

Things you will need:


  1. Mix the vinegar and baking soda in a small container until they form a paste. 
  2. Apply the paste cleaner only on the stained area using your fingers or a toothbrush but do not scrub.
  3. Leave it for a few minutes to allow the paste cleaner to break down the stains.
  4. Wipe the remnants using a cloth.

Pro Tip: Always do a fabric test on a hidden area of the carpet to check for signs of damage.

Toy blocks scattered on carpet

Tips on Professional Carpet Cleaning

Old and stubborn stains may be difficult to remove no matter how concentrated the vinegar solution is. Also, for delicate carpets, it’s best to get professional carpet cleaning services.

Professional carpet cleaning prices vary by the type of cleaning service, location, and company. Usually, dry cleaning is more pricey than steam cleaning. However, the average cost of professional carpet cleaning starts around $25 for small rooms.

Related Questions

Before we wrap up this article, we wanted to address some related questions about cleaning carpets with vinegar.

How Long Do You Leave Baking Soda And Vinegar On A Carpet? 

Leave baking soda and vinegar on a carpet until it dries. For sensitive fabrics, leave only for 30 minutes. You can leave the vinegar-baking soda cleaner overnight for tough stains.

How Do You Get Vinegar Out Of Carpet?

Get vinegar out of carpet using water. To get rid of the vinegar smell and acetic acid, plain water should be enough. If you can’t rinse the carpet directly under running water, then you can just use a wet cloth to blot the area.


Vinegar is an effective all-around cleaner. It works as a carpet cleaner, deodorizer, and stain remover, too. However, remember that only white vinegar and apple cider vinegar will not discolor your carpet. Some types would, including balsamic and red wine vinegar.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.