How to Clean Milk Out of Carpet [Fresh Spill or Old Stain]

milk spill clean carpet stain

​Whether it’s a young baby ​drinking from a bottle, or a grown adult indulging in a late-night snack, milk accidents can happen to anyone. Drinking milk regularly might be beneficial for bone density and good digestion, but carpets do not enjoy the same benefits we do.

Not only does the spilled milk stain, but some types of carpet can trap small liquid particles and leave milk on your carpet and allow it to spoil. Read on to find ​out how to clean milk out of carpet.

​Why Milk Causes Carpet Stains

At first glance, it seems like milk makes a very odd substance to produce such a dramatic and pronounced stain.

Milk is a natural product, unlike other notoriously stain-worthy liquids like soda and wine. 

However, milk does stain. And, as it stains, it also produces a sour, rotten smell, which only compounds the problem.

The reason milk stains is because it contains proteins and fats that adhere to whatever it is spilled on. These complex chemical compounds don't come out easily once they have adhered, and require enzymatic action to break them down.

​Beyond staining, they start to smell, worse and worse over time.

​Not only do you need to treat the stain, but you'll probably have to treat the smell as well. If you catch the spill quickly, you might dodge the smell, so don't delay if you find some spilled milk!

​How to Clean Milk Out of Carpet

Have you ever noticed some rooms or cars smell funky? The floor seems to be clean, but you can tell there’s a strange smell around. This could be due to spilt milk that was left to dry or not properly cleaned from the surface. Dried milk on carpet fibers is a very distinct smell that only very powerful air fresheners can hide.

milk spill clean carpet stain

​Cleaning milk from carpet isn't hard, but there are several key steps you need to take. ​Whether 1%, non-fat, or soy, all milk will behave (and stain) relatively in the same manner.

For starters, lets go over the materials you are going to need, regardless of whether it is a new or old stain.

Materials Needed

  • ​Clean Towel or Microfiber Cloth
  • ​Warm Water
  • ​Dishwasher Detergent
  • ​Corn Starch or Baking Soda
  • ​Vacuum Cleaner

​How to Get Recently Spilled Milk Out of Carpet

If you are able to treat the ​milk spill as quickly as it happens, you are in luck. The sooner you are able to get to the stain, the easier it will be to take it out. This is the secret for how to clean milk out of carpet - get to it quickly. So roll up those sleeves and get cleaning as soon as you see a spill!

​1. Dab the Stain

Use the microfiber cloth and carefully dab off as much of the liquid as you can. Do not rub the stain on the carpet as you may be driving liquid further down the carpet fibers.

Take your time dabbing the stain on the carpet, using several cloths if need be. You can also wring out the cloth you have to extend its use.

Resist the urge to rub the carpet at all. While this would pick up the milk a lot quicker, it also drives the stain deeper into the carpet. The proteins in the milk are then more likely to stick and stay with your carpet, causing an ongoing smell.

Once you've dabbed up all of the milk, place the used microfiber towel in a bowl full of water to rinse out.

​2. Treat the Stain

Use a mixture of lukewarm water and dishwasher detergent in a bowl or spray bottle to spot treat the milk stain on your carpet. Use another clean microfiber towel and treat it with the cleaning mix to use over the stain.

Thoroughly cover the stain with the liquid or spray. Allow the mixture to extend a little beyond the visible stain and onto the clean carpet, just to be sure. Once again, try to dab and not rub the towel over the stain as much as possible. 

Repeat this process several times, applying the liquid and then dabbing it out. When you're done, the stain should appear to be visibly gone, although there is still another step to take.

​3. Pull the Stain Out

Once that is done, you can move on to using the cleaning powder to chemically attract the last drops of milk ​from the carpet. Drop some powdered cornstarch or baking soda over the stain and leave it for 5-10 minutes.

These kinds of powders are good at attracting liquid in ways that no towel could ever dream of. The cornstarch or baking soda will pull liquid up and thoroughly dry the surrounding area. 

​Using baking soda is also a wonderful carpet cleaning hack that helps to remove the agents that lead to the long term smell problem that spilled milk can produce. 

​4. Vacuum the Stain

Pick up the powder with a ​powerful vacuum cleaner and inspect the area. There should be little to no milky smells coming from the stain, and it should feel clean to the touch. Wait a couple of hours for the area to dry completely and repeat the process if necessary.  You should work faster if the ​spillage occured on shag carpet as it can easily trap the stain before you even notice it.

​There is a chance that the stain could come back in the next few weeks. If so, just reapply the cleaning mixture and follow the same process.

​One final tip - make absolute certain the area is dry before moving on from the cleaning. If it is still damp, even slightly, then it runs the risk of attracting dirt and debris, which can permanently damage the carpet.


  • ​Dab the milk spill up completely
  • ​Treat with lukewarm water and dishwasher detergent
  • ​Apply cleaning powder such as cornstarch or baking soda
  • ​Vacuum spilled area and check to ensure dry

​​How to Get ​an Old Milk Stain ​Up From Carpet

As previously mentioned, spilling milk on your carpet is worse than spilling soda or even wine. These other liquids might leave a darker stain, but milk is one of the few liquids that will crust, change colors, and begin to smell… bad. 

If you have a carpet stain​ that happened a while back, you will need to take some extra measures. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the stain will be completely removed. However, there is still a great benefit to spot-cleaning an old milk stain.

​1. Pre-treat the Stain

Begin by pre-treating the stain with the same mixture explained above. Throw the mixture in a spray bottle and generously soak the surface. Leave to rest for about 15 minutes and then use a clean microfiber towel to soak up the liquid

You can do this several times if need be. Each time should be slowly loosening the stain up, even if its hard to tell.

The key to this step is to let the mixture soak thoroughly before drying it up. Don't scrub - we'll do that in the next step. The job of this cleaning mixture is to break down the stain and prepare it for scrubbing.

​2. Scrub the Stain

If you have access to a shampoo cleaning machine, this will be the perfect time to use it. You will probably need to give the carpet a couple of passes before anything noticeable happens. Eventually, the stain will begin to look less obvious and any smells will be eliminated.

If you don’t have access to a carpet-cleaning machine, you can still remove the odor from your carpet. There are cleaning powders, such as Arm & Hammer Litter Carpet & Room Pet Fresh Odor Eliminator, that may effectively purge the odors from the carpet.

Additionally, a combination of lukewarm water and vinegar on the stain for 30 minutes might remove any remaining odors.

Related: ​Carpet Cleaning Hacks with Vinegar​

​3. Vacuum and Remove Odor

Once you're satisfied with getting the stain up, you ​can quickly vacuum and work on removing the odor, following the same steps as above. ​

Avoid adding an smell enhancers if at all possible. Some people recommend adding lemon to your mixture, for example, as it has a pleasant aroma.

The problem with adding any of these things to your cleaning mixture is that you are introducing new agents to the stain. And, you don't know how those agents are going to interact with the stain. They could actually make it worse, or get rid of the smell but pronounce the stain.

When in doubt, just continue applying and reapplying baking soda and/or vinegar, or a purchased solution.

​Insider Tip: Keep a lightweight, easy-to-grab vacuum in a closet near your heavily trafficked areas. It will make it a lot easier to quickly clean a spill in the future. Here is our list of the ​top vacuums under $50 that can go in your closet.

​​How to Clean Breast Milk from Carpet

Old milk stains are especially bad when they are from formula or breast milk. Sometimes, even the most effective techniques might be no match for these accidental spots.

Breast milk has a stronger concentration than regular​ milk that you buy in the grocery store. Thus, its potential to stain is much higher. Your best defense is to treat the spilled breast milk immediately.

​As a mother that is breast-feeding, keep towels at the ready in places where the milk could potentially spill. This way, you'll be at the ready if a little accident were to occur.

If you are a new mom and are dealing with constant formula or breast milk spills, take advantage of the information found on forum sites. These are written by real people that have similar problems, and can help you find the answer to a specific situation you might be having.


  • ​Pre-treat area with mixture
  • ​Let soak
  • ​Vacuum with shampoo machine
  • ​Remove odor with cleaning powder

​Why Sour Milk Smells So Bad

Milk starts to smell bad when the bacteria that it contains starts to ferment. As it ferments, the chemicals that are released produce a very strong and nasty smell. It is this smell that clearly tells us the milk has soured, or gone bad.

Specifically, what smells is the bacteria that metabolizes ​the lactose in milk to lactic acid. It is the acid that puts off the strong, rancid smell.

​This fermenting process builds upon itself in an exponential fashion, meaning that milk that starts to go bad can turn really quickly. It isn't uncommon for milk to be fine one day and then sour the next. This is due to the way the bacteria multiplies rapidly. 


​How to get spilled milk from carpet starts with acting quickly. The faster you can dab the milk up, the better chance you have to completely remove the stain and odor.

Even if you aren't able to act fast, you can still clean milk out ​from the carpet. Utilize the mixtures we've recommended to soak up the stain. You will probably need to do this several times to remove it completely.

Additionally, you can invest in better appliances to clean your carpet and avoid having to work with towels or cleaning mixtures in the first place. If you do have some old stains that you want to take care of but haven’t found the will to do so, calling a professional might be the best route as ​well.

About the Author Allen Michael

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.

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