How to Get Old Stains out of Your Carpet For Good

soapy water hardwood floors

Stains in your carpet are frustrating, but when they are old stains they offer a new level of dread. The cause of the stain can be unknown depending on the age which presents the problem of not knowing what cleaners will be effective in removing it.

How to Get Old Stains out of Your Carpet

There is a way to lift old stains out of carpets. It can take a few different methods to figure out what will work best on your specific carpets.

We've provided several different methods, and they all follow the same general principles. Have patience and know that old stains can be lifted up with a little bit of work.

​1. Identify the Stain

There is the issue of not really knowing what the stain is due to it’s age and the possibility of various homeowners. However, there are two main categories that stains will fall under. This will help you narrow down why type of cleaner would work best for you.

Most stains are water soluble. This means that they are able to dissolve in water. The stains in this category include berries, colas, food dyes, ice cream, jelly, mud, washable ink, drinks such as milk and latex paint.


For water soluble stains you can use a simple cleaning solution that mixes fifty-fifty white vinegar and water. You can add other cleaning solutions to the mixture like Dawn or essential oils. The two main ingredients are the most important for these stains to be broken down and cleared away.

Use vinegar on your carpets to remove old, tough stains

If you need to know how to remove set in urine stains from carpet then vinegar is what you will need. The vinegar will work to fight the ammonia in urine and clean the stain. A blacklight will show any hard to detect urine stains in carpet that may be encouraging your dog to use these areas.


The other category is for special water-soluble stains these stains need a different cleaning agent to better break them down. The stains that fall into this category include blood, chocolate, coffee, mustard, wine and vomit. For these stains you would mix a tablespoon of ammonia per one cup of water.

Make sure that you are not using the ammonia on wool or wool blended carpet. If you have wool blended carpet then you can substitute ammonia for a mild detergent or a chlorine bleach mixed one part to five parts water.

Chemical based cleaners from the store work just as well as the natural ones. However, natural based cleaners can save you money and they are also safe for kids and pets to be around.

2. Prepare for Cleaning

Now that you have identified the stain, you can get to work cleaning it up. If you are dealing with any body fluids such as feces, vomit​, or blood then you will want to grab a face mask to keep out any viral bacteria. It is also good to have some latex or plastic gloves to keep your hands clean.

Even if you aren’t handling anything, cleaners can sometimes irritate or dry out skin. Disposable gloves are the best since you can easily toss them after.

When you are learning how to get old stains out of carpet it is important to remember that there is a fine line between rehydrating to clean and soaking your carpet. The best way to control the cleaner is to use a spray bottle. This allows you to spray in the spots that you need and limit the water.

Use a high quality vacuum on your carpet to pick up debris from an old stain.

If you soak your carpets by pouring cleaner on it, then it can be difficult to dry. This is a problem because it can soak under the carpet onto the padding and even spread to the floor underneath. If your carpet gets too moist then it can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

You will also need a way to blot the carpet. While there are scrub brush influencers out there, it is not a good idea to scrub your carpets. This can separate the bound together fibers and make your carpet look frayed.

The best way to clean your carpet is by blotting. If you need to agitate the cleaner to help penetrate into the fibers then use your gloved hand to gently massage the cleaner into the carpet.

 3. Clean the Stain

Once you have all of your supplies it is time to start cleaning. Since you are dealing with an old stain, it can take more time to clean it up. This is because you will be rehydrating the stain particles and then breaking them down.

This is why water is a big part of the mixture and also why you will need to control how much you put down. Follow the below steps to understand how to get old stains out of carpet.

  1. Spray the carpets with your choice of cleaner. Use a good amount without soaking the carpet.
  2. Use your gloved hand to massage the cleaner in. If the carpet is very stiff, then let the cleaner sit for a few minutes before you massage it in.
  3. Allow the cleaner to sit for fifteen to twenty minutes.
  4. Use a bowl of clean warm water to dip a cloth in and begin to flush the cleaner out of the carpet by blotting it up with a the damp cloth.
  5. Use a dry towel or paper towel to blot up as much moisture as you can from the carpet.
  6. If there is still a stain present then repeat the above steps.

Make sure that you are drying the carpet as best as you can between cleanings. This allows you to get more cleaner on the spot without the addition of it being watered down. This step is even more important when you are working with shag carpet, so make sure you use a special vacuum for that.

If the stain does not get any better then you will need to switch to an alternate stain removing cleaner.

4. Maintain Clean Carpets

While old stains can be challenging, they can also be cleaned. If you encounter a stain that won’t come up then you may need to either cover it up or talk to a professional about carpet patching.

Woman using her vacuum to clean carpet


Nothing is a substitute for consistent, thorough cleaning. One way to ensure you are consistently cleaning every area of your home is to pick up a highly reviewed canister vacuum. These cleaners have an extended arm that allow you to easily clean in those hard to reach places, which will help keep your carpets clean and free of stains.


Now that you know how to get old stains out of carpet, you can face the task with confidence and share these tips with your friends and family.

About the Author Lauren Moldvay

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.

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