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How to Remove Old Stains From Carpet For Good

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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 carpet cleaner will be effective in removing it.

Not to worry, because the frustration ends here. We know a few tips and tricks that can help rid you of old carpet stains so that you can enjoy your carpets without any sore spots sticking out.

Can You Get Old Stains out of Your Carpet?

Yes! Using our tested and successful tips and cleaning advice, you can remove stubborn old stains and restore your carpets back to their original luster. 

Just because you’re working with old carpet stains doesn’t mean that it is beyond removal. The main trick to getting old stains out of carpet is to bring the stain back to life by re hydrating and then using a compatible carpet cleaner to remove it.

Woman about to clean old stain from carpet

How to Remove Old Stains From Carpet

We’ll share tips for how to get hydration back into your stain (without making it worse). And, we’ll tackle how to remove some of the toughest stains, like grease and iron marks. 

It is just that simple. Depending on the stain, there are a few different cleaners and ways to deal with it, so let’s look at the steps for getting old stains out of your carpet for good.

1. Identify the Stain

​​There is the issue of not really knowing what the stain is due to its age and the possibility of various homeowners. However, there are two main categories that stains will fall under.

This will help you narrow down what type of carpet cleaner would work best for you, and thus how to remove the old stain from your carpet.

Water Soluble Stains

​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, colored, low viscosity 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.

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.

Special Soluble Stains

​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 probably the most dangerous of them all, vomit. For these stains you would mix a tablespoon of ammonia per 1 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 warm water.

There is also a neat trick that you can try with dried red wine. Use a little white wine to saturate the stain. The white wine, wakes up the dried stain due to its similar properties and begins to break down the dried red wine stain.

You can then follow up with a club soda or a little Dawn dish detergent and water to blot up the stain.

Chemical based cleaners from the store work just as well as the natural ones. However, natural based cleaners are also safe for kids and pets to be around. You don’t have to worry if they are accidentally ingested, nor do you have to keep them away from harmful fumes.

Also you will save money when you opt to use natural products like baking soda, distilled white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

2. Prepare for Cleaning

​Now that you have identified the stain, you can get to work cleaning it up. There are a few things you need to clean the stain, so make sure that you have them handy before you get to work.

Cleaning tools

Opt for Protective Gloves/Mask

​When 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. If you don’t have any face masks handy, then you can tie a scarf, bandanna or a rolled up old shirt around your nose and mouth.

This will create a barrier to help lower the offending smell and block any airborne pathogens that can lurk in these bodily fluids.

It is also good to have some latex or plastic gloves to keep your hands clean. Gloves are a great way to keep any toxins away from your hands. If you don’t have any at home, then you can use a plastic grocery bag or a ziploc back to pick up anything that you don’t want your bare hands touching.

Even if you aren’t handling anything messy, cleaners can sometimes irritate your sinuses or dry out your skin. Face masks and gloves are good cleaning staples that you should keep around your home for handling messes. The disposable type are the best since you can easily toss them after.

Use a Spray Bottle

​When you are learning how to get old stains out of carpet it is important to remember that there is a fine line between re hydrating 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.

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.

Instead you will want to find the middle ground between barely covering the stain with spray and drenching it. A good amount of cleaner is one that penetrates the carpet fibers surface and saturates the area without turning into a puddle.

If you make the mistake of pouring or spilling too much cleaner or water onto your carpet then you will want to dry and blot up as much as you can before doing anything else.

If you have a rug that can be lifted easily, then it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use a few cloths or paper towels underneath it to catch any water that penetrates through.

After blotting up as much as you can, make sure that the room has circulating air by turning on a ceiling fan or opening a window. This circulating air will help the carpet finish air drying.

The longer liquids stay on your carpet then they will begin to go beneath the fibers and start drenching the bottom of the carpet, then soaking down into the under padding.

If you have wood floors beneath your carpet, which a lot of homes do, then you could also be dealing with possible wood flooring damage due to the excess water.

Grab a Microfiber Cloth

​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. You can use paper towels, but due to the size of the stain and how many you are cleaning, then you could end up going through quite a bit. Microfiber cloths are great for blotting up stains thanks to their super absorbent properties and are able to be reused after a run in the washing machine.

If you find that 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. This will get the cleaner that you choose more sudsy and active in penetrating through the fibers.

3. Clean the Stain

​Once you have all of your supplies it is time to start cleaning. Since you are dealing with old carpet stains, it can take more time to clean it up. The majority of the extra time is due to re hydrating the stain particles. After the stain has been re hydrated, then you can begin to break them down via a cleaning solution.

Cleaning Old Stains

​Re-hydrating the stain is why water is a big part of the mixtures 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 15-20 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.

Cleaning Old Greasy Stains

When you’re looking for how to remove old stains from carpet, grease is often the biggest culprit. If you are dealing with greasy stains from food and oils spilled then there is a trick that you can use to better pull the stain up from your carpets.

  1. Start the process by covering the stain in baking soda. Let it sit while you begin the next step. 
  2. Heat up a cup of distilled white vinegar and then add ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide along with a teaspoon of Dawn dish detergent.
  3. Lightly pour or spray the mixture of white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and dish detergent onto the baking soda and let it sit for a few minutes. The white vinegar and baking soda will give off a bubbling chemical reaction so it will be working on breaking down the stain without you needing to scrub.
  4. Blot up the stain with a damp cloth. Do this many times over in order to get as much of the liquid up as possible. 
  5. Rinse the area with a little water to make sure you get up all of the cleaning solution and then blot it dry.
  6. If there is still a stain present then repeat the above steps.

Cleaning Old Stains with a Steam Iron

​Treat your carpets to a steam cleaning without having to rent a large steam cleaning machine to treat a small spot or area.

  • Mix a cleaning solution of 50/50 warm water and white vinegar. This solution will be pretty strong because the concentration of vinegar. 
  • Saturate the old stain and let it sit for a few minutes to rehydrate and then begin to break down the stain.
  • Grab your steam iron and set it to medium heat on the steaming setting. Make sure to wait until it has heated up.
  • Use the steam and run the iron over the damp cloth. The stain should then transfer from the carpet onto the cloth.
  • Use a clean damp cloth with warm water to further blot clean the area and then blot it dry with paper towels or a microfiber cloth.
  • If there is still a stain present then repeat the above steps.

If the stain does not get any better after trying one or more of these cleaning solutions then you will need to switch to an alternate stain removing cleaner.

How to 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.

Nothing is a substitute for consistent, thorough cleaning. The best appliance for getting old stains out of carpet is a well reviewed wet and dry vacuum. This kind of appliance can handle the different solvents you’ll throw at the stains.

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 remove stains out of carpet, you can face the task with confidence and share these tips with your friends and family.

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.