Clean Carpet Stains, Spills, and Disasters Naturally (with Recipes)
Kids, pets, houseguests, that clumsy relative… never fear again.
That’s right, be prepared for the disasters that will happen knowing you have the solution, it’s ready to whip out at a moment’s notice, and you don’t even have to worry about the toxic chemicals of standard cleaners.
You are golden.
Your home is healthy.
And you don’t have those spill spots constantly reminding you of that frustrating accident that happened two and a half years ago.
Natural carpet cleaning can be very effective when done right. This guide will orient you to:
- All of the key ingredients and their unique powers
- When to use what… and step-by-step instructions how to use them
- The natural cleaner recipes to attack spills and stains from blobs of greasy food to that splashed wine
- Tools for storing and applying these natural cleaning solutions
- And a special recipe and essential oil guide for keeping your carpets smelling fresh
Before Anything Else, Always Do This One Thing…
I can’t emphasize this enough…
Get on it NOW.
Act quickly enough and in many cases you can gently work out the scariest spill with the simplest methods. Many modern carpets are even treated to be stain resistant, but only to a point.
Right away, gently scoop up any solids and excess mess by starting from the outside and moving inward (so as to minimize spreading). DO NOT rub it in. Pick it up, scoop it up, blot it up, but do not rub it in.
Rubbing will damage the fibers and rub the stain in further.
Next, use a clean white towel and gently blot up the remaining spill. Sometimes gently blotting (not scrubbing!) can be all you need if you’re quick.
And now it’s time for some natural cleaning.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to spills and stains. If a natural cleaner doesn’t do the job, or the entire carpet needs cleaning, there are professionals to help.
But if you’re looking for a safe, natural, and homemade cleaner you’d gladly use on the same carpets that your kids, pets, and loved ones are on every day… well, you’re in the right place.
Quick Reference: What Stain Fighting Ingredients to Use When
The 10 Key Natural Cleaning Ingredients (with Recipes)
Everyone should have these on hand.
The beautiful thing about green cleaning is that the ingredients are pretty simple and have been around for a long time… if not since the very beginning.
In fact, many of these are food safe, may already be in your kitchen, and can do double duty for cooking, first aid, or maybe even a cocktail or two.
Sometimes water is all you need when it comes to wet stains, and it is a common ingredient of green and natural cleaners.
It’s your first line of defense.
Water is a miracle. And for many stains it can do wonders to get most, if not all, of the stain out. Water’s just not good to use on any kind of grease or oil, which repels water.
The trick with water is usually to do it fast!
Otherwise, tougher stains and dried stains may need some help from its friends, below.
Drops of natural castille soap, like Dr Bronner’s, added to plenty of water makes a multi-purpose cleaner you can use to clean many standard spills before they become a permanent stain. Or add some “oomf!” by using natural soap in combination with other natural cleaning ingredients.
To start, simply use natural soap with plenty of water. But don’t overdo the soap or you’ll end up leaving a residue on your carpets. Gently blot the stain with a white cloth conservatively dipped in your highly-diluted water and soap mixture.
This may take some time and work, but shouldn’t require a lot of heavy elbow grease. In fact, grinding hard into your carpet can actually damage your carpet more than help it.
And then there’s soap nuts…
This may sound strange, but these actually do grow on trees. They are a berry-like fruit which contain saponins (in other words, a natural source of soap).
Strange but true! They are very versatile cleaner. Google it, and you’ll find a lot of recipes using this odd soap-fruit.
But something like Dr. Bronner’s will definitely be easier to find!
Fresh Scented Natural Soap Cleaner
Featured recipe from Nature Moms Blog »
- 6 qts HOT HOT water
- 4 teaspoons Dr. Bronner’s castille soap
- 25-30 drops of essential oil (peppermint, lavender, or tea tree)
- 30-50 drops GSE (grapefruit seed extract)
- 1-2 scoops OxiClean (optional)
This will clean carpets and make them smell wonderful too!
Acidic cleaners are particularly good for alkaline stains like soap scum and rust, and help with biological issues like musty smells or those stains that also need disinfecting. They are also a good to use as a follow-up cleaner after cleaning with natural soap.
Acidic cleaners are also a very common, and multi-purpose type of cleaners to have on hand for almost any general cleaning.
Just avoid vinegars that have a tint, such as apple cider vinegar, because those can leave discoloration.
Vinegar is a great, multipurpose carpet and upholstery cleaner ingredient that works well on its own or in combination with other ingredients or cleaners. For example, after using of a soap cleaner, following up with a vinegar cleaner helps remove any soap residue and adds a little more stain-fighting power.
You can also use an acidic cleaner like vinegar after using an alkaline cleaner like salt. The acidic ingredient adds that extra layer of cleaning power once the alkaline method has done its best and soaked up most of the problem.
DIY Vinegar Carpet Stain Removal Cleaner
- Mix equal parts WHITE vinegar (other vinegars may discolor) and water.
- Put it in a spray bottle (you can generally get these from any household store, garden store, or thoroughly clean a used spray bottle).
- Spray on the stains and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Clean with a sponge or soft brush.
Optional: For a little extra power on tougher stains, you can add just a couple drops of dishwashing liquid to the vinegar/water mixture. Or use warm, soapy water when cleaning with a sponge or soft brush.
Bonus Tip: Make Some Orange Scented All-Purpose Cleaner!
Local Seattle green housecleaner Michael Freeman swears by the power of the fresh orange scent, including researched effects like:
- Uplifting your mood
- Boosting your productivity
- Making people more positive
And if you live in Seattle in the winter, you know we need all the help we can get!
So make some vinegar cleaner ahead of time for those everyday uses to freshen up your home, and get all of those juicy mood and productivity enhancing effects! It’s just a standard steeping of vinegar with orange peels, and incredibly easy to do in no time at all, and with no special equipment.
- Quart-sized Mason jar
- Some oranges
- Distilled white vinegar (avoid other vinegars for cleaning as they can stain)
- Shave off the peels of some oranges and put the peels in the Mason jar. No more than half full.
- Pour heated distilled white vinegar into the jar to nearly full.
- Wait at least 24 hours and then strain.
- Put the vinegar in a spray bottle and dilute with water (see below).
1 part vinegar to 2 parts water for general cleaning.
1 part vinegar to 1 part water for more intense applications, like the carpet stain removal cleaner in this section.
You can also try Jillee’s original recipe and see more information at One Good Thing by Jillee »
Mildly acidic and entirely natural, lemon is a great natural stain cleaner and mild bleach. Fresh is best but bottled works as well. As always, be sure to test, and be careful with colors.
Add it as an acidic ingredient with or in place of vinegar, apply directly and rinse thoroughly, or add to a natural soap cleaner.
Cornstarch is a multipurpose ingredient most often used for soaking up carpet stains. An absorbent cleaner, you can try these two cleaning methods for helping battle grease stains.
Pure Cornstarch Method:
- Pour cornstarch liberally on the stain and let sit until dry, 15-30 minutes.
- Vacuum it all up.
- Then follow up with a vinegar cleaner.
Ink Stain Removal from Carpets using Cornstarch and Milk!
Milk and Cornstarch Method:
- Mix milk and cornstarch to form a paste.
- Apply the paste directly into the stain and let dry (takes a few hours).
- Vacuum up the dried paste thoroughly from the carpet.
- Follow up with a vinegar carpet cleaner, if needed.
On wet ink stains people have had success with using the salt method to soak up the ink. Using the Hydrogen Peroxide method is another option for ink stains.
A natural absorbent, salt is a handy option for liquid stains and greasy spills. It soaks up spills like a champ, and is super easy, plentiful, and cheap! There’s not much not to like about the Salt method.
Here’s how to use the Salt method:
- Soak up the liquid as much as possible with clean, white towels
- Apply salt liberally to the area
- Allow it to soak up the liquid
- Vacuum it all up
- Do again if you need to
- Follow up with the vinegar method
“Red wine stains are a nightmare for every housewife, but we have an amazing solution for them, too. First you have to blot the liquid gently, but very quickly. After that sprinkle some salt and leave it for 12-15 minutes to absorb the remaining wine. Put away the salt, which will have become pink by that time. The final step is to wipe the stain with a cleaning solution of 1:2 white vinegar and water and rinse well.”
From Urban Naturale »
A natural wonder for cleaning and freshening, baking soda is a multipurpose cleaning ingredient that can scour, deodorize, and clean, yet is gentle enough for most surfaces. Plus, it’s a natural source that you may already have in your fridge or cupboard. It has been used for over 150 years, and continues to be extremely versatile.
You can use it similar to salt by applying to wet stains, letting it soak up the spill, and vacuuming up when dry.
It can also be used to freshen your carpets.
See the infographic guide to creating your own carpet deodorizer and DIY mason jar shaker here »
A natural ingredient to help with stains, hydrogen peroxide is both effective and non-toxic.
Since it is essentially water with an extra oxygen atom, it harmlessly breaks down to water and oxygen, making a very green cleaner.
It is also anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-mold, and anti-mildew… making it good for what you’re cleaning as well as for the sponges or other cleaning tools you are using to clean with.
Before using, be sure to test it to make sure it won’t remove color.
But this handy item has so many more uses, you’ll always want it in your cupboard. Just check out this list of surprising uses for hydrogen peroxide in your everyday life:
Hydrogen Peroxide Magic – via One Good Thing by Jillee
DIY OxiClean Stain Remover
Featured recipe by Organic Authority »
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
- 1/2 cup washing soda*
1. Mix all ingredients together.
2. Pour into an opaque spray bottle (hydrogen peroxide will lose its potency if exposed to light long term). 3. Spray on soiled laundry and allow to sit overnight. Or, for a large batch of soiled clothes, soak clothes directly in the liquid.
*Be sure to find washing soda, not regular baking soda for this recipe.
Always test your homemade stain fighters on an inconspicuous spot before treating a stain to make sure the clothes you’re treating are color fast.
Hydrogen Peroxide on Stubborn Stains like Blood Stains:
As long as a natural bleaching effect is OK, spray a standard 3% hydrogen peroxide on the stain and let it sit to do its work. Wait at least a minute, then thoroughly rinse and soak up the hydrogen peroxide and stain with cold water.
Clean Mama brings us some important insights into some precautions when using and storing hydrogen peroxide:
“Hydrogen Peroxide is unstable when it comes in contact with light so you need to keep it in the original brown bottle. If it comes in contact with colored clothing, carpet, towels, etc. it will bleach the fibers. It also has an acidity of 11.75 so DO NOT use it on stone (granite, marble, etc.) as it will etch the surface over time.” – from Clean Mama
Club Soda (with sodium citrate)
Most of us have heard of the club soda trick for spilled wine and other liquids on fabric. Club soda is an excellent stain treatment and can also help loosen dirt and soften water, and for those reasons, is also great in cleaning glass and appliances.
Kendra at Our Homemade Happiness has nothing but good things to say about using club soda as a cleaner, and provides super easy directions:
“Not only does it work, it works quickly and without much effort. Woot woot!”
So grab your club soda and let’s go!
1. Pour club soda on the stain and watch the cool bubbles.
2. Blot with a dry absorbent towel. Don’t rub.
3. With your left-over club soda, try one of these problem-solving uses.
Fighting Chocolate Stains
It happens. Kids happen.
But don’t let the chocolate sit and stain… fight the stains with our chocolate stain cleaning instructions here »
Whether a recent spill or a stubborn stain, this process will fight it in layers, with a second layer in your arsenal for those chocolate carpet spills that simply won’t give up.
It starts with club soda, and it’s all you need if you’re able to act quick.
You won’t be any happier with your kids, but at least you’ll have some relief for your carpet.
Sun – The Universal Cleaner and Disinfectant
The most overlooked cleaner of them all is direct sunlight (careful, sun has a bleaching effect!).
The UV light of the sun is an effective addition to your arsenal when it comes to gentle cleaning, disinfecting, and refreshing. It can help kill germs, reduce musty odors, and refresh rugs that have been in the dark and dank too long.
Heavy-Duty Recipes: Use at Your Own Risk
Here’s more of a nuclear option of natural, homemade cleaners. This one is pretty intense and a bit messy to do.
Like all cleaners, but especially for heavy-duty applications, it’s best to test somewhere for any unexpected effects (particularly discoloration or bleaching).
- Mix equal parts salt, borax, and vinegar to form a paste.
- Rub this mixture into the carpet stain.
- Wait for it to dry (a few hours).
- Vacuum up thoroughly.
Use the other methods above if any part of the stain remains (such as Vinegar methods).
Freshening Things Up: Deoderizing
You battled the stain and won!
But now your carpets could use some freshening up…
We have the perfect DIY carpet freshener for you using one of our natural stain fighting ingredients – baking soda. Combine it with essential oils and you get an additional fresh scent boost.
Carpet Deoderizer Recipe
- 1 DIY Mason Jar Shaker (see the instructions below)
- 1 Cup Baking Soda
- Optional: 20-30 Drops Essential Oils
- Sprinkle over your carpet
- Let it do it’s thing for at least an hour, or overnight
- Vacuum thoroughly
- Enjoy that extra fresh scent
- Wide Mouth Mason Jar
- Sheet of Stiff Paper
- Something to Punch Holes in the Paper
- Take off the ring from the Mason Jar and put aside the lid.
- Cut a circle out of the stiff paper the same size as the top of the mason jar lip. It should fit inside the metal ring when you are done.
- Punch multiple holes through the paper.
- Fill the mason jar with your prepared deoderizer.
- Use the metal ring to secure the paper to the top of the mason jar between the metal ring and the lip of the mason jar.
- You should now be able to use the mason jar to shake out your deoderizer.
Additions: Essential Oils
Whether cleaning or deodorizing, essential oils can add that extra touch and leave a fresh scent behind.
For deodorizing, see our deodorizing guide. For cleaning, adding drops of essential oils directly to the natural cleaner creates a pleasant scent and can help with its antibacterial properties.
One thing you want to be careful with, however, is to avoid letting it touch your skin directly. These are highly concentrated oils that need to be well-diluted.
LavenderCalming as well as antibacterial and antifungal. One of the most common and safest to use.
Lemon or OrangeMood lifting, enhances productivity and positivity.
Tea TreeCalming and antibacterial and antifungal.
EucalyptusEffective as antibacterial agent.
PeppermintEnergizing and uplifting scent.
The Extras: Tools to Use for Your Natural Cleaning Recipes
Mason JarsThese are perfect containers for really any cleaner that isn’t sprayed on, including all of the dry ingredients like salt and baking soda. And you can create an easy to use shaker for dry ingredients and recipes, just check out the Carpet Deodorizer recipe which shows you how to make your own easy-to-make shaker.
White Towels/ClothThese are easily found in kitchen sections of the store, and are essential for making sure you are cleaning without unintentionally adding new stains to your carpet. Simple white kitchen towels or cloths are all you need.
Sprayer BottlesYou can get sprayer bottles in many grocery stores, garden stores, and of course online… or clean and reuse used ones. You can fill them with any of the liquid, spray-on recipes and use them as you need them. Always having a vinegar cleaner on hand is perfect for general purpose cleaning around the house.
Ziplock BagsThese handy zip seal bags can be used to store ingredients and can help shake out dry ingredients as well. If the recipe calls for making a paste, you can use these bags to mix the ingredients… and then just snip off the corner to pipe out the paste exactly where you need it.
You Are Now Ready for Anything
The next time your heart jumps at the sound of “Uh-oh!” or clanging dishes in the middle of a party, or when your youngest clumsily knocks over a plate of spaghetti, you now know what to do.
And when your carpet needs more care than what a little spot-cleaning can do, you have green, non-toxic professionals to help you out.
What’s your favorite cleaning trick?
We’d love to hear, just leave a comment below!