How to Remove Old Stains From Carpeting: Methods That Work

Updated October 20, 2021
woman with cleaning agent and brush clean carpet

You moved your couch, and now you have a mystery stain on your carpet. While that can be downright annoying, you have methods to remove it. From using dish detergent to trying a bit of hydrogen peroxide, get quick options to remove old stains from carpets. All you must do is decide which one works best for you.

Homemade Solvents to Clean Carpet Stains

When it comes to how to get old stains out of carpet, one of the best ways is to create a homemade solvent. Why? Because you typically don't know what the stain is, so this method works on most of them. To get cleaning that random stain, you need:

  • Dishwashing detergent (blue Dawn highly recommended)
  • Ammonia
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Shop vac, steam vac, or cloth

Cleaning Method With Dish Soap

Sponge and dish soap

Now that you know what you're going to be using, it's time to get down on the floor and clean.

  1. Mix ¼ tsp of liquid dishwashing soap with 1 cup warm water.
  2. Do not use detergents that have bleach in them.
  3. Spray the soap solution on the stain.
  4. Extract the stain using your steam vac or shop vac, towels, or any piece of cloth.
  5. Rinse the stain with warm water and repeat the process until the stain is removed.
  6. This works exceptionally well with old pet stains.

Steps for Cleaning With Ammonia

If the dish soap method isn't working, you can break out the ammonia.

  1. Combine a cup of water and 2 tablespoons of ammonia in a spray bottle
  2. Apply it to the stain.
  3. Extract the solution.
  4. Repeat as needed.

Alternatively, you can try mixing a cup of white vinegar with 2 cups of water and applying using the same procedure.

Clean Old Stains on Light Carpets With Peroxide

Spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide on beige carpet

If you have light carpets plagued by old mystery stains, you can try using a bit of hydrogen peroxide to remedy the situation. For the hydrogen peroxide method, you need:

How to Clean Old Stains With Peroxide

Remember to test the peroxide on an inconspicuous area of the carpet. Hydrogen peroxide does have bleaching properties, so it could cause a light spot if not tested. Now that you know it's not going to harm your living room, it's time to get to work.

  1. Vacuum up the stain to be sure any particles are gone.
  2. Place the hydrogen peroxide on a spray bottle.
  3. Spray it on the old stain.
  4. Saturate the stain if you must loosen up the stain's particles.
  5. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Use a stiff brush to work on the stain to help it loosen up some more.
  7. Then use a steam vac to suck up the peroxide mixture from the carpet.
  8. You may also use towels and cloths to absorb the peroxide.
  9. Enjoy your stain-free sparkling carpet once more.

Try Vinegar and Baking Soda for Random Old Stains

White vinegar in spray bottle and baking soda in glass jar

Not having luck with your random stain? Don't worry. Run to the kitchen and grab:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Dawn dish soap
  • Spray bottle
  • Vacuum cleaner

Step-by-Step Cleaning Instructions

When it comes to an easy stain fighter for carpets, this is one of the easier ones. The hardest part is the wait.

  1. Vacuum the stain.
  2. Sprinkle the area with baking soda.
  3. Create a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and water in the spray bottle.
  4. Add a drop of Dawn for extra stain-fighting action.
  5. Spray the mixture directly on the baking soda.
  6. Watch it foam in satisfaction.
  7. Let the mixture sit until the baking soda dries and hardens. This takes a few hours.
  8. Suck it up with the vacuum.

Clear Out Carpet Stains With Club Soda

Club Soda on green background

Club soda is another popular cleaning agent. While best used on fresh stains, it can also effectively eliminate set-in dirt and even remove dried blood stains. For the club soda old stain remover, reach for:

  • Club soda
  • Salt
  • Cloth
  • Scrub brush
  • Vacuum

Instructions for Using Club Soda

The time has come to vanish that irritating stain with a few simple steps.

  1. Simply spray club soda on the stain and leave it for a few minutes.
  2. Work it with a brush.
  3. Use a cloth to blot up the stain and soda.
  4. Sprinkle salt to help draw up the stain and club soda.
  5. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Vacuum up the salt.

White Wine for Old Red Wine Stains

Red Wine Stains

Did you have a spill of red wine you didn't notice? Not to worry, it happens to the best of us. To clean it, just grab these ingredients.

  • White wine
  • Cloth
  • Steam vac

Simple Red Wine Cleaning Instructions

One of the most common types of set or old stains comes from red wine spills. A common trick to remove red wine stain is, believe it or not, applying white wine. Who knew? Just remember, this needs to be the first method you try.

  1. Apply a bit of white wine to the red wine stain.
  2. The white wine will recreate the initial occurrence of the stain, making the red stain easier to remove.
  3. Extract the wine with a cloth.
  4. Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone.
  5. Rinse the area with water or use a steam vac.
  6. Allow the area to completely dry.

Remove Old Stains From Carpet With Borax

Borax powder

If you are a DIY savvy cleaner, you've probably used borax in the wash. Well, it can go further than that. You can use it on your carpet too. All you need is:

  • Ice water
  • Borax
  • Cloth
  • Vacuum

Borax Cleaning Instructions

Brightening up those boring stains with a bit of borax is simple.

  1. Vacuum up the stain to get rid of loose particles.
  2. Wet the stain with ice water.
  3. Add borax to the stain.
  4. Allow it to dry completely.
  5. Vacuum up the borax.
  6. Repeat as needed.

Tips for Removing Old Stains

When cleaning new or old stains, work from the outside of the stain towards its center. This prevents you from spreading the stain and doing more damage to the carpet. The process should involve applying the solvent, blotting it with a cloth, rinsing, extracting the solvent, and repeating the procedure until the stain is completely removed. Ensure you do not leave any solvent residue behind, and let the carpet dry as soon as you are done cleaning. If the stain has reached deeper into the carpet, dry it quickly with a fan to prevent any leftover stain from working its way up to the carpet's surface.

Assessing Your Stain

Not all old stains on carpet are created equal. While water-soluble stains (blood, wine, food, urine, etc.) are pretty easy to remove using any of the methods, non-water-soluble stains (oil stains) are not. Oil stains are not going to be as easy to lift, but you may have some success. If a stubborn stain does not budge, you could always hire a professional carpet cleaning service, especially those with hot water extraction systems, to help you.

Getting Your Carpet Clean

Mystery stains can be a pain. But they don't' have to ruin your rooms feng shui. Just grab your preferred cleaner and get scrubbing. It's as simple as that. And if all else fails, give your whole carpet a little TLC.

How to Remove Old Stains From Carpeting: Methods That Work