Stain Removal Guide
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Stain Removal Guide

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The holidays are prime time for family, fun, and food. Unfortunately, spills and drips are par for the course. A tablecloth or your clothes can be removed, treated and washed to take care of the stains. But what do you do when it ends up on your carpet, rug or the dining chair? You can't just throw them in the washing machine, unfortunately.

Spills don't need to ruin the party or your carpet. Most common stains can be easily removed on the spot at home with supplies you already own, leaving a full carpet cleaning for a later date. Just as long as you take care of them right away, that is.

Sailing through from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve stain-free is not an easy task, so here is the information to help you along the way:

Holiday Stain Removal Guide

Every stain requires a slightly different approach, but there are similar techniques and some home supplies which are good to keep around at home. For a list of techniques and supplies, scroll down beneath the table. Plus, before you jump ahead and use ammonia or hydrogen peroxide, please read our caution comment carefully!

And now, let's get down to business - how to handle the most common holiday stains:




It's almost a rule that someone will spill their drink at the holiday meal, red wine splashing across the table to drip onto the carpet. Red wine is notorious for hard-to-remove stains, so take care of it right away.

What to use:

Salt, Detergent solution and/or vinegar solution

How to do it:

Blot the stain with an absorbent cloth. Then, using another cloth, apply detergent solution or vinegar solution to stain, and blot again with the absorbent cloth. Since these stains are hard to remove, do not try more aggressive methods yourself, but call a professional. Applying salt to a fresh stain will keep it from setting.


What would turkey and mashed potatoes be without gravy? That is, until it makes a mess on the floor. Because it's thick, you can remove it off the surface of the carpet with a spoon.

What to use:

Tissue, a spoon or a dull knife. Baking soda or corn starch, and detergent solution or dry cleaning solvent for blotting.

How to do it:

1. Scrape off excess gravy with a blunt knife or spoon, wiping it onto a paper towel.

2. Cover the area with baking soda or corn starch and wait 15 minutes before vacuuming. Blot any remaining spot with a cloth moistened with dry cleaning solvent.

3. If the stain does not come out completely, follow up with detergent solution.

Grease, Oil and Butter

The dinner rolls are still warm and fragrant from the oven. You butter it up just as one of the kids hurries by. Why does bread always land butter side down?

What to use:

Baking soda or corn starch, and for deeper cleaning - detergent or vinegar solution.

How to do it:

Apply baking soda or corn starch generously on the stain. Give it 15 minutes to absorb the fat. Vacuum thoroughly. Blot with detergent or vinegar solution to remove any remaining stain or residue.

Ketchup and Mustard

Kids love ketchup and mustard. You don't love it when globs of ketchup get everywhere. Just make sure to clean up with cool water - heat will caramelize the sugar and make a big mess.

What to use:

Detergent / vinegar solution. Ammonia for harder stains

How to do it:

Remove any excess with a spoon or dull knife. Use cloth to apply detergent or vinegar solution, wait 3-5 minutes and blot the liquids with a clean absorbent cloth. The solution must be cool, not warm or hot.

If any stain remains, an ammonia solution may help. If you're not sure what you're doing, call a professional cleaning service.

Pumpkin Pie

What would Thanksgiving be without pumpkin pie? And if anyone is clumsy, with a splotch of orangey-brown decorating the carpet.

What to use:

Tissue, dull knife and detergent solution

How to do it:

Scrape the excess with a dull knife, wiping the knife on a tissue or paper towel. If there is whipped cream or greasy residue, treat as grease. Otherwise detergent solution should do the trick.

Tomato Sauce

Kids and spaghetti sauce. There's a reason why everyone takes a picture of the first time their kid eats spaghetti. Plastic sheeting could help contain the mess, but who wants plastic sheeting with guests around?

What to use:

Detergent first, vinegar later. Ammonia for harder cases.

How to do it:

Scrape up any solid pieces, and then blot to remove the excess. Blot with detergent solution, followed by vinegar solution if required. Use ammonia solution for stubborn, difficult to budge tomato stains.

Kool Aid

Classic red or electric blue - when it's on your carpet, what can you do? If It can be used as hair dye, think about what it can do to your carpet!

What to use:

Cloth, and then - detergent, vinegar, ammonia

How to do it:

Blot with absorbent cloth to remove excess, then use the solutions in escalating order: detergent, vinegar, ammonia. Apply solution with another cloth, and use absorbent cloth to blot the solution. Repeat as necessary.

Sodas and Juices

Everybody needs a thirst quencher during the big holiday meals. Unfortunately, these sweet delights can create stubborn stains.

What to use:

Cloth, detergent, vinegar, worst case - hydrogen peroxide

How to do it:

Blot away excess moisture with absorbent cloth. Use another cloth to apply plain water or detergent or vinegar solution. Blot away with absorbent cloth.

For juice - If the detergent solution doesn't work, moisten with hydrogen peroxide and wait one hour before blotting.

Candy Stains

A sweet tooth is easy to handle. Sugar and candy stains might be a little harder to defeat. Especially if it's colorful and full of dye, like holiday treats.

What to use:

Detergent solution. Afterward hydrogen peroxide.

How to do it:

If it is very sticky or gooey, use an ice cube in a plastic bag to freeze & harden the candy first. Scrape off excess with a dull knife or a spoon. If the carpet is stained, apply detergent

Dirt and Mud

It doesn't take a detective to figure it out. The trail of dirty, muddy, dirty footprints - the kids must have left their boots on again.

What to use:

Detergent Hydrogen peroxide for remainder

How to do it:

If the mud is wet, allow it to dry. Scrape up the excess particles and vacuum. Apply detergent solution and blot with an absorbent cloth. If a mark remains, apply hydrogen peroxide, wait one hour, and then blot again with water.

Stain Removal Suppleis & Techniques


The most common technique for cleaning stains is blotting. If you don't know how to blot, we're here to tell you how. Even if you do know how, you may find our tips useful as well. HOW TO BLOT LIKE A PRO:

  • Press an absorbent cloth or paper towel onto the stain or part of the stain and hold it in place, allowing the cloth to absorb the spill. Lift the cloth and reposition as needed, and replace with a fresh cloth as the cloth in use gets dirty. Continue until you have removed as much extra liquid as possible.
  • Work from the outside of the stain inwards, so that you won't make the stain bigger.
  • Be patient and never rub - it can distort the fibers and spread the stain.
  • Use a clean sponge or absorbent cloth to dab cleaning solution onto the stain. Blot the stain and the solution up with a clean, dry cloth. Repeat until the stain is removed.
  • Apply cool water moderately (or with a cloth) onto the area where the stain used to be and use a fresh cloth to blot away the moisture. This will rinse away the detergent residue to help prevent resoiling (when spills are not cleaned properly, dirt will stick to it, making the stained area even dirtier than before).

Some stains are relatively easy to get out, others seemingly impossible. No matter the stain's source, try to treat it while it's still fresh. Once it sets into the fibers, it will be harder to remove.


Home Supplies

First of all, you'll need a few supplies to give first aid. Depending on the stain type, you may need:

  • Clean sponge or absorbent cloth. Preferably white.
  • baking soda or cornstarch
  • table salt
  • club soda

These are all made to weaken the stains before they settle in the fibers of the carpet.

To handle most stains and remove them completely, you'll need these solutions:

  • Detergent solution: mix 1/4 teaspoon liquid dish soap with 1 cup of lukewarm water.
  • Vinegar solution: mix 2 T white vinegar with 4 cups of warm water.
  • Ammonia* solution: mix 2 Tablespoons ammonia with 4 cups of warm water.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: pretty strong chemical compound, so use moderately.
  • Dry Cleaning solvent: buy it at the store and use as replacement for any of the above or as a follow up treatment.

* Don't ever use ammonia on a wool carpet or rug - it will destroy the fibers. Ammonia has strong fumes and should only be used in a well-ventilated area. *



Both ammonia and hydrogen peroxide can cause serious damage to fabrics and carpet fibers. Be careful to avoid extended contact with your skin. Ammonia also has strong fumes and can be hazardous to use indoors. If you decide to use them, please read the safety instructions carefully. Furthermore, make sure to test their effect on the fabric or carpet you mean to clean in a hidden place, so you'll know how the fabric or carpet will respond to these active solutions. You don't want to replace a stain with a bleach stain, do you?


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