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Pristine Cleaning Gal

6 of the Worst Stain-Causing Spills on Carpet and How to Prevent them
6 of the Worst Stain-Causing Spills on Carpet and How to Prevent them

Everyone occasionally has something nasty that gets spilled on the carpet. However, not all spills are equal. Some spills require a special set of instructions, or the spill will become a set-in stain. The following list of five of the worst spills also contains instructions on how to remove them, and avoid permanently giving the fabric a new tint.

Important Rules Before You Begin

  • Always use white distilled vinegar where vinegar is mentioned. Colored vinegar will stain.
  • Any towels used should be either white, or one that you are 100% positive will not bleed color.
  • If working with Borax it will dry out your skin. We recommend using gloves to protect your skin.
  • Avoid store-bought carpet cleaning products. Most carpet cleaning products sold in grocery stores can set stains or leave a residue behind that will attract soil. They also remove protective coatings designed to protect the carpet from spills and wear and tear.
  • Avoid scrubbing the spots. Scrubbing will actually push the spill deeper into the carpet fibers, can fray the fibers, and potentially cause a stain to set.

Potting Soil

One of the worst spills for setting stains, potting soil can cause a lot of damage. Most people don’t even think about how to clean up the mess because it seems obvious, but the wrong first move can give the carpet an unpleasant new look that will last a lifetime. Do not pull out the steam cleaner or the standard upright vacuum to try and tackle the spot. You need to avoid getting the carpet wet and smearing the dirt across the problem area. First, if you have a shop vac now is the time to use it. Don’t use any attachments just use the hose, and slowly go over the area picking up the soil. Do not brush the hose back and forth. Just set the hose down directly over the spot, then lift and move to the next. If you don’t have a shop vac you can use a hose vacuum, just keep in mind it may not have the amount of suction power needed.

After removing the majority of the dirt, block off the area so no one can walk on it. One of the problems with potting soil is that it is designed to lock in moisture and is often wet when it is spilled. You need to give the soil a chance to dry before taking the next step, and it is important that no one walks on or disturbs the area until it is dry. Once dry use a regular vacuum to go over the area. If you still notice a darkening from the soil make up a small mixture of Borax and water. Do not add any other detergent to the mixture. Get a good foam going, and apply the foam only, gently with a sponge. Do not scrub. Let it sit for a few minutes and then use a white terrycloth towel to blot up the moisture. Feel free to press down to absorb the moisture. Lastly, do a rinse with just water to ensure that you get any residue from the Borax out of the carpet.

Red Wine

Wine spills are actually pretty easy to remove if treated quickly. First, take a towel or paper towel and blot up the wine, making sure not to scrub the carpet. A shop vac will also work. Once the excess moisture is removed you have three options. Any of these products will work to get the color up and out of the carpet; white distilled vinegar & water mixed half and half, white wine, or plain seltzer water, like Perrier. Pour one of these items over the spot and let it sit for 2 minutes. Then take a clean towel and blot the spot up. Again avoid scrubbing. Repeat the steps until the color is no longer transferring to the towel. Lastly, pour a good amount of cornstarch over the spot and allow it to dry. This will absorb any of the remaining moisture, and pull it out of the carpet. Once dry break it up and vacuum.

Kool-aid & Fruit Juice

Much like with wine, fruit juices can be removed the same way. The only difference here is that you will not use white wine to attempt to remove the color. Stick to white vinegar or soda water, and follow the same steps listed above for removing red wine.


If you spill candle wax on the rug don’t panic, and don’t try to clean it up immediately. Let it cool and harden, or you will just create a bigger mess. Once it has cooled, grab a towel you don’t mind destroying and get it wet. More than damp, wet. You can wring it out. Grab and iron, and set it to cotton. Place the towel over the wax and start ironing over the wax with the towel in between. Keep the iron moving so that you do not scorch the carpet. Depending on the size of the wax spill you may need to a clean portion of the towel periodically. Once all of the wax has transferred to the towel fluff the carpet back up with your fingers or a Tampico brush. Check out this how-to video where we model the process.
How to Remove Wax from Carpet

A couple of important points with this, do not use a colored towel unless you are 100% positive it will not bleed color onto the carpet. That won’t come out because it’s a fabric dye. Second, colors in wax may still remain after the wax is removed especially if the wax has been there a long time.

Urine, Vomit & Diarrhea

Urine, vomit, and diarrhea are probably one of the most irritating of the spots because they don’t just look unsightly, they also smell horrible. To clean urine up, mix a batch of half and half water, and white distilled vinegar. If you have a shop-vac suction up as much moisture, and/or all the chunks as possible. If you don’t have a shop vac, use paper towels to pick up as many of the chunks as possible. It is important that you do not scrub. Blot up any excess moisture after removing any solids. next, pour the white vinegar and water mix over the spot. You actually want it to be about the equivalent amount of yuck that was in the carpet. Let it sit for a few minutes, then shop-vac/blot again. Repeat as needed until you are no longer getting urine/or color out of the carpet.

For odor removal associated with pet urine, we recommend Anti-Icky-Poo. It is a fantastic product that works really well to remove urine odors.

Coffee, Coffee Grounds, and Tea

Coffee and tea can be difficult stains to prevent. Since both items are typically hot they often can be set immediately. The hot liquid sets colors into fabric. If creamer has been added to the drink it can add an entirely new set of problems when cleaning up the spots. We recommend using mugs with lids to help reduce the likelihood of large spills. However, if your drink does happen to tip onto the rug fast action is going to be necessary. First, sop up as much of the moisture as possible with a paper towel or a towel. Then, pour an equal cup of cold water over the spill. This is especially important if the coffee or tea contained milk or creamer. Sop it up again or use a shop vac to suction as much moisture out as possible. Next, make a mix of half-white distilled vinegar and half water and repeat the last step. Continue the vinegar and water step until you are no longer pulling the color out of the carpet.

The key to removing coffee grounds is to get the grounds up off the carpet without smearing them. Use the shop vac method to suction up each individual section picking up the hose, and putting it back down to get to the next section. Do not use attachments or go back and forth. Once you’ve removed the grounds, use a towel to sop up any excess liquids. Next, make a mix of half white distilled vinegar, and half water and repeat the last step. Continue the vinegar and water step until you are no longer pulling the color out of the carpet. Patience is required, and skipping steps can lead to permanent damage.

Recommended Products:

Quickly find the products mentioned in this article by following the links below. As Amazon affiliates, we do receive proceeds from any goods you purchase using these links.


Tampico Brush

Shop Vac


Additional Articles that May be Helpful

I Shampooed My Carpet and Now it Smells Like Urine

The Ultimate Guide to Vacuuming

4 Cleaning Products to Avoid

Professional Cleaning

Even with these tips, it is possible that you may need a professional to help you. If you would like to schedule a cleaning we are here to help.