Tackle stubborn carpet stains with this non-toxic homemade carpet cleaner solution for your machine, and make a simple spray for spot cleaning tough stains!
You know what I hate?
I mean, don’t get me wrong; I love how it feels and looks, but I just hate – HATE – how hard it is to keep clean!
We’ve all been there.
Food spills? Potty-training accidents? Those weird, mysterious spots that seem to show up out of the blue without any explanation?
That’s your constant reminder that yes, life can get pretty messy, and no, carpets aren’t helping.
But here’s the thing…
Caring for your carpets doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence. It doesn’t have to rule your life. And you definitely don’t have to call in the professionals at the first sign of a stain or spill.
You just need a few tricks up your sleeve so you can tackle issues as they arise, and not when they become mysterious spots somewhere down the road. (But don’t worry, I can help with those too!)
But first, a little preventive care…
Caring For Your Carpets
Rule #1: Prevention is key!
The best offense is a good defense, and that definitely applies to keeping your beautiful carpets clean and looking new. You can clean your carpets until you’re blue in the face, but unless you’re properly caring for them in the first place, all your efforts will be for nothing.
So what can you do to make sure your carpets stay clean for as long as possible?
Take off your shoes!
Seriously. If you’re still wearing shoes in the house, you’re tracking in all kinds of dirt, grime, and bacteria from every single place those shoes have carried you (think: public restrooms!).
Have a strict “no shoes inside” policy in the house, or keep some sturdy door mats near every entrance to catch most of the dirt. And if you absolutely must wear something on your feet, keep a pair of slippers or indoor only shoes by the door to slip into when you get home.
Especially for high traffic areas. Vacuum in every single direction, and do a few extra passes over each area. Make sure you also have the vacuum set to the right carpet height to get deep into the fibers.
For odor fighting, try sprinkling some carpet freshener and letting it sit for about 10 minutes before vacuuming it up.
Clean up spills and accidents as quickly as possible, before they have time to set in. Can’t stress this one enough! Check my post on carpet stain removers for tackling fresh stains as they happen.
Do regular deep cleanings
Rent one of those carpet cleaning machines (from a hardware or pet store) and do a good, deep cleaning every 6-12 months. These machines are awesome; they use high pressure water jets to inject the cleaning solution deep into the carpet, and then the machine sucks up the solution along with any dirt or debris that it loosened from the carpet fibers.
Do you have untreated wool carpets?
First off, you rock for making the ultimate investment in a truly non-toxic solution for carpets and area rugs! But wool can be finicky and needs special treatment. So check out this really helpful post that breaks down the do’s and don’t’s of cleaning and caring for wool carpet and rugs.
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- FREE Cleaning Product Labels: Beautifully designed labels to print and label your homemade products.
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Homemade Carpet Cleaner Solution (for machines)
You can skip the fancy cleaning solution with questionable ingredients (which can cost as much as the rental!) and make a simple, homemade carpet cleaner solution like this one:
- equal parts warm water and white vinegar
- several drops of dish soap
- 6-7 drops of essential oils (lavender, lemon, or orange work best!)
- TIP: For an extra boost, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet, wait 10 minutes, then vacuum before using the machine.
Or Try This Simple Alternative:
Another, even simpler homemade carpet cleaner to try in your machine is this one from LisaBronner.com which uses just 2 ingredients: water and Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds! I haven’t had a chance to try this one yet, but I’m definitely using it for my next deep cleaning!
NOTE: Use a homemade carpet cleaner solution at your own risk. Technically, you’re only supposed to use the recommended solution that’s made for the machine.
Spot Cleaning Your Carpets
Alright, now that we’ve got prevention and maintenance figured out, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get down on the floor to tackle those stubborn stains!
The following cleaning solutions are a good place to start for those unknown, year-old stains that decided to randomly show up in your living room one day.
For specific stains, like urine, blood, or coffee, check out my carpet stain remover guide.
Before you treat a stain, remember:
- Act quickly!
- Scoop up solids, and vacuum any dry particles.
- Test the solution on a hidden spot of carpet to make sure it doesn’t damage or discolor the carpet.
- Blot or dab, and try not to rub as it could push the stain deeper into the carpet.
*If it’s a really old set-in stain, then rubbing might actually be helpful in loosening the stain from the carpet fibers. Just be gentle, and use something soft like an old toothbrush or a soft sponge.
- Start blotting from the outside of the stain, and work your way in. If you start from the inside, you might end up spreading the stain instead.
Homemade Carpet Cleaner Spray
For most stains, you can mix up the solution below and watch it do it’s magic right before your eyes. This homemade carpet cleaner costs literally pennies to make, and it’s pretty darn effective (though you might need a little elbow grease to get the job done).
The photos below show what this simple cleaner did to some unknown stains on the stairs in our home. They were here when we moved in, and I’m not sure how long they’ve been there, but this homemade carpet cleaner spray got it right out!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons clear dish soap (make sure it’s clear and has NO bleach!)
- baking soda (bicarbonate)
- clean, absorbent towels/cloths (at least 2)
Here’s what to do:
- Mix the water, vinegar, and dish soap in a spray bottle and shake well.
- Sprinkle a layer of baking soda on the stain.
- Spray the cleaning solution to saturate the baking soda, and let it fizz and bubble.
- Once the fizzing has stopped, you can start blotting the stain with the towel to soak up the solution. Here’s where you might need to gently rub the spot to loosen up the stain.
- Once you’re done, rinse the area (by pouring or sponging some cold water on the spot) and then blot with a clean towel.
- Continue to rinse the area until no more solution or stain comes up on the towel.
*This last step is very important – if you don’t remove all the solution from the carpet, the soap in the solution will leave a residue and attract more dirt over time.
- To dry the area, just lay a thick towel over the spot, and weigh it down with something heavy, like a pile of books.
For Really Tough or Old, Set-in Stains:
If you’ve tried the above method without luck, you can try this nifty little trick I learned from creeklinehouse.com:
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- few drops of clear dish soap
- light-colored wash cloths
- an iron with steam setting
Here’s what to do:
- Add the water, vinegar, and dish soap to a small bowl and stir to combine.
- Soak the wash cloth in the solution, wring it out, and place it over the stain.
- Run your warm iron over the wash cloth for a few seconds to steam the stain.
- Lift the cloth, and you should see the stain starting to transfer to the cloth.
- Keep placing a clean part of the cloth over the stain and steaming it until it’s all removed from the carpet. This step might take a while, depending on how dark/old the stain is.
- When you’re done, dry the area by laying down some dry towels and pressing firmly (or stepping) on them.
What About Specific (Non-Mysterious) Stains?
If you know exactly what stain you’re working with, check out my carpet stain remover guide for tips on treating things like urine, blood, juice, and more.
So there you have it.
Life can get pretty messy sometimes, but maybe – just maybe! – it’s not the carpet’s fault. 😉
Do you still have carpet in your house? What do you love (or hate) about it?
Cover Photo courtesy: Laura D’Allessandro
This is such a neat and effective solution, that we use in our business as well. So I can vouch for it from a commercial point of view. Glad to see this is shared to the public. We also find a pet-friendly alternative is a blend of castile soap, white distilled vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and a touch of lemon/sweet orange essential oils. Love the blog, keep up the great work!
Thank You so Much for this! I am making it now!Thanks for sharing this blog.
You’re very welcome, Stanley!
Love the natural cleaning solutions! I also suggest investing in a vacuum with HEPA filter to get rid of unseen allergens and bacteria in carpets.
Absolutely, good point!
Very impressed with your simple carpet cleaner solution. Amazing what white vinegar can do with a little dish soap. We have actually had great success cleaning other areas in the home with a similar concoction. It does wonders on dirty sinks and bathrooms too!
I definitely appreciate your tips for keeping my carpet clean. My carpet was stained recently by my son, and as you said, it’s important to act quickly to remove spills before they set. I may have to get a professional cleaner to remove the current stain, but I’ll be sure to take your advice and be more preventative in the future.
Carol A Elgie
Now I finally have a use for my old steam iron. Thx for the tip and carpet cleaning recipes/formulas!
Spot cleaning from time to time isn’t too bad, but it definitely helps to have a professional service you can call for emergencies or serious stains. There’s just something really nice about being able to leave your home and come back to see that a miracle has been worked on your carpet. Thanks for sharing!
I am a convert! I each recipe, and tips! I try do exactly what is promised. And I am spreading the word to family and friends!!!
That’s awesome, Lynn! Woohoo!!
This article came at the perfect time. My husband left a glass of tomato juice on the couch and went to the kitchen. He came back to the couch, plonked himself on it and catapulted the entire glass into the air before dumping it’s content onto my light blue carpet 🙁
Gonna test this out and the ingredients are easy to find a home. Thanks for the article 🙂
p.s. Guess who’s going to do the cleaning lol
Oh no, Tracy! I don’t know what I would’ve done if my husband did that lol. I really hope this works for you, and your light blue carpet is good as new. 🙂
Thanks for sharing the post.
Thank you Sarah for share a lot of information about Cleaning.
I am really happy to know that Homemade cleaning method. Hot water spray and soft wiper is also used for cleaning.
James @ end of lease cleaning sydney
Sarah, thanks for the tips, i was really looking out for some of the home made cleaning solutions to try it out in my next carpet cleaning. I believe the home made solutions mentioned in this article will work out. So, i will be applying this for my next cleaning. Thanks!
That sounds easy to make carpet cleaner. Didn’t know it can be so simple to make such effective carpet cleaning solution and that also with commonly available stuffs. Thank you for sharing such simple technique and tips on cleaning and saving carpets.
Another great read thanks to you Sarah! I am always amazed at how you are able to write and make your readers feel that they are just talking to a friend. Keep writing please!
Thank you for these great carpet cleaning tips!! I will be trying them next stain I have!
You’re welcome, Margaret!
I won’t use Sal Suds, and everyone seems so enamoured of it, because of some of its ingredients are not healthy for people or for the planet. The following is from EWG, a known source for toxic ingredient guide:
SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE
Some Concern: chronic aquatic toxicity, general systemic/organ effects, acute aquatic toxicity
Some Concern: chronic aquatic toxicity, acute aquatic toxicity, general systemic/organ effects
Other than recommending that product, this is a great post. Thank you.
Thanks for your comment, Carol. I personally am ok with using sodium lauryl sulfate in some cleaning situations. It’s a very effective detergent, and ranks much lower on the toxicity scale, as compared to other detergents. I won’t, however, use it on my skin or hair, as it can be very drying and cause allergy flare ups.
We only have loose wool carpets, yup those that smell like wet sheep when wet, but I love them. You hang them over the trellis, wash( same solution as yours + bergamot), rinse and dry. All using a hose pipe attachment. When dry they are packed away with bergamot and lavender sachets (keeps away moths etc). I love the ease of care, and I wash my big Persian carpets the same way.
Ooh, thanks for sharing, Jayn!
Thank you for sharing you passionate goal . I will definitively try this soon.
We use a product called “bac-out” from biokleen on pet stains and it works wonders!
I’ve heard of this, but haven’t tried it. Thanks for the rec!