How to clean spillages and stains on your carpet

It can happen anytime – an accidental spillage or a nasty mark suddenly appears on your pristine carpet. But don’t panic. Staining can usually be avoided or removed.

Be quick, but careful

Deal with spillages and marks quickly. The longer stains are left untreated, the harder they are to remove. But first, a word of warning: Don’t rub or over-wet your carpet. The risk of damaging your carpet will also be reduced if you know the type of fibre and pile, so you can choose the most appropriate remedy. And follow the instructions from the manufacturer or cleaning product label.


Soak up as much as possible of a liquid spillage with tissue, a sponge or clean cloth. White is best as colour dye could be transferred to the carpet. Use a blotting action rather than rubbing as this may roughen the texture of the pile or cause it to untwist. Always work in from the outer edge of the spill to avoid spreading the stain.


In the case of solids and viscous substances, use a blunt knife or edge of a spoon to scrape up as much as possible before tackling the underlying stain.

General guidance

As already mentioned, the best stain removal method depends on the offending substance and the type of carpet. But here is some general guidance: The two main methods of spot cleaning stains involve using a carpet shampoo or powder. There are many brands of carpet shampoo, so check the guidance on the label to ensure it’s suitable for your carpet. Some products, for example, are certified as WoolSafe. When in any doubt, it’s always advisable to test a small, discreet area before tackling the stain.

Using detergent

Whatever the solution, try using just enough to dampen the stain. So apply it to a cloth rather than directly to the carpet. Always blot the carpet after cleaning. And after it’s dry, vacuum to remove any residue. For stains caused by alcohol, tea and coffee, try adding a teaspoon of vinegar to the detergent solution. Grease and oil are best treated with an oil/grease remover that is sprayed onto an absorbent cloth, for repeated blotting. Bleach-based cleaning solutions can be used on polypropylene carpets, but not others.

Powder cleaners

Powder can also be very effective, whether it’s a powdered carpet cleaner or the more traditional baking soda remedy. Sprinkle the powder liberally over the stained area, and leave for at least 30 minutes. Even better, let it work overnight, so it softens and absorbs the source of the staining. Then simply vacuum up the powder.

Professional advice

If you’re unsure what to do, or your initial attempt is unsuccessful, seek professional advice. A reputable carpet cleaning company should know the most reliable spot cleaning products and techniques for your carpet. They will also be able to advise you about deep cleaning of older carpets where it’s better to treat the entire room.