How to Clean Stubborn Carpet Stains with an Iron and Vinegar

Another Pinterest win! I’m always out to debunk supposedly easy pinterest tips, and I’m pleased as punch when one turns out to work as simply as they said! Here’s a REALLY easy way to get stains out of your carpet. This works for organic stains like dirt and food. Be careful if you’re trying this with dyes or ink as the vinegar can make things worse. For stains you’re unsure about it is always best to call in a professional. (Or pretend you are one if you’re like me).

I have no idea where these stains come from, seriously. My husband must be sloshing drinks out of his glass or something because I have no messy kids and hardly any guests. I tried scrubbing and using Resolve carpet cleaner but neither worked. But this handy little tip worked like a charm.


All you need is White Vinegar, Water, a Spray Bottle, A Rag, and an Iron.


Spray the spot with a solution of 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water.

Lay a damp rag over the spot.

Iron on the steam setting for about 30 seconds. If the stain is really stubborn, repeat the steps, but try it, chances are it will work!

155 thoughts on “How to Clean Stubborn Carpet Stains with an Iron and Vinegar

    1. 1womansjunk

      Be ultra careful with an iron on the carpet. You may end up with a lovely lot of burnt fibers like I did when I ironed on a towel on the carpet. The nylon fibers will burn to a crisp. Not sure about others.

      1. Cynthia Yonkman

        I used a thick damp towel but at one point didn’t have the iron on the towel completely 😦 and read your comment too late…otherwise it worked great!

    2. Andrea Andrews

      Be very, very careful when using an iron on your carpet because MOST carpets are not natural fibers and they will melt. If you’d like to try something that won’t melt your carpet, but will remove the satin, read on. I can’t remember where I read this, but I remember hearing that a foam type of shaving cream can be used to remove carpet stains. I tried this at my mothers’ house in a high traffic area and the results were fantastic. We did small sections at a time so the foam didn’t have a chance to dry. We sprayed the foam directly onto the carpet and waited for it to expand (as foam will) we then worked it into the stain with a clean, damp, terrycloth facecloth till the foam was completely gone, as was the stain. Once the stain was gone we wiped the area down with a second warm, slightly damp facecloth and finished up by stamping down on a clean dry towel, over the entire surface, to remove as much moisture as possible. On the more persistent stains, we applied the foam and went through the entire process twice. I hope this works as good for you as it did for us.

    1. Homemaker Chic Post author

      A carpet professional did let me know to be careful about what sort of stains you try this on, bc the vinegar will actually set certain dyes. I would say it works best on food spills, dirt and drinks. He also said that really cheap carpet might burn or melt, so I would try a test spot in a corner first.

      1. Tricia

        I just tried it. It looks great so far but it freaked me out cause my carpet was steaming afterwards. Is that suppose to happen? I was sure I set it on fire for a few minutes there. I had it on for five seconds at most, maybe the iron steam setting was too high?

  1. Ridha

    This is very clever. My daughter always “spread” the food on the carpet most of the time. So, will definitely try this!

  2. Forgetful Mom

    Tonight once the kids are in bed I am trying this! We just moved into a (rental) house and the carpet is so stained! I had seen this idea with ammonia but it isn’t something I usually have. Hope it works on our carpets.

    1. Homemaker Chic Post author

      As long as you use a cloth under the iron, and don’t hold it in one spot for too long (not more than 30 seconds at a time) it shouldn’t be a problem. I have cheap apartment carpeting and it worked like a charm! Maybe try a spot in the corner?

      1. Nell Irvin

        OK, now I feel a little more at ease. Reading all the posts before your Sept. 3, 2012 made me really afraid to try this on my apartment carpet. But now I’ll try it… hopefully it works!

    2. Lori Ross

      I have light beige carpet and oxi clean made a brown spot darker, probably coffee or chocolate so be careful with the peroxide.

  3. theessentialgarden

    Fortuitous post. I’m not kidding when I say I was just scrubbing a few stains (made in retaliation for my departure by my dear poodles, Biscuti and Mocha) in my in rug. I’ll let them dry and give this a shot. Thanks mucho.

  4. anyone4curryandotherthings

    thanks for looking into my Site ‘Homemaker Chic’. Your tip for cleaning carpet is good, but sadly not for me. We went abroad, terrace drain got clogged, heavy monsoon, big big flood inside and a number of my turkish rugs are completely dirtied. No prof. cleaner in town – so, will have to go on my hands and knees. Wish me luck.

    1. Jennifer

      Do you think this will work on the drips of paint that mysteriously found their way onto my carpet after repainting my office? If not, do you have any ideas? Thanks!

      1. Linda

        Try your medicinal 70% Isopropyl Alcohol. Works on my dried paint brushes that I tole paint with. Especially after a little soaking

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    1. Homemaker Chic Post author

      In my experience the vinegar is mild enough that it did not affect the color of my carpet. But I’m really not sure if it will affect yours without seeing it. My recommendation would be to try a test spot in a hidden area first. If you’re worried about it I’d call a professional carpet cleaner.

        1. Debbie

          Do I need pro for wine and coffee? I can’t find anything to get them up, although I’ve used 409 and Orange-Glo stain remover successfully in the past. HELP! And thank you…………….

          1. Kris

            I know this is late news but for future accidents you’ll have the info… Red wine was spilled on our white carpet and someone told me to pour salt (a lot of it!) onto the wet spot. Give it a day to soak up the wine and then vacuum up the salt. It got rid of all of the color! There was absolutely no stain!

          2. Susan

            there is a product called red out. you can sometimes find it at hardware stores that have cleaning products…. same principle as using an iron with vinegar. Its magic.

            1. Leslie Johnson

              I don’t know about you, but I rarely get a stain in the corner of my rooms. How can you test for colorfastness, etc?

            2. Homemaker Chic Post author

              You don’t have to test it on an actual stain in the corner. Just on the carpet in the corner to make sure it doesn’t have any odd effects on your carpet. Then once you see that it’s fine you can move to stains in the prominent places of your carpet.

      1. Steph Boccoli

        I have a sample piece of my carpet which i got when i ordered the carpet as my other half wasn’t with me when i bought the carpet and i also wanted the sample to use to match things in the room. I will try this carpet sample out with the solution and the iron and see if its ok to use on my actual carpet.

        wish me luck guys! Oh and buy the way the stain that i wanna use this method on ive already used a stain remover and it made the mark whiter on my cream carpet – will this still be ok to use this method?

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  12. Nicole

    This worked amazingly! My dog left stains all over my floor that have been impossible to clean and this actually did it! Thank you!

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  14. Nisha

    Dang! Had I known this super simple and easy trick before, I could have saved some fee we had to pay in our previous apartment for so many stains on the carpet :-/
    Definitely not going to let that happen in this newer apartment!

  15. Keisha

    Tried it tonight on a set in mustard stain! It definitely dulled it so that it is barely noticeable, but I am paranoid and swear I can still see it a little! I’m going to let it dry and maybe try again, but it is barely noticeable… Of course, when I said to my husband “Hey look, that set in mustard stain is almost gone!”, he said “What set in mustard stain?”… So I’ll take that as a sign that no one sees it but me!

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    1. Minnie

      It may work for some things – but not for coffee, which is what I needed it for. In fact I can’t find anything at all to get the coffee stain out and I’ve tried just about anything.

      1. mcchristi

        I live in a rental with very very light carpet with mystery stains. Pour cheap vodka directly on the stain, wait a few minutes, and blot with damp white rag. It was like magic! Also works on coffee. The cheap ones in the plastic bottles work the best

          1. SB

            Once it’s dry, there is no alcohol smell at all! It’s great for removing odors from any fabrics…expensive dresses that you can’t easily dry clean, pet odors in carpeting, etc.

  18. T.Allen

    White vinegar, water, a spray bottle, a cloth and an iron seems to be the perfect combo to eliminate food spills – I tried it myself on a tomato ketchup stain and it worked wonders! For more intense stains such as paint – it’s recommended that you approach a professional carpet cleaning company, such as – great article, thanks for your help!

  19. Jane.Q.Public

    Question, “did your iron get ruined from the use of vinegar?” I saw in another post to use an old iron. Just curious. Thanks in advance for your response.

  20. FrustratedDoxieOwner

    Any ideas on how to get dog pee stains out of dark green carpet? I mention the carpet color because most tips are for white or lighter colored carpets and my family’s house is carpeted in dark hunter green.
    We have two dachshunds; one peed on the floor from seperation anxiety, and then of course the other had to re-“mark” all the spots the first one did. So…we have a room full of pee stained carpet. The urine seems to slightly bleach the carpet, so basically the stains are visable because they are lighter than the rest of the carpet. Also, any ideas on how to get rid of the urine smell…it causes the room to have a dog pee aroma thats just really quite gross. My mother has resigned the carpets as ruined. I’d like to find a way to clean the doxie pee stains so our carpet can get back to its former hunter green glory.

      1. frustrated dachshund owner

        We would, but the whole house except for two rooms are carpeted with it! It would cost a few thousand dollars to tear it all out, plus another fee thousand to replace it with wood or something non porous. We just don’t have the money. We bought a carpet cleaner and have run it over it about twenty times. Still crap. It makes me feel awful because there where only a few stains with our first dog, Marshall, but after getting my little guy, Charlie, who’s my therapy dog, he remarked all the places Marshall did, and added quite a few more! So its like its my fault. 😥 I can’t help that he gets scared when I leave. We keep them together in our laundry room now when we leave because it has a cement floor, and since they’re together, they aren’t scared so they just cuddle up together on their bed and sleep. They’re the best of friends.
        I just wish I could fix my mom’s carpets for her, I feel so bad the my dog ruined her carpets.

        1. Joan Thompson

          I think you should give the vinegar a try. I had a similar issue with the dogs remarking the spots because they can still smell it. Vinegar and water REALLY helped neutralize any odor and got the spots out too. If you have a lot of spots, I’d start by using the steam cleaner in rinse mode and just soak the areas and suck up the water. You will get a lot of the pee out this way. If really bad you may need to do this more than once. When the water you are sucking up is no longer yellow, then put the vinegar and water on the spots and let it soak in to the padding. It helps to work it in with something, even your hands if you dare. Once again use the steamer to suck up all the water it can. You don’t even really have to rinse again unless you’ve used some sort of cleaner as well. It’s always important to be sure all the cleaner is rinsed out of your carpet. That stuff is one of the things that attracts dirt and holds onto it.
          Hope this helps

          1. beatrice

            if you are looking for a way to get rid of odors…hands down, lemon, lime or orange essential oil are your answer. any citrus essential oil neutralizes odors and eliminates them!! I had a friend who used it on the carpet in her car that had spilled formula…we know how bad that smells. make sure to dilute with water always. i use an old spray bottle and add thirty drops. i add the drops in first, then the water so it mixes while filling. make sure to shake every time you use it after it has been sitting. i combine different scents and make air freshener as well.

        2. Annie

          Don’t know if it’s too late to reply to the dachshund post? We had two dachshunds and the little boy (a very anxious adopted dog) would always pee on our Persian rug after we were out at New Years Eve celebrations. After getting it professionally cleaned three years in a row I eventually found a successful home treatment: As soon as you notice the wet patch sprinkle the area liberally (solidly in fact) with Bicarbonate of soda. The spray or splash with vinegar. Allow to dry then vacuum up. When it’s really dry any residual urine smell can be rubbed over with the outer peel of a lemon. Lemon juice might further bleach the spot but the oils in the citrus skin help neutralise the odour. I don’t think anything will restore the colour where there are already light patches on dark carpet, though.

  21. D.Mich

    This was the greatest tip ever! Thank you! I tried everything from peroxide to shaving cream to get out a big coffee stain on a light beige carpet. This was the one that actually worked. The stain had been set for weeks and it came completely out using this method! Thanks so much!

  22. Emily Hollingsworth

    I am SO glad I found this blog! We recently became first time home-buyers and had some stains from the previous owners (and a few of our own) that were mostly dirt, food, and pet stains. This worked on EVERY one! The carpet is way nicer than I ever would have bought myself, so you can imagine how happy I was that I wouldn’t have to replace the carpet! Thank you so much!

  23. Jane.Q.Public

    This stuff worked like magic on pet stains and in a high-traffic area that were several months old. They didn’t come out with a steamer machine. But using this combination worked. It’s been over a month since I cleaned the carpet and the stains nor outlines have returned. Awesome!!! Thank you!

  24. Wanda

    We bought a motor home that has carpeting on the ceiling. It had leaked and there are dark water stains. The leaks are fixed. I will try this with an iron. But it won’t steam upside down. Does any one have ideas? I will try small spot in back first. And let you know.

    1. Denise

      I just read your comment and thought of this, can you blot w/ a wet towel on the ceiling then use the hair dryer for the hot air or a hot craft gun ( I use for heat embossing for my card making )

  25. The Gooch

    What heat setting should I use? My iron has settings like cotton and linen ( the hottest ). It has steam in more than one setting, so the “steam” setting in the article doesn’t help me.

    1. Homemaker Chic Post author

      I’d say start at a low/medium heat and see if that works. Be careful if you have an acrylic type carpet because the iron can scorch it if its cheap carpet. On something like wool carpet a hotter setting would be okay. Always test in a corner to see what your carpet can tolerate.

      1. The Gooch

        I used the highest setting ( linen) on my carpet and it worked find. I notices that it doesn’t work on all spots. I’m in an apartment that shampoos the carpet when I renew the lease. Since, I’m renewing in 2 months I’ll just wait for that.

        Thanks again for this tip, I cannot believe that I never heard of it before yesterday!

    2. Franco

      Some carpets, such as wool, you’ll get away with a high heat setting. But try that on a polypropylene, and you’ve signed it’s death sentence! Different fibres have different heat tolerances and unless you know and understand that, it can lead to disastrous consequences.

      Not understanding chemistry can also be problematic; in a lot of cases vinegar can be beneficial as a lot of people have no doubt found out. However, used on the wrong stain on the wrong fibre, it can actually set the stain and make it difficult, if not impossible, to remove! Soda stains on a wool or nylon blend carpet fall into this category, you can actually end up with a worse problem than you started with. For those of you that jump up and say you got soda stains out this way, sure you did, but you had either a polyester, polypropylene, acrylic or triexta fibre!

      If you want to try this remedy, my advice as a stain removal expert (it’s my job and I train others in advanced stain removal on carpeting), is to keep the heat setting on your iron on the “delicates” setting and stay safe.That is all I use on a synthetic carpet. Wool will tolerate much higher temps, but if it is blended with a synthetic such as polypropylene as it often is, you’ll still end up with a scorch issue.

      It will take longer to work on a low heat setting, but it will keep you out of trouble. Also, place a dry piece of white towelling – note that it must be white and not coloured – over the area and then apply the iron to that so that you are not contacting the carpet directly and thereby lessen the chance of any scorching.

      Fixing up problems is something I commonly do after people have taken well-meaning advice off the Net then had disastrous consequences, so play it safe, go gentle with the heat, use the white towelling and if in doubt, call in someone who has had relevant training (and can prove it!!) to take care of it for you. It may cost a few dollars, but it will always be cheaper than having to repair or replace the carpet you may potentially damage!

  26. beatrice burlie

    I have had my own cleaning business for almost 19 years now and my favorite cleaning success story goes as follows. I came upon a new client that had a liquid black shoe polish stain on her mint green shag carpet. I know…mint green!!! ugh! although she insisted I not waste any time on it as it was over a year old, I love a challenge :). I got the stain out with windex and rubbing alcohol. not together, but separately. I tried one, and then switched to the other when it seemed it didn’t help anymore. if I am not mistaken…the windex did the majority of the clean up. she was stunned when she got home and couldn’t find where the stain was.

  27. Deanna

    I need help I spilt cepacol antibacterial mouthwash on the floor at my brothers rental house I sponged it up with some paper towels and poured water on it and sponged it again its drying atm but it looks like its going to stain (like a big wet patch) any ideas on how to get rid of it?

  28. Amanda

    Just moved in a rental home. its nice but the carpet is disgusting, I can’t even walk barefoot. I’m definitely trying this.

  29. Amber Stephens

    I normally don’t comment in blogs, but I just tried this and it really does work! My husband and I are renting a little duplex. We adopted a sweet 5 yr old boxer mix who has terrible separation anxiety a couple of years ago, and she can’t be crated. We have to leave her in the living room while we are gone, and this results in her having little messes. We normally clean them up with a water/vinegar mixture, but we have been left with spots/rings on the carpet (I’m guessing for not soaking up enough of what’s left behind). We want to eventually invest in a carpet/steam cleaner, but aren’t able to in the near future so I was searching on Pinterest to find the right method. This is the first one I tried and it worked wonderfully and was SO simple! It even worked on the parts that are just dirty from a lot of foot traffic. Thank you!!!

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  31. Skylar

    careful with vinegar on pet potty spots.. my friends used it when they got a new puppy and whatever is in their “business” mixed with vinegar had the same effect as bleach. OOPS

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  36. Becky

    I am excited to try this at home soon; any recommendations on an Activated Charcoal stain???
    I realize that this is a challenge.

  37. MovingSoon

    Just tried this on a chocolate stain and a large cat vomit stain that’s been cleaned/steam cleaned I don’t know how many times – a little nervous about trying it but I figured they couldn’t get much worse and we’re putting our house up for sale soon. Chocolate is gone, and vomit is 80% gone…going to try a touch up tomorrow but YAY. This is on a cream/light beige carpet, too! Thanks so much for this simple fix!!!

  38. annette

    I just tried this on a super stubborn dog per stain which spread every time I tried something new on it. I used paper towels to soak up water/vinegar on the bottom then an old sheet and I used the iron steaming as I went not holding too long. Its reduced to half its size and you could see the stain on the paper towels. Thankyou

  39. Jen

    Will this work on pet urine stains? I adopted a dog from the pound and she is not 100% potty trained.

  40. Barry Stevens

    Tried it on our light carpert with many old stains from our granddaugther vomit. Over the year had a professional carpet company treat the stains several times, only to reappear in a few months, DId what you said but used our Bissel floor steam cleaner. Surprising the stains disappeared. Now, let’s see if they do not reappear.

  41. Melinda

    It works! Thank you so much for this tip! My girlfriend’s puppy peed on my carpet and no matter how many times I clean it, it keeps coming back. Well I hope this time it won’t come back. 👍

  42. scrapsugargypsy

    Great tip!! You noted it works on “organic” stains – what about pet stains? We have some really persistent stains from potty training our pup, despite professional cleanings!!! Thanks!

    1. Margarito

      You can still try it with pet stains. Here are some suggestions that worked for me. Still use vinegar and water, but I’d be careful about using an iron. Here’s why: The heating can bond the stain to the carpet fibers and retain it’s color afterwards. Not to mention that it can go as deep as the padding. It’s better to work with vinegar and water, and work your way into the stain. Let it sit there for a few minutes, and then blot it. Afterwards, make sure you rinse it good because you don’t want to have any cleaning chemicals, natural or not on your floor. Leaving them there will attract more dirt to the area.

  43. Sarah Wolfe

    Great article! I use the same method. But I am extra careful with the iron. It could burn the surface. My carpet is very sensitive to heat. I hope you don`t have this kind of troubles. Best regards!

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  47. Katy

    This is a GREAT tip!! We are carpet cleaners and we specialise in 100% non toxic techniques, but some carpet stains are old and stubborn… our customers want natural stain removal, so I gave this a go last week and it worked! Thank you very much!

  48. rosie

    I will try anything on my carpet. I have 5 dogs, need I say more??? But my question is: Do you use vinegar in the shampooer? If so how much and do you add cleaning solution also?

  49. Lola

    I recently came across something called PET ZYME. It is an enzyme that is needed to get rid of the urine smell or your dog will continue to pee again and again in the same spot, no matter how many times you clean it. you must use an enzyme. its about 40.00 a gallon. but its cheaper then new carpet.

    1. Cindy Milliman

      Right after having our family room carpet cleaned professionally for the first time ever, which included being scotched guarded, our husky vomited big time. I applied Stanley Steemers spray stain remover which did absolutely NOTHING. And, of course, the stain is right smack where you enter the room. Would this work on that type of stain?

  50. Char

    I was a skeptic and now I’m a believer. I wish I took a before and after photo. This pesky stain my granddaughter left me has has been in my white berber carpet for 2 years (she is now 3). Every day I walked passed it I shook my head in disbelief that the commercial products I used did absolutly nothing. I was not only in disbelief but also embarrassed when my family/friends came over.
    If your reading this comment you MUST try this, you will be magically amazed. Now, you might have to repeat the process but what the heck you have nothing to lose……only that pesky stain that’s been hanging around uninvited. When you do try this please make sure the towel you place over the stain is ALWAYS damp.
    I’m new to “Pinterest” (I now, I’m a late bloomer) and I’m so grateful to my daughter who introduced me as well as created my Pinterest account. I’ve found a new friend with Pinterest and I’ll never let go.
    Thank you to all who submit awesome Pins like this, keep them coming.
    Char 🤗

  51. Claudette

    Gave it his a try and it does work! It removed years old of dog vomit stain under the dining table. Took two tries but I saw immediate results at the first try. After the second try it was completely clear. Love this trick. I have told all my friends about this.

    1. Shelor

      WOW and double WOW! Our oldest dog passed last fall and in his last year, he stained several places on the carpet. I couldn’t get it out, we paid cleaners and they couldn’t get it out. Figured that it couldn’t get any worse, since nobody could help. Tried this–and GONE!!!! Carpet is beige”ish” and a tol Stainmaster. So glad I read this tip. Thank you soooooo much.

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  53. Holly

    Great tip! I will give this a try! Any knowledge about if this works for puppy pee stains? If you can spray with that pet enzyme & try the iron, or if vinegar & water works just as well? Thanks for any advice!

  54. Tiffany Price

    I wonder if this would work with syrup? My wonderful son dumped a bottle of syrup on the carpet and i’ve tried using our steam cleaner to help get it out and that just gunked up the steam cleaner even using hot water and the heater function turned on. thankfully vinegar helped clear that out.

  55. Mandy

    Finally something i dont have to spend money on i don’t have and get to use products i already have at home. Thank you.


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