1. Mix up a solution of 1/4 teaspoon plain dishwashing liquid and one cup warm water in a spray bottle. Make sure the detergent you select doesn’t contain any skin-moisturizing ingredients, as they can cause additional staining. Fill another spray bottle with clear cool water for rinsing.
2. Lightly spritz the stain with the detergent solution. By using a spray bottle rather than just pouring on the solution, you keep the carpet, the backing, the padding, and even the floor underneath from becoming saturated and damaged. Remember, a little goes a long way so only give it a squirt or two at a time.
3. Gently blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel, turning it to a clean area as it absorbs the stain. For stains that are set deep into the carpet, work the cleaner into the fibers with your fingers, but don’t aggressively rub the stain or you’ll distort and untwist the pile and cause the stain to spread. Continue spraying and blotting until the stain is gone or no longer comes up into your towel.
4. Spritz the carpet with the clear water to rinse, then blot with a clean, dry towel until all traces of the soap mixture are removed. Leftover soap only attracts more soil, so it’s important to completely rinse and blot it out.
5. Place a stack of three or four clean, dry paper towels on top of the wet carpet and weigh them down with a heavy vase or stockpot. Leave it overnight so any residual stain will wick from the carpet to the paper towels. Omit this step and the stain will just reappear the next day as the carpet dries.
6. Toss the towels, then fluff the carpet fibers with your fingers. Let the area air dry and admire!
If you like keeping a carpet cleaning product handy, find out which worked best in the recent Good Housekeeping Research Institute test of 21 carpet spot and stain removers. And if your entire carpet needs a cleaning, check out which machines to buy or rent did best in our tests.