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Does Vinegar Stain Carpet? Please Read Before Cleaning

Carpets are among the most common household items to receive accidental spills. The internet raves about how great vinegar is for cleaning stains off of a variety of surfaces. I thought this might be too good to be true, so I did some digging and made some calls to experts, and this is what I learned.

Vinegar will not stain or damage the carpet as long as you dilute it with water. Also, avoid using vinegar to clean acidic stains such as ketchup or coffee. It will just make the stain even more acidic and even harder to remove. Only use vinegar for alkaline stains like vegetable matter or pet urine.

Vinegar’s antibacterial properties make it an ideal natural and eco-friendly solution for carpet spills. However, merely soaking the area won’t work. Instead, there is a bit of technique to the process. This article will show you how to use vinegar to clean stains correctly.

A Bottle of White Distilled Vinegar on Carpet

How to Properly use Vinegar on Carpet

Vinegar is an easily accessible household product that is a powerhouse in all things natural cleaning. In fact, vinegar can virtually replace most synthetic and harmful chemicals used in typical household cleaning. However, it only works well under certain circumstances.

First off, make sure that the stain you are trying to remove has an alkaline pH and not acidic. Take a look at this chart:

Examples of Acidic Stains and Alkaline Stains:

Acidic StainsAlkaline Stains
Alcoholic BeveragesLemon/Lime Juice
Coffee/TeaPet Urine
Dairy ProductsVegetable Matter
Soy SauceGreen Smoothies
Fruit JuicesAvocado
Oils/GreaseV8 Juice

Important: Only use vinegar for the alkaline stains on the right side of the chart. And forget about dirt and grime. Vinegar will not remove footprints or any dirt that has gotten down into the carpet. Soap and water work just fine.

Cleaning With Vinegar Step by Step

With a few steps, vinegar can not only clean the affected area but disinfect and remove odors in the process:

Step 1: Make your solution

Prepare a spray bottle with equal parts of water and vinegar. You can dilute it a bit further, but it is totally unnecessary to go more than 1/2 vinegar.

Step 2: Remove excess moisture

The initial step is critical, as this will prevent excess moisture and unwanted stains.

When the spill is encountered, immediately blot the area with as many paper towels–preferably folded multiple times on themselves for maximum absorption (old towels work well, too)–to remove moisture quickly and prevent the spill from staining your flooring underneath the carpet.

While blotting the area with a combination of your fists and palms, do your best to resist the urge to rub the area as this will inevitably push the liquid further into the carpet and spread the stain.

Continue pressing down on the area (while constantly changing paper towels) to soak up as much of the spill as possible. Discard the used paper towels. If using regular towels, place them directly into the washing machine as those may also stain if not immediately washed and sanitized.

Step 3: Apply vinegar and soak

Grab the prepared vinegar bottle and liberally spray on and around the circumference of the stain. Do not be shy. If you think you’ve sprayed enough, spray more. The solution works best when it completely surrounds the stain and covers the area.

Allow the vinegar and water mixture to sit for at least 10-15 minutes.

Step 4: Rub and clean area

With a clean and dry towel, soak up the remainder of the solution as much as possible. If there is still a bit of a stain, this would be the time to begin rubbing the area while providing light pressure. If necessary, switch to another towel to remove all moisture from the carpet.

When the stain is removed, and the affected area is almost dry, apply a fan directly to the site or allow it to air dry for a few hours. If the stain is persistent, repeat Step 2 as necessary.

Which Type of Vinegar is Best?

In terms of using vinegar for cleaning purposes, the best option–hands down–is white distilled vinegar. The main reason being its colorless properties, which make it ideal when removing stains and cleaning surfaces.

Additionally, its acidity composition makes it comparable to synthetic cleaning products in the market. Not to mention the fact that it costs significantly less since the solution is usually diluted in equal parts water. This means you will get a lot more bang for your buck for a similar and sometimes superior product.

All while being homemade and harmless compared to synthetic chemicals.

How to Get Rid of the Vinegar Smell

The only drawback of using vinegar as a cleaning solution is its potent smell. Fortunately, something can be done to mask the smell (as much as possible) using natural aids.

  • Baking Soda- Although there are multiple ways to decrease the smell of vinegar, the most common is to apply baking soda to your spill before spraying it with vinegar directly. However, this is the only way to introduce baking soda into the mix, as you cannot mix your solution directly within a spray bottle. I repeat, do not try to mix baking soda into your spray bottle.
  • Lemons- Another, more effective way is to have your vinegar mixture sit in a container big enough to hold a whole lemon (multiple lemons work best if the space is available). This will help mask the smell while maintaining vinegar’s cleaning properties. It will not compromise its composition but will surely lessen the burden of the scent.
  • Scented oil- The preferred and more refined option is to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil scents into your mixture. The most common scents include lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree, orange, lavender, peppermint, and rosemary. Get creative, try out different scents, and see which works best for your preferences.

DIY Carpet Cleaning Recipe

As the main ingredient, vinegar can be mixed with a few liquids to render a safe but powerful cleaning solution for your carpet. Not only is it eco-friendly and safe for pets, but also budget-friendly and easy to create.

In a spray bottle, mix equal parts white vinegar and water, ensuring to leave a tiny bit of room for 3-5 drops of dish soap and five drops of lemon scent essential oil. This mixture will tackle stubborn alkaline spills, all while leaving a lemony scent around the area.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has been helpful in providing best practices when it comes to using vinegar to clean carpets. There is a lot of bad information out there, so make sure you avoid the pitfalls laid out in this article, and you will be fine.

Happy cleaning!

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