Cleaning vomit from your carpet is an unpleasant experience that most people have to go through at some point. But what’s the best way to remove puke, stains, and lingering odor? We’ve broken down the most common advice to bring you the facts on what really works. So next time your toddler has an upset stomach, your dog eats something gross, or a party gets out of hand, Pro Housekeepers is here to help you clean the mess quickly and effectively.
WARNING: Before you start, remember to check the manufacturer’s instructions for care of your carpet, and always spot-test an area before applying any cleaning solutions, as some cleaners can discolor or damage carpets.
Cleaning fresh vomit from carpets
The easiest time to clean throw up from carpets is immediately after it happened. This reduces the chances of the acid and enzymes in vomit damaging your carpet, and prevents smells from taking hold.
Cleaning up vomit is a messy business, so be sure to cover your hands, whatever method you use. Rubber or latex gloves will protect you from getting dirty, or in a pinch use a shopping bag over your hand as a makeshift glove. Just be sure to choose one without holes in the bottom!
Start by scraping up as much puke as you can. You can use a blunt tool to make this easier, such as a dustpan, spatula, or spoon. Whatever you use, make sure you disinfect it thoroughly afterwards. You can disinfect cutlery or utensils by putting them in the dishwasher, or let them sit in boiling water for 5 minutes.
You can also pick up the worst of the vomit using an old towel or cloth, which you can throw into the wash afterward. However be careful of the vomit’s consistency, as chunks can block your washing machine drainage. If in doubt, use paper towels that you can throw away immediately.
Once as much of the vomit has been removed as possible, treat the remaining fluid to prevent stains and smells. If you have a commercial carpet stain cleaner, now is the time to use it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and always spot test before using it on a large or visible area.
If you don’t have any commercial cleaner to hand, you can make your own by diluting white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide with equal parts tap water and spraying it onto the stain. Don’t combine vinegar and peroxide in one bottle if you’re using this method, as the two together create peracetic acid, which is an irritant. Instead choose one or the other.
Using a clean cloth or paper towels, blot the stain to bring up the excess without rubbing it deeper into your carpet. You may have to apply the cleaning solution several times in order to clean up all the vomit.
Once the stain is cleaned, let it air dry, or cover it with a thin layer of baking soda or cornstarch to soak up the moisture. Baking soda is a weak alkali, or base, which can help neutralize the acidity of vomit. Cornstarch is pH-neutral and will also help neutralize vomit.
Once the soda or starch has dried to a powder, vacuum it up to remove the last traces of vomit.
How to clean vomit in 6 easy steps
- Cover your hands with gloves or a plastic bag
- Scrape up as much vomit as possible before cleaning using a blunt tool, towel, or paper towel
- Use a commercial or DIY cleaning solution, damp the stain, and blot it clean
- Repeat as necessary until the stain has gone
- Air dry excess liquid, or apply a thin layer of cornstarch or baking soda
- Once the powder has dried, vacuum for a fresh, clean carpet
Cleaning dried vomit from carpets
Dried-on vomit can be difficult to remove, but it isn’t always possible to find or clean a stain right away, especially if you have pets or young children. Although trickier to remove than fresh throw up, you can still clean a carpet that has dried vomit on it.
The first step to removing dried-on vomit is to get the worst of the mess up. The process is similar to removing fresh vomit, with the added step of dampening the puke to help you remove it. This will make it smell again, so be prepared! To reduce the chances of the smell making you feel like you want to throw up, you can rub a scented lotion on your top lip underneath your nose. Menthol-based lip balm, essential oils, or Vicks Vaporub all work great. Just be sure to avoid getting anything in your nose, or it will really sting.
Use warm water to dampen the vomit. Don’t oversaturate the area, you want the puke to be just as damp as it needs to be to come apart. Dampen towels or paper towels with water and press them to the vomit. Avoid rubbing the area, as you’ll only spread the stain or push it deeper into the carpet.
Once the vomit has been removed, you can treat it just like a fresh stain. Use a commercial or DIY cleaning solution to lift the residue, remembering not to soak the area in order to protect your carpet and prevent the stain from spreading.
Dried vomit often smells worse than fresh because it’s had longer to absorb into the carpet fibers. Using a deodorizer will help remove the smell and get your room fresh and clean again. You can buy commercial carpet deodorizers, or use baking soda, cornstarch, or cat litter. Cover the stain with a light layer of powder, allow to dry, and vacuum up for a fresh-scented carpet.
Step-by-step how to clean dried vomit from carpet
- Use a pair of gloves or plastic bag to protect your hands
- Damp the stain with warm water until it loosens and solid matter is removed
- Using a commercial or DIY cleaning solution, blot the area to clean it
- Repeat as necessary until the stain has gone
- Cover the damp carpet with a deodorizer and allow to dry
- Vacuum up for a fresh, clean carpet
What to do if you can’t clean vomit from carpet right away…
Sometimes you notice when your carpet has been vomited on, but you don’t have time to clean it immediately. Maybe your child is sick and you’re on your way to the doctor, or the cat heaved up his breakfast when you’re already late for work. If you can’t clean the vomit straight away, there are still steps you can take to make life easier when you do have time to clean.
Your goal should be to absorb and dry out the vomit as quickly as possible. This prevents it from soaking into your carpet. Baking soda, cornstarch, cat litter, and even sand are all good temporary solutions to stop a vomit stain from taking hold.
If you have time, scrape up any vomit you can before applying anything to the stain. If you don’t have time, just add more of your absorbent material to compensate for the extra it has to dry up.
Once you have time to clean the vomit, begin by removing any large, dried clumps. Depending on the material you used to dry it out, they could be brittle, so sweeping with a brush and dustpan will be easier than picking them up with a cloth or paper towel.
After removing most of the vomit, use a vacuum cleaner to remove any dried powder or grit. You should be left with a plain fluid stain. If there is still dried throw up on your carpet, dampen it to remove it. Follow the steps for cleaning dried vomit from carpets by wetting it with warm water until it breaks down and can be removed.
Use a commercial or homemade cleaning solution to remove the last of the stain from the carpet. White vinegar or diluted hydrogen peroxide are both great DIY cleaners. Just remember to spot test an area first. If you have long pile carpet or the stain is particularly stubborn, try sprinkling it with a layer of baking soda then pouring on a little white vinegar. The chemical reaction between the two will create foaming bubbles that can work difficult stains loose.
Dried vomit can make a room smell worse because it’s had time to soak into your carpet. Deodorize your room by covering the damp area with a commercial deodorizer, or use cornstarch, baking soda, or cat litter. Let it dry and vacuum up the excess for a cleaner, fresher carpet.
How to minimize a vomit stain you don’t have time to clean
- If you can, scrape up as much of the vomit as you can immediately
- Cover the puke with an absorbent powder
- Once the stain is dry, remove any large lumps and vacuum up the rest
- If there’s still dried vomit on the carpet, dampen it with warm water to break it up
- Blot the stain with a commercial or DIY cleaning solution until it’s gone
- Cover the area with a deodorizer, allow to dry, and vacuum up
Removing vomit smells from carpet
Sometimes the hardest part of cleaning up vomit on your carpet is removing the lingering smell of puke. Carpets absorb smells because they have a large surface area and are very porous, so scents can get deep into the fibers and are hard to get out.
You can buy commercial deodorizers that contain enzymes to break down the biological material in vomit and reduce the smell. However if you’d rather save the money, or look for a more kid, pet, and environmentally friendly alternative to using chemicals in your home, there are plenty of home remedies you can use.
Make a dilute mixture of equal parts vinegar and water and put inside a spray bottle. Mist the area until it’s damp but not wet. Allow to air dry. Vinegar is a good natural deodorizer but does carry its own scent, so there will be some lingering smell for a while. As an alternative to plain white vinegar, apple cider vinegar does the same job of cleaning and deodorizing but has a more pleasant scent.
Try covering the dry area with baking soda. Leave overnight and then vacuum up the powder. If it doesn’t do the trick try spraying the area with warm water until damp and then reapply the baking soda. Let it dry overnight and vacuum up. This should remove any last traces of vomit that were leaving a lingering smell.
To improve the scent, add 5-10 drops of essential oils per cup of baking soda before putting it on the carpet. Make sure to use clear or natural-colored oils and spot-check the carpet first. If you don’t have essential oils (remember some oils are toxic to pets), you can always use dried herbs or spices instead.
For extra cleaning power, mix equal parts borax and baking soda and sprinkle over the area. Leave for an hour before vacuuming.
Cheap vodka is a great cleaning solution. Simply spray a little bit of vodka onto the carpet you want to deodorize and leave for 10 to 15 minutes. Blot up any remaining moisture using a paper towel. Allow to air dry, or sprinkle some baking soda on top, leave for an hour, then vacuum up.
DIY vomit cleaners
When someone (or something) throws up on your carpet, you want to deal with it as quickly as possible. If you don’t have commercial carpet cleaner available, you can make a great DIY carpet cleaner with common household items.
Club soda is really easy to use as a cleaner. Just remove as much of the puke as possible and pour it directly onto the stained area. Club soda is just water with extra carbon dioxide and salts dissolved into it, so it shouldn’t harm anything that’s water safe. Dampen the stain with club soda then blot out using a clean cloth or paper towel.
Make a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, and add a couple of drops of dish soap. Clean as much vomit from the carpet as possible, then apply the cleaning solution until the carpet is damp. Let it sit for half an hour, then gently lather up using a clean cloth. Take care not to spread the stain wider. Blot up the excess with a dry cloth or paper towels, and then clean again with fresh water to remove any soap residue.
Vinegar and detergent
To remove more difficult vomit stains, make a solution of 2 cups water, 0.5 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon dish soap or laundry detergent, and 2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol. Apply to the stain using a spray bottle or sponge until the carpet is damp but not wet. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then blot dry. Rinse the carpet again with clean water to remove any residue.
Steam clean your carpet
For the most stubborn of stains and smells, you might need to steam clean your carpet. This will lift and remove the stain, as well as sanitize the carpet and remove any odors. You can rent steam cleaners relatively cheaply from most hardware and pet stores.
Cleaning vomit from your carpet can be an unpleasant task, but there are many methods available that will remove the stain and odor without damaging your flooring. At Pro Housekeepers, we’re the cleaning experts, and our experience can help you keep your home clean and fresh, whatever happens