by Jeremy Strickland
“How do I clean a food spot out of my carpet?” I get this question a lot, so I’ll skip my normal approach and jump right in.
First, it’s crucial to know what food it is that you’re dealing with and whether or not a DIY solution is even a realistic one (you may make the problem worse or set the stain – as always, DIY at your own peril). For example, if you’ve spilled red wine or your carpet is wool, bite the bullet and call a professional.
If it’s a protein-based spot, you’ll need to break down the proteins in order to get it clean. Remove any of the solid bits. Scrape any excess off the top; careful not to fray the carpet fibers. Dilute a couple of drops of Dawn dish soap in a gallon bucket of hot water, mixed with a cap full of ammonia. The dish soap will help with the food and grease, and the ammonia will help break down the proteins. Clean with a towel which is damp with this solution. Scrub in a circular motion. Careful not to get things too wet. Next, dampen a towel and scrub with white vinegar and hot water mixed 50/50 to neutralize the PH so the spot doesn’t brown as it dries. (NOTE: This is also the process you’ll want to follow to clean dog poop.)
The next day, after the mess is clean and dry, the spot may have turned brown despite your efforts at prevention. No big deal. This is caused by over-wetting the carpet while cleaning. Put a spray nozzle on your brown hydrogen peroxide bottle and give the area a good misting (don’t saturate).for organic stain removal (but not for wool), and it also helps remove browning. After you’ve misted, use your fingers to rake it in.
If your spot is not protein-based, skip the ammonia and go right to the vinegar and water solution with a couple of drops of dish liquid. Vinegar kills germs. It’s not quite as effective as chlorine bleach, but, it does the job just fine and isn’t as harsh or disastrous to colors as bleach is.
Finally, as odd as it may be to hear this from me, I recommend that you’re wary of advice found on the internet when searching for answers such as this. I’m a professional carpet cleaner, and I oftentimes see terrible advice posted by lay folk with best intentions but no idea what they’re talking about. Your best bet is almost always to call in a professional, but if you absolutely must DIY, at least make sure your advice is coming from a credible source like a