Red wine, all’s fine: First aid for common carpet stains

Anyone with a penchant for red wine will know the feeling of horror as you watch a glass of its tip, seemingly in slow motion, and go splashing onto your pristine carpet below.

Household cleaning guru Shannon Lush feels a similar sense of horror when she hears of what most people do next.

Unfortunately, most people’s instinct is to do exactly the wrong thing,” explains Shannon.

People tend to reach for large amounts of hot water and soaps and detergents and scrubbing brushes and commercial cleaners and… Everything but the kitchen sink. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Red wine stains on carpet

A few drops of red wine on the carpet can send even the most sane person into a state of panic. Picture: Getty

Because each type of stain is different, there’s no universal solution. “If the stain contains any proteins, hot water will set it; if it contains an acid, soap will set it,” explains Shannon. Furthermore, “There are some stains where detergents, scrubbing brushes or commercial cleaners will also set the stain.”

Living room

See more: How to clean carpet in 3 steps

Shannon’s got some essential advice to help you avoid doing more harm than good.

The basics

  • No matter what the stain is, remove as much moisture as possible using paper towel
  • Never get a carpet very wet when you are cleaning, as this will leave brown watermarks
  • The faster you get to a stain the easier it is to remove
  • Use the appropriate solution depending on what the stain is made of

Which brings us to…

How to remove common stains from carpet

There are a million different kinds of stains (and thus solutions), but Shannon’s broken down some of the most common ones for us here.

Red wine

For that dreaded fresh red wine stain, says Shannon, first place some paper towel down on the stain and stand on it. “Sprinkle the stain with bicarb soda (just a sprinkle, not a snow storm) and tap it with your fingers until it goes pale grey.

“Wring a cloth out tightly in white vinegar so that it’s only just damp and wipe from the outside of the stain towards the centre until all of the bicarb soda is gone. Repeat the process if necessary.”


Remove coffee stains

The trick is to catch the stain before it has a chance to set. Picture: Getty

“For fresh coffee or tea stains, dry with paper towel. Then take a cake of normal bathroom soap (not laundry soap or a transparent bar), dampen it lightly and scribble with it just like a crayon across the stain,” says Shannon. “Take a rolled up pair of damp pantyhose and rub from the outside of the stain towards the center until the stain is gone.”


“Blot the area first with the paper towel to remove the moisture and then sponge with a cloth wrung out tightly in white vinegar so that the carpet doesn’t become too wet,” says Shannon.

Cat owners take note: “The problem with cat urine is simply that most people don’t clean it all off,” she explains. Because cats can spray quite a distance, “it’s not the puddle you see – it’s the spray that you don’t [see] that creates the problem.”

To remove all the urine, turn detective and get hold of an ultraviolet light, recommends Shannon. Come night time, “turn all the lights off and shine the ultraviolet light around the room. The urine will fluoresce bright yellow and you can mark it with chalk so that you know where to clean.”


Depending on what the solid matter is, removing it is relatively simple – “so long as you don’t squash the solids into the carpet,” advises Shannon.

“Take two plastic combs and slide the combs’ teeth towards each other underneath the bristles of the carpet to lift the solid matter out of the carpet. For any residual staining, use the appropriate stain remover.”

Originally published as Red wine, all’s fine: First aid for common carpet stains by Nikki Wallman. Author at