How to Remove Vomit from Carpet

Throwing up is never fun. Even less fun is cleaning vomit off carpet. While most vomit contains some amount of stomach acid, the contents of the substance can vary greatly from one incident to the next, which makes removing the stain and odor extra challenging.

Vomit can come from an adult, a child, or even a pet, and can happen in homes, schools, dental offices, healthcare facilities — pretty much anywhere.

In this tech tip, Jon-Don experts highlight a few professional methods for cleaning vomit stains and odors from carpet.

Why Can Vomit Be So Difficult to Remove?

Vomit is a combination spot made up of stomach acids and ingested food or beverages. Since a lot of common foods contain added colorants and dyes, there’s a good chance that vomit also contains dye that may make it harder to treat. Tannins, proteins, and enzymes may also be present in throw-up, which can set it into the carpet and risk causing a permanent stain.

Most vomit also has a high pH due to the present acids, which can cause discoloration of carpet fibers.

On top of already being a difficult stain to remove, vomit leaves behind quite an awful smell that will stick around for a long time if it’s not dealt with properly.

Removing Vomit from Carpet: Step by Step

Since vomit is a bodily fluid and may contain harmful viruses and bacteria — especially if it comes from a sick person — professional cleaners should wear appropriate personal protective equipment while working, such as disposable gloves and a face mask.

Once you’ve gathered those items, browse our recommended cleaning techniques below. These methods are meant to clean anything from pet vomit to dried vomit, etc.

Option 1: Matrix® Vanishing Act

  1. Thoroughly rinse and extract the area with hot water to remove all excess vomit and residue.
  2. Apply Matrix® Vanishing Act to the stain to saturate the area. 
  3. Allow the product to dry. Stubborn stains and odors will disappear through the oxidation process. 

Option 2: Matrix® All-In-One

  1. Thoroughly vacuum the area to remove solid waste and any excess vomit.
  2. FOR NORMAL CLEANING/DEODORIZATION: Dilute 1 part Matrix® All-in-One to 4 parts warm water (160°F) into a pump-up or inline sprayer.

FOR SPOT TREATMENTS OR SEVERE DEPOSITS: Dilute 1:1. Pour the desired amount of All-in-One into a container, pour an equal amount of warm water on top, and cover with a warm cotton towel to trap moisture. Liberally apply the prepared solution to the affected carpet, concentrating on areas of heaviest soiling to force the product into the padding.

  1. Allow to dwell for 30 minutes. A warm damp towel may be placed over the area to increase product performance. For severe odors, All-in-One can dwell for longer periods. The product will continue working as long as it remains moist.
  2. Extract the area with a non-peroxide-based detergent, such as Matrix® Finish First or Matrix® Confidence. A pre-spray is generally not required; however, one may be applied before extraction for heavily soiled areas.

Option 3: Matrix® Spotters

  1. Apply Matrix® Release undiluted to a spotting towel. Tamp and blot the towel against the stain with a spotting brush. Do not apply directly to the carpet, as overapplication can cause delamination.
  2. Apply Matrix® Target Tannin Stain Remover undiluted. Tamp and blot with a spotting brush and spotting towel.
  3. Apply Matrix® Spot Out undiluted. Tamp and blot with a spotting brush and spotting towel.
  4. Thoroughly rinse and extract the area with water.
  5. Apply Fresh Wave IAQ Carpet and Upholstery Additive to remove any lingering odors. If using a portable or truck mount, dilute 2-4 per gallon of solution. Or if using a pump-up sprayer, dilute 2-4 oz per gallon of water and spray onto carpet after cleaning. 

How To Remove Vomit Containing Red Dyes

If there are dyes in the vomit, such as from Kool-Aid or a sports drink, our experts recommend using Matrix® Red Be Gone:

  1. Follow one of the cleaning options listed above to remove as much vomit residue, stains, and odors as possible.
  2. Mix together equal parts of solutions A & B of Matrix® Red Be Gone and apply to the spot. For ease of application, we recommend using the Dual Chamber Sprayer.
  3. Place a damp clean white towel over the spot and use an iron set at the lowest steam setting. Check the towel for color transfer every 15-30 seconds. Use caution not to remove the actual carpet dye from the fibers. Continue to apply the iron and check it until the stain is gone.
  4. Rinse and extract the area thoroughly. Repeat steps 2-3 as needed.

Home Remedy for Removing Vomit From Carpet

While we always recommend professional products for removing tough stains from carpets, sometimes you might not have them on hand. If that’s the case, cleaning vomit with the right household products is better than leaving it untreated.

  1. Carefully scoop up any solid matter using a spoon or paper towel.
  2. Use an absorbent material like a paper towel or a clean cloth to blot the area. Avoid rubbing, as this can spread the vomit stain and damage the carpet fibers.
  3. Apply a stain remover or a mixture of mild detergent and water to the stained area. Allow it to sit for a few minutes to break down the stain.
  4. Continue blotting the area to lift the stain. You may need to repeat the process several times.
  5. Once the stain is mostly removed, rinse the area with clean water to remove any remaining cleaning solution.
  6. Use another clean cloth or paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Ensure the carpet is thoroughly dried to prevent any lingering odors or the growth of mold.

FAQ About Cleaning Vomit

Still have questions? Get quick answers to some of the most common queries about cleaning vomit on carpet. There are even a couple of carpet cleaning tips, too!

Can You Use Vinegar to Clean Vomit From Carpet?

No. While vinegar is a great cleaning tool to have around the house, it is acidic in nature and won’t remove any vomit stains. It can also worsen the overall odor problem caused by throw-up.

What Removes Vomit Odor from Carpet?

To remove odors, you have to remove the source. In this case, thoroughly rinsing and extracting the carpet to remove all vomit residue will significantly reduce or eliminate odor problems. If an unpleasant smell persists, try sprinkling some baking soda over the area. Allow it to sit on the carpet for some time, then thoroughly vacuum it away. To ensure the best results, we recommend calling a professional carpet cleaner. 

Are Vomit Stains Permanent on Carpet?

Vomit can become a permanent stain on the carpet if it’s not treated promptly or if improper techniques and products have been used. To prevent a stain from becoming permanent, only use products designed to treat tough spots and odors on carpet. Read product labels carefully and never mix products unless specified on the label.

Carpet and Upholstery Training for Professionals

Learn all the tips and tricks you need to clean vomit and other stubborn stains in our IICRC Carpet Cleaning Technician (CCT) Seminar. This two-day class covers general carpet cleaning procedures as well as tried-and-true methods for removing all types of stains.

Kids get sick often, and they always seem to throw up on a favorite couch or chair. Discover how to remove vomit and other spots from all types of upholstery in our IICRC Upholstery and Fabric Cleaning (UFT) Seminar. Earn IICRC certification and become a furniture-cleaning expert in just two days!

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Matrix® Release
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Matrix® Spot Out Spotter
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Matrix® Target Tannin Stain Remover
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Matrix® Advanced Stain Remover
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