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How we test carpet stain removers

The dirty business of finding the most effective carpet cleaners.

hwt cleaning a carpet stain

Carpet stain removers are a once-in-a-while sort of product – unless you have the pitter patter of any sort of tiny feet around. There are some very popular products on the market, ranging from $4.50 all the way to $25.95. So how do we find out how well they perform?

How we choose what we test

Our market researchers find out what the most popular brands are on the market. They'll survey manufacturers about their latest products, and ask them whether they'll stick around beyond publication time.

Carpet cleaners come in a variety of applications, from foam spray to liquid spray to powder, and we also put a couple of home recipes through our testing regime. In some instances, these homemade stain removers outperform the more costly retail versions.

Home recipe 1

  • 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar  
  • 1/4 cup water

Work the combined mixture into the stain being careful not to over-wet the carpet and blot it dry with a clean towel.

(Plus: A clean towel, clean sponge and a spray bottle).

Home recipe 2

  • 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid 
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar 
  • 1 cup warm water 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 

(Plus: A clean towel, clean sponge and a spray bottle).


Spray the soiled area with the carpet cleaner being careful not to over-wet the carpet, and then gently rub and dab with the towel.

How we test carpet stain removers

We soil cream-coloured carpet with five soils: red wine, coffee, sauce, dirt/oil and foundation. Reflectance readings are taken of the soiled carpet stains. 

We follow the directions for applying the product and the amount of time it should be left on the stain. The time differs depending on the manufacturer recommendation. Once the product is removed, the reflectance readings are taken and the percentage of soil removal is calculated. We repeat the test four times for each stain, or 20 carpet tiles for each product.

Because each carpet stain remover falls into a category (spray, foam, powder), we test to a couple of different methods to accommodate manufacturer directions for use.

Method 1

5mL of product is applied to the centre of the carpet square and left for a set amount of time. A damp cloth is then used to massage the product into the carpet for 30 seconds in a clockwise circular direction, and the carpet tile is then left to dry. 

Method 2

5g of product is applied to the centre of the carpet square and brushed in for 30 seconds. The carpet is left for a set time.

Test criteria explained

The CHOICE Expert Rating, our overall score, is based on how well each carpet stain remover gets rid of these five common stains (all weighted equally):

  • red wine
  • coffee
  • sauce
  • oil/dirt
  • foundation.

We recommend carpet stain removers with a CHOICE Expert Rating of at least 70%.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.