DIY Spot Carpet Cleaner {perfect for cars!}

10/26/2012. This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy.

A Hand washing a blue car with a sponge

So those of you with children or pets in particular might be interested in this little tip to easily spot clean carpet stains.  You can use this in your home or use it in the car.

I am not a messy or dirty person by nature, I am actually one of those people that can’t sit down if there are dirty dishes in the sink.  I have always had a clean car- with the exception of a notepad and a stray water bottle I really do keep the car fairly tidy.

No matter what I do, however, my children seriously trash my car.  It makes me CRAZY to see little crumbs on the floor, stickers, dirty seats from where they used the car cushion as a step stool to get into a car seat…  Really, really maddening.

So I found this recipe for a DIY spot carpet cleaner and I wanted to share it with you.  It worked perfectly on my car yesterday and today the car looked so clean and smelled good.  I am really happy about how this worked out.

The best part is you don’t have smelly chemicals, expensive products to buy and you can make this yourself with what you probably have on hand already.

So here is the simple recipe for the DIY Spot Carpet Cleaner:

1. Mix 1 tablespoon dish soap (I used a clear version but the magic blue Dawn would probably be OK too.) and 1 tablespoon plain white vinegar into a spray bottle.  You can also add a little essential oil if you like, I added lemon.

2. Add 2 cups of warm water.  Shake.

3. Sprinkle carpet to be cleaned with baking soda (you can mix the baking soda with essential oils as an air freshener.  Let this sit for a few minutes or even overnight.

4. Vacuum and spray the solution liberally onto your carpet.

5.  Let this sit for a few minutes and then use a sponge or rag to dab at the excess solution.  Now up until this point I did not notice any difference at all.

6. Use a little elbow grease to rub the solution over your stain.  Let dry.

And that was all it took!  Super simple and the car upholstery really looks great.  It isn’t a perfect solution but I am really happy with how it turned out- here are some before and afters of our car:



And the car seats:


And I can tell you today the car smells great- the vinegar and the baking soda deodorize so my poor car was nice and fresh again today.

One last tip, I like these little towels from the Dollar Tree for projects like this.

And here are a few other things you might be interested in:

I strongly recommend spot testing this on your carpet or upholstery in an inconspicuous spot to be sure it won’t stain or discolor your carpet!

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara October 26, 2012 at 4:08 PM

It looks great! I think I might try it this week! Thanks for the great tip!!

Charlene October 26, 2012 at 4:09 PM


Let me know how it works!

Endcapps October 26, 2012 at 5:09 PM

Really impressive how clean it became! And, your lawn looks so green & healthy, btw :)

Nikki October 26, 2012 at 7:48 PM

Great idea! I will try this weekend. Looks like it worked great for you!

Charlene October 26, 2012 at 7:59 PM

LOL it actually isn’t EC. Some crazy teenager left us a note that he “overshot the turn” and he left deep tire marks like 20 feet into the front lawn. In the middle of the day. We are on the corner so I am pretty sure it was some dumb kid showing off but nonetheless the nice grass is still recovering from “Carl” who apparently turns when he is 20 feet past the street :)

momto3 October 26, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Going to try this! We have leather seats (thank goodness) BUT the roof of the inside of our car is insane. Like coffee and hot chocolate/ice cream splotches! LOL Wonder how to get the baking soda to stick to the roof? LOL I think thats partly what helps with the stains?? Hoping it works, because everything else I tried hasnt!

Endcapps October 27, 2012 at 6:39 AM

Sorry for the Carl-on-lawn mishap! I have teenagers. It was grown-up of him to leave a note.

Maria October 27, 2012 at 7:41 AM

I will do try this on my couches arm rest.

MichelleM October 27, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Thanks! I will try this ASAP. The never ending mess from kids drives me crazy too!

Toby October 27, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Cool. I like the before and after. Got to try it.

Charlene October 27, 2012 at 11:44 AM


You can probably skip that step ;). If the vinegar and dish soap don’t work I believe you can make a baking soda paste too. That helps deodorize.

Here is a recipe:


Candi October 27, 2012 at 1:26 PM

This is so exciting! My kids have trashed my back seat and floorboards! I have been dreading paying a detailer to do it so thank you for the tip! It will be my Sunday project. :)

Whitney October 27, 2012 at 2:29 PM

Thank you! I will try this. My 3 yo make such a mess in the car! It drives me crazy!

mary October 27, 2012 at 3:51 PM

Thanks for your money saving tips i have tried a few of your projects and they really work great. I love your save mart deals by the way

Julie Schmidt February 25, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Hey Charlene,

Thank you so much for this post. The other day we were having a “heat wave” in the Chicago area (50 degrees!!!) so I was determined to clean my car. I was however out of carpet cleaner so I went back & found this post. I used lavendar oil in my concoction. It worked so great & made my car smell amazing. I haven’t bought carpet cleaner & probably won’t anymore now that I have my own homemade version:)

Charlene February 25, 2013 at 1:06 PM


I am so glad to hear it! I found these little shakers at Target for $1.29 in the baking aisle that make it even easier. I did a mad clean over the weekend and sprinkled this stuff in every room and the first thing my husband said was how great the house smelled. That was like 4 hours later :)


Matthew January 26, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I just had a question as to where the baking soda comes into this? Do I put it in the spray bottle with the other ingredients or lay it on the carpet floors? Appreciate this post!

Charlene January 26, 2014 at 11:51 AM

Matthew- I use baking soda instead of the packaged carpet cleaner you normally buy from Glade or whatever. Sprinkle it down and it will freshen your carpets- then vacuum it up.

Peter May 14, 2014 at 4:14 PM

@momto3 an others

Do not use thus method or and similar methinks on your car roof interior (called a headliner). There generally a thin material that is glued onto the interior roofing material. Moisture (spraying etc) will cause the adhesive to loosen and you will get a sagging headliners

Peter May 14, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Oops hit submit prematurely.

The best wat to Caen a headliner is to try and gently loosen the dirt witha soft brush and tap/pat out with a microfiber towel

Do not get them wet or the will end up looking like a fat suburban Dad caught in the rain wearing a velour shirt from the 197s.


vi May 28, 2014 at 10:32 AM

where do you buy/find spray bottles? I may be looking in the wrong places at the store :)

Charlene May 28, 2014 at 11:04 AM

vi- I find them at the Dollar Store, in the travel section or the cleaning supplies section at Target near the mops and brooms. You can also find them in garden departments in the summer for misting plants. I have one that I picked up at Sally beauty supply recently- all over the place :). I find it is worth it to spend $3 or so and get a fairly good quality one. The ones that are super cheap tend to not mist very well and are frustrating to use.

Vi May 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Charlene, thanks for the suggestions!

Paige July 27, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Oh My Goodness! This worked miracles. After 5 years of college coffee stains my car was a hot mess. THANK YOU!

Charlene July 27, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Yeah!! So glad Paige!

Kittie October 20, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Just cleaned the dried coffee spill from my new car. Looks new again thank you!!!

Charlene October 20, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Yeah so glad Kittie!

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