How to Attack, Destroy, and Annihilate Wine Carpet Stains (And Which Vacuums and Carpet Cleaners are Most Effective in Cleaning Them)

We love grapes. We love wine. We hate stains. Here's how to fight them.
We love grapes. We love wine. We hate stains. Here’s how to fight them.

As professional cleaners, we’re no strangers to messy houses. Whether from vomiting babies, messy pets, sporty children, or tipsy adults, accidents happen. One of our most common reasons for house calls involves wine stains. The exact circumstances vary from one home to another, but they tend to involve a little too much movement while celebrating (the New Year, a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation, the weekend, a promotion, a marriage, a divorce…the list goes on). However, whether you’ve just found out some very good news or are comforting yourself after a hard day at work, the last thing you need is a grape or wine stain on a rug or carpet that’s decidedly not wine-colored. Fortunately, no matter what’s going on in your personal life, a stained carpet doesn’t have to join your list of worries. Here are our best tips for tackling red or white wine-based carpet stains, as well as our top vacuum cleaner and carpet cleaner for dealing with them both before, during, and after their occurrence.

Avoidance is the best policy

When it comes to wine stains, the best way to clean them we’ve yet found is to keep them from occurring to begin with. It might sound trite, but it’s our first recommendation to clients who ask us for the best tools: prevention can save many dollars, a lot of stress, and countless hours of work. Simply do your best to keep any kind of beverage away from your carpet. Sealed bottles are generally a safe bet, but we’ve seen those drop and shatter on low-pile carpets too, so you can never be too careful. Uncork your bottles far away from rugs and carpets and if you’re hosting, do your best to keep your guests away from high-risk areas. We frequently recommend stocking coffee tables and other furniture to provide guests with convenient places to leave drinks so they don’t carry them about (or worse, set them directly on your carpets).

But if you can’t avoid it, absorb it
Trust us. Kittens and wine glasses don't mix.
Trust us. Kittens and wine glasses don’t mix.

No matter how careful you are, though, you’ll eventually wind up with a spill. Once this occurs, you’ll want to act quickly. The first thing to do is to stop the spill from getting worse; if you can recover the glass (or God forbid, bottle) before it’s completely empty, you’ll save yourself a lot of work. Similarly, if the person who spilled the wine isn’t completely sober, this is the time to keep him or her from drinking further. If the wine is the result of an animal spill, the animal should be removed from the area (both to prevent further spills as well as for the animal’s safety; alcohol and pets don’t mix).

Once whatever (or whoever) spilled the wine has been contained, you’ll want to find the nearest absorbent towel (paper towels will work in an emergency, and this is an emergency) to place directly on the stain. Ideally, you’ll want a white towel so additional dye colors aren’t added to your stain. Next, place a heavy object on the towels; your body will work if you can’t find a set of books or weights. Many families we know use mixers. The combination of weight and absorbency will help wick away wine from your carpet so it doesn’t reach deeper layers in the fabric, such as the pad, where it becomes much harder to clean.

Better yet, bring a good vacuum

While prevention and absorption are the first and second lines of defense, you’re going to need mechanical help for larger or deeper stains. We used to always recommend carpet cleaners, but there are more elegant and less invasive solutions if you’re willing to spend money: high-end vacuum cleaners. The advantages of high-end vacuum cleaners over carpet cleaners are that they’re quieter, quicker to deploy, don’t use water, and are far less likely to heat the stains, which reduces the need for the additional cleaning power of a carpet cleaner to begin with.

The best vacuum cleaner we’ve yet found for directly pulling wine stains from carpets is the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet. Yes, Virginia, vacuum cleaners can pull stains out of carpets. However, you need to use the right ones. Your Hoover won’t do it, and neither will your Kenmore. The C3 Soft Carpet costs more than $700, but it’ll do a better job than most carpet cleaners on stain removal from low-pile, medium-pile, high-pile, and soft and handmade area rugs and carpets.

If the price is too dear, the best middle-priced compromise is the Miele Complete C3 Calima. It won’t clean high-pile carpets, but it’ll do everything else and, like the C3 Soft Carpet, is an absolute beast at removing stains from most carpeted surfaces. As a bonus, it’s also the best all-around family vacuum we’ve found for $700 or less, which means it’s a great “buy-it-for-life” choice for whole house cleaning, including hardwood floors and other smooth flooring.

On the low end, the cheapest Miele we’ve had significant success with is the Complete C2 Limited. Like the Calima, it’s rated for low- to medium-pile carpets, and even though it’s not as effective as the Calima when it comes to cleaning hardwood floors, it’s just as capable when it comes to stain removal from carpeting. In fact, we recently judged it to be the best family vacuum on the market for less than $400.

Any of these vacuums will be a strong asset for cleaning out wine stains. While they’ll work with some older stains that aren’t fully set in (i.e., stains less than a few months old or that haven’t had heat applied to them), you’ll have the most success with newer stains; when it comes to wine stain removal, the sooner you treat the wine, red or white, the greater your odds of success.

For the biggest stains, get the best carpet cleaners

While there are vacuum cleaners out there that can do amazing things with stains, if you’ve got one that’s really set in, you’ll want a carpet cleaner. We’ve spent more than twenty years cleaning carpets, and the best machine we’ve found for most messes continues to be the Bissell 86T3 Big Green. It’s big, it’s loud, but it works better than almost anything else on the market. Rather than renting one, we recommend buying one and keeping it for as long as you plan on owning a home, apartment, or condominium, because it’s going to last just as long. At under $400, it’s one of the best investments any homeowner can make.

A good alternative to the Big Green is the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner. It’s significantly cheaper at under $300 and cleans almost as well; like the Big Green, it’s a highly reliable machine that’s a good choice for a family looking for a wine-cleaning tool that will work for a range of other stains (both human and animal-inflicted) for far longer than a discount carpet cleaner will. We always recommend spending a little more once over a lot from one bad cheap purchase after another.

In case you’re interested in the absolute best carpet cleaner money can buy for wine stains, you’ll want to take a look at the EDIC Galaxy 2000. However, we’ll warn you: it costs $3,000, so we’d recommend starting with the Bissell Big Green unless you’ve got a few extra grand burning a hole in your pocket, or unless you clean carpets for a living like we do. If you want to clean every last drop of wine (or anything else) out of your carpets, however, this is the best machine on the market, bar none. We’ve got two of them, and we bring them out on jobs where nothing else will work.

Conclusion – Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

In conclusion, there are a number of solutions for tackling wine stains in all kinds of carpets and at all levels of difficulty. How much work you’ll need to do will depend on the kind of stain, how extensive it is, how deeply it’s set in, what kind of carpet you’re dealing with, and how much you’re willing to spend. Above all, we recommend spending money on a quality machine the first time around so you don’t find yourself buying it later after wasted time, money, and effort.

Our top recommendations for the best wine-cleaning vacuum cleaners and carpet cleaners under $1000 are the Miele Complete C3 Soft Carpet, which you can buy here, and the Bissell Big Green, which you can buy here. If you’re on a tight budget, we’d recommend the Miele Complete C2 Limited, which you can buy here, and the Rug Doctor Deep Carpet Cleaner, which you can buy here. If you own a million dollar home, an apartment complex, a hotel, or simply make a living from cleaning carpets, you’ll want the EDIC Galaxy 2000, which you can buy here.

If you find our research on PMC helpful, you can support our efforts to keep maniacally testing home cleaning tools by bookmarking and shopping through this Amazon link. Canadians can use this link. We promise to keep fighting the good fight against every horror children, animals, and grown, yet messy humans can inflict upon a clean home.

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