We interrupt this blog to bring you the ultimate Pinterest carpet-cleaning challenge

October 6, 2013 | 36 comments

Let me begin by saying that I know that nobody comes to this blog for cleaning advice. Like, not one single person in the history of the internet has ever had the thought, I need to get my house sparkling clean. Let’s see when Jen Fulwiler has to say about that!

But I made a huge cleaning discovery this week, and it’s so cool that I would have my blogging license revoked if I didn’t tell you about it.

I’ve mentioned before that our carpet is a disaster. The previous owner of our house installed gleaming, ivory-white carpet shortly before he moved out, and let’s just say that that has not worked out so well with six young children trampling over it all day, every day. It’s almost to the point that Resolve is a line item in our monthly budget, and so I always take note when I see do-it-yourself carpet cleaning formulas on Pinterest.

I never had gotten around to trying out any of these concoctions, and I was a little worried about what they would do to the carpet if they turned out to be as disastrous as some of my other “found it on Pinterest!” efforts. So I did what I always do when I need to get some major project done that requires intensive thought and labor: made it a homeschool project! (The Fulwiler homeschool, treading the thin line between “hands-on education” and “free labor” since 2010.)

The experiment

I ordered four carpet samples, then did some research to find four of the most popular pins that offered homemade carpet cleaner formulas (and got to experience the immense satisfaction of having Joe see me surfing Pinterest and being able to say with a straight face, “I’m doing research.”) These were the four that made the cut (with links to the original pins):

  1. Hydrogen peroxide + dish soap
  2. Shaving cream
  3. Club soda + vinegar + dish soap
  4. Ironing a towel laid over a carpet sprayed with ammonia + hot water

I figured that all of these recipes would work pretty well for light stains that had recently happened, but I wanted to see if they could handle Fulwiler-level disasters. So we doused the four carpet squares with chocolate, wine, coffee, and Sharpie ink.


Then we stomped on them for a while.


And then we let them sit overnight. The next morning, they looked like this:


The results

The next day, we set out to clean up these four carpet samples with the four different formulas I’d found on Pinterest. We had our work cut out for us.

We followed the instructions on the original posts that the pins linked to, and each of the three big kids mixed his or her own formula. Here is where you probably expect me to say that while they were working, we talked about why each of these chemicals might work to remove stains. Unfortunately I used my extra prep time repinning fall cocktail recipes, so I told them to Google it.


After spraying and spraying and a lot of hard scrubbing, we let our samples dry and beheld the results:



In summary:

  • The clear winner was #3, mixing 1 cup each of club soda, white vinegar, and blue Dawn dish soap, as described in this pin.
  • None of them worked very well on the Sharpie. It seems like getting that kind of stain out would require a separate effort.
  • Truth be told, formula #4 (ironing over an ammonia and hot water mix) might have worked better if I’d had more time. The stains were continuing to come out, but after five minutes of ironing and trying not to pass out from the seriously noxious fumes, I had to quit. (A spray bottle battle had broken out on the back porch, and I was not interested in seeing how well these chemicals cleaned eyeballs.)

For those of you who prefer visuals, here it is in one image:


I tested our winning formula on our carpet o’ doom, and am happy to report that it did just as good of a job as the most expensive supermarket cleaner, for a fraction of the price. To get it to work well, I sprayed a lot of it on the trouble spots, then let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it up.

I hope that’s helpful! Now I’m going to get to work on our next homeschool science project, where we’ll discover whether it’s possible for three children to sweep the kitchen floor without getting in a broom fight.

Happy cleaning!


  1. Leslie

    Neat experiment! I’ve heard brake cleaning fluid (bought off the shelf in the automotive section) is supposed to work for Sharpie marker/pen/ink type stains.

    • Cathy

      A few weeks ago my husband used carburetor cleaner on our son’s bedroom carpet where he spilled bright orange paint. It worked pretty well!!! I’ll look at the automotive section in a whole new light now!

  2. jeni

    Wow I’m floored!


    <3 jeni

  3. Shelly

    Blotting ink stains with rubbing alcohol works. Why don’t you test it on your remaining stains?!

    • Marcy K.

      Years ago, when my toddler son used Sharpie on our new German flannel blanket from Lands End, I called them in a panic. Two very nice ladies did some quick research and told me to get a white cloth or paper towel and put alcohol on the Sharpie stain and blot, blot, blot. Don’t rub. Change the cloth and keep doing that until it is gone. It worked. I used the same technique on a newly upholstered seat on our antique rocking chair. It is a bit of effort but it works. I’m so glad though that I don’t have carpet. In hot Texas I would recommend no carpet. Good quality laminate is great.

      • elizabethe

        I have a sharpie stain on one of my chairs. I’m going to try this.

        Seconding the “you must get rid of your carpet” sentiment.

  4. The other Becky

    Pinterest is of no interest to me, partly because I really have no idea how well tested anything is. I really appreciate you doing this, and I love the final image. Part of the reason that real homeschooling crosses the line to free labor is because kids learn more when the results really matter. I think that the ironing over ammonia idea was probably something someone thought of because it works chemically bur it would not work for a human who actually has to breath. I think that it shows that life with your cat is going well that you did not say that you needed to test it on pet stains or odor removal.

  5. Mary

    Love the practical science! I fully intend on making my sons proficient in automobile maintenance for the free labor. I am so glad we’ve ripped out all the carpet in our house. I can’t even imagine the things that were growing in it. I wonder if you were to put that solution into a steam cleaner if you could do the whole carpet that way? Worth a shot? I know some of the grocery stores and hardware stores around here rent them out if no one you know has one to borrow.

  6. DJ

    Sharpie responds very well to WD40. For carpet cleaning, I use a little middle called Capture. Home Improvement stores have it. Thanks for the research…now about those cocktails!

  7. DJ

    “Miracle”, not “middle”. My autocorrect needs a conversion!

  8. Amelia

    Great experiment!!! I find that best thing that works for carpet stains is to just rip the whole thing out and start over with hardwood. Barring that, large plastic tarps over the carpet can do wonders.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Yes! The VERY FIRST moment that this is in the budget, this so-called carpet is gone.

  9. Elisa | blissfulE

    Wow! You made carpet cleaning entertaining! I would totally use this if I had any carpet.

  10. Lynne

    Did I mention that I gave myself an award two weeks ago because we caught a grasshopper and looked at it up close? That’s as much hands-on science as my kids have ever, or probably will ever get. So I’m truly impressed with this project! But really, who cares about that. What I really want to know is where did you find those adorable red patio chairs?!?

    I’ll be trying this formula. And fwiw, the Dawn/peroxide mixture works really well as a shower door/tub/tile cleaner. So now have them all go clean that area! I think I’ve just given myself an idea.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I love those chairs too! I actually found them on sale at our grocery story. 🙂

  11. Robyn

    I have 4 kids who are bigger now (just as bad for carpet) and had cheap carpet all over our main floor, except for the bathrooms and kitchen. We even had carpet in the dining area and hallways. Genius I know. I tried every cleaning method and solution known to woman kind, bought a very expensive steam cleaner, you name it. Last year we ripped it all up and replaced it with wood flooring we got a Lumber Liquidators that just snapped together – it’s seriously the best thing ever. Chuck the carpet and get some hard surface flooring. Your house will seem louder after the carpet is gone, but sooooo much cleaner.

  12. Casey @ My Love Is Too Little

    Love the hands-on science! It’s great to teach kids to find creative solutions to problems around the house, as well. And no need to call it Free Labor; it’s unpaid internship experience!

    Personally, I hate using chemicals to clean house, so the fact that dish soap was the most “chemical” of ingredients in the winning solution is fantastic.

    There’s a company that I’ve heard advertised that cleans carpet with some technique that only uses water, so no chemicals or residue. It sounds almost too good to be true!

  13. Alexandra

    Too funny! I love your witty writing style – it always makes me grin, even if you’re writing about things like Pinterest cleaning tips.

  14. Laura

    I use something called Krud Kutter from Target. You will not find it in the cleaning section – no siree! You will find it in the duct tape and adhesives aisle. I kid you not – this stuff turns grease into water. I spent hours scrubbing my grandmother’s floor and hood in the kitchen in preparation for her new stove. I grabbed a bottle of Krud Kutter to see how well it would clean and the grease literally ran off the wall/hood/floor without me even scrubbing. I recommend you try Krud Kutter on the Sharpie stains. If it doesn’t get the Sharpie out, it’ll clean the rest of your house! Its also earth-friendly 🙂

  15. Betsy M

    You are so funny. I follow you on pinterest and have been curious which carpet cleaning solution works the best. Our poor van’s carpeting is in terrible need of some help. Just curious, have you ever tried just oxi-clean (the powdered stuff) and water on the stain. That is my go to mix right now but I am always looking for one thing better. (Like someone else to do the cleaning for me.)

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Yes, I have tried the bottled Oxi-Clean. If I recall correctly, it worked about as well as the winning Pinterest solution. I’ve never tried the powered stuff though! If it’s cheap I might give it a shot. 🙂

  16. Leila@LittleCatholicBubble

    It’s so ironic that you post this the day before we are having industrial grade, dark gray carpet installed in our bedroom (the only room left that has carpet at all… hey, the kids need at least one place to wrestle and dive-bomb each other, and it might as well be the parents’ sanctuary, right?). Danya had the same type of commercial grade stuff put in her home and loves it, so I’m following her lead. But if I weren’t doing that, well by gosh this would’ve been the perfect post for me! You should see the cream carpet I’m looking at now. (Well, it’s not cream any more….)

  17. Joy Davidson

    Very cute! Love the treading the line between free labor and homeschooling (I”m guilty as well)! I have 5 kids under 9 and one on the way and homeschool as well (in Alaska- I will refrain here from the Alaskan joke about how many states of Texas can fit in our state :)). I thought I’d share a fun cleaning tip my husband discovered which has gone over particularly well with the under 3 crowd in the house (the older ones mostly grin and bear it): The “Get 3 wipes dirty” Game- because what kid doesn’t like getting things dirty? So, they each get three wipes and then they spot clean the kitchen floor with them until the wipes are all dirty. I have enjoyed following your blog- I converted to Catholicism 9 years ago from Protestantism (from which all my Protestant college friends have left and become atheists :().

  18. Stacy

    When we had our carpet cleaned a long ways back, the guy told us that if we had more incidents of spilled grape juice, Hawaiian punch, etc., to take a container of white vinegar and just pour it over the spill, blotting in between dousing. It works pretty well on everything, EXCEPT the red food coloring my boys used to fake blood and scream bloody murder, so I would come running and panic to see how badly the victim was bleeding! Vinegar didn’t work. We now have two pink patches on our light tan carpet (when it goes, I am getting wood!) I’ll try the #3 mix in the future! Thank you for sharing!!!

  19. Colleen Martin

    Just buy some Folex – it’s the best!

  20. Stephanie

    Hey, since you’re sharing home remedies – I too discovered something today, and I’m so excited about it I thought about writing a similar random life hacks post.

    If you happen to wash a diaper in a load of laundry, wash it again with a cup of salt. It dissolves the crystals! No need to shake out the laundry or clean the inside of your washer (as all the websites recommended).

  21. Patty

    Wood floors. We ripped out all our nasty once-light-but-looks-trodden-upon-by-herd-of-cows carpet and replaced it with wood floors. Put all the money you are spending on Resolve, etc., into a fund and get wood floors. I love them SO MUCH.

  22. Lynne

    I must admit that I’m with all the “ditch the carpet” people. I know it’s a major investment, but maybe not so much if you can do some of it yourself or with the help of friends, or if you put it only in your main living spaces. We have a wood-look laminate by Mannington and it’s the most low-maintenance product I could ever hope for. We’ve had it 8 years and it has only two significant dings. I never care for it other than to wipe sticky stuff away with a damp cloth and sweep (it does show dust). LOVE IT. It comes down to needs and expectations. I needed something easy that I didn’t ever have to worry about protecting (like real wood), with a decent appearance. I expected it to look good–not exactly like wood, but not like a cheap photocopy of wood. I expected it to resist scratches, but not be totally impervious. We have a *very* active family who are hard on our living areas and this stuff has held up well and looks very good–especially in light of how hard has been used and how little I’ve done for it. We had real wood for ten years in a previous home and lets say that by the end they were not pretty. Laminate isn’t as high-end, but infinitely more practical (for us). The only thing you have to be careful of is standing water.

  23. Topaz

    Thank you for the tips! My two young sons were using Sharpies for a school project, and the markers ended up on the floor where they left various stains.

    I was horrified because I wanted to get it cleaned up before my wife got home. I tried everything to no avail. The stains have been on the carpet for about a week, so hopefully the cleaner will get some of it off. It’s worth a try!

  24. Katherine

    I think my opinion counts as “expert” advice. I formulate cleaning products for a living and have worked on carpet cleaners and carpet spotters in the past. The appropriate way to treat a spot on carpet is:

    1. Blot – blot as much of the soil as possible with a white terry cloth
    2. Moisten – start at the edge of the spot, surround the spot with water and moisten the entire spot. Use as little as possible.
    3. Blot – keep on bloating until there is nothing being transferred to the white cloth. Repeat step #2 and step #3 until nothing comes out
    4. Use chemical – apply in the same way as the water and as little as possible
    5. Blot – blot until nothing comes out

    Most of the soils found in households are water-based and the chemicals for spotting will target those and work very little on the oil-based soils (i.e. permanent marker). There are products to target oil-based soils, but they are typically oil-based (duh) and you don’t want those residues permanently in your carpet which is why you would have to put soap to clean it up… which would make your carpet sticky and will attract more dirt (this is why sometimes we think carpets become dirty faster after we clean then… we left them sticky!!). I suggest using hydrogen peroxide based spotters because at least it will try to oxidize the color to make spots less visible.

    Did you notice how the little spot you made in front of the carpet made a HUGE spot in the back? That is because the carpet is very absorbent and the more liquid you put down the bigger the spot will be in the back; this is why we suggest putting as little as possible and bloating the moisture away (along with the soil). If you put too much liquid the stain will come back every time the carpet gets wet and it will become bigger and bigger on the surface. Also, treat your spots as soon as possible otherwise they may become permanent stains.

    Learning opportunities for children: water and oil based substances, oxidation, absorption (i.e. what absorbs more carpet or tile)

    P.S. Never ever rub a carpet, you will damage the fibers 😉

    I hope this helps!


    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Wow, Katherine, this is so interesting! Very cool to hear from a real expert. Thanks!

  25. Sarah

    You have no idea how excited this post got me. Our carpet has been driving me crazy, it gets dirtier by the minute from our toddler and baby. I now have club soda on our grocery list!!

  26. Shauna

    Get a product called Brand Basics. Enough said.

  27. Magic Touch Carpet cleaning

    Very interesting! club soda & vinegar is great because they are neutral and don’t leave any residue. The problem with Dawn dish soap it is highly concentrated. Most people end up using too much and leave a ton of soap still in the carpet. When I come to clean them I have to use de-foamer to get it out. So my advice is to rinse really well after using dish soap!

  28. Shane Daley

    No, No, No, I have to say that! I’ve been cleaning carpets now for 25 years. Do you think if I went out on a job one day and cleaned a carpet stain with some of these cooking ingredients or household products. My customer would have me stung up!!!
    You’ve really got to get down to brass tacks about cleaning carpets. An example of this is like in winter when your car needs antifreeze or maybe brake flued or oil even. You would never even compromise putting something other than the right product into your car would you?
    You’ve got to treat carpet cleaning in the exact same way. Cooking ingredients are for cooking. Washing up liquids are for washing up and so on… Carpet cleaning solutions are for cleaning carpets.
    You’ve got to get it right or the result ain’t going to be too good.
    Years of research has gone into creating the right product for the right job. You must chose the proper solution for the job at hand. Don’t muck about alternatives, because you’ll be barking up the wrong tree!


  29. Victor

    I commend the science experiment. Nothing better than getting the kids involved. I have 20 years in hotel housekeeping and a carpet steam cleaning business (my bio ;)…
    I have seen just about all of it, and believe me when you work in a hotel the spills and stains abound. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the kids that caused the worst ones, it was their parents!
    Home remedies can be fantastic when needed on the quick. I always imagine the spill right before the first guest arrives for the party.
    The key for the home remedies is to use them few and far between and to ensure that you always get the area professionally extracted to remove the dish soap, peroxide, arm and hammer, insert you favorite cleaning find on Pintrest here…
    These chemicals are now in your carpet and therefore in your home. They can be breathed and transferred.
    Build a relationship with a good local carpet professional who doesn’t mind coming out and handling these stains for you and doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg for his or her appearance. We are home owners, just like you and have a passion for cleanliness, just like you.

    P.S. Excellent comment by Katherine, just add the professional extraction to yank all the chemical out after your quick fix!


Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



The "THIS IS JEN" podcast is on Facebook & all podcast apps


- Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play (audio)

- Get weekly bonus episodes on Patreon

- Sign up for my email list to be the first
to know about new tour dates