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There is no use crying over spilt milk (couldn't resist!) but it can cause some pretty nasty issues if the spill isn't cleaned up. Unlike many other stains, a milk stain doesn't just look unsightly it can also quickly cause a bad smell. So if you have spilt some milk on your carpet, you'll be wanting to know how to get it out fast. Read on for our handy guide on how to remove milk stains and get the smell out of the carpet.
At a first, glance, spilling milk on the carpet doesn't look like it is going to cause any issues, especially on a light-coloured carpet. The initial spill can almost look like it's just water. The main issue with a milk stain is what happens after it dries.
For more learnings, you can check out our post "How To Clean Carpet Stains".
Milk contains a substance called beta-carotene. This is the same nutrient that makes carrots orange. When milk is fresh, the beta carotene is hidden by its fat molecules but when the milk starts to go off and the molecules separate, the beta carotene is revealed resulting in a yellowish hue.
So while the stained area might be invisible, to begin with, you could find that it turns yellow over time.
If you have spilled milk on the carpet and the stain has been left for a while, it will start to go off. Bacteria present in the carpet will feed on the lactose in the milk, breaking down this natural sugar into lactic acid. This acid has that familiar sour milk smell.
Before we start with the process of cleaning milk stains, it is worth mentioning you should only be using cold water. As tempting as it is to use hot or warm water because it is generally a more effective cleaner, it can make the situation worse in this case.
Milk contains a lot of protein molecules. When these are heated, it can cause them to bind more strongly to the carpet fibres which will make the stain much more difficult to remove.
So now we know why cleaning milk stains as quickly as possible is important but you might not have even noticed the spill happen. Read on for a few tips on how to tackle a fresh milk stain but also how to remove dried milk. Then we'll go through the cleaning process that can be used with both to fully remove any spilt milk and prevent milk smells.
You can also check out our post "How To Clean Sick Off Carpet" for additional insights.
If you see the milk spill happen, you are in the perfect position to get to the stain and remove it before it has a chance to dry.
The first thing you need to do to remove milk from your carpet is run to the kitchen and grab some paper towels so that you can remove any excess milk. You can also use a clean white cloth instead but you may need multiple.
Take your paper towel and blot the stained area to remove as much milk as possible. Don't rub it because you will run the risk of spreading the stain and making it larger.
Apply some pressure so that any milk that has penetrated deeper into the carpet is forced up and into your paper towel. Change the paper towels or clean cloth regularly and keep the cleaning process going until the paper towel or clean cloth comes up dry.
If you are dealing with a milk stain that has been left for a while, the first step will be slightly different. Paper towels aren't going to shift the dried milk but you also shouldn't reach for the water first.
You should try to remove as much of the dried milk as possible before getting the stain wet. You can do this by using a butter knife, or another dull knife, to gently scrape the milk stain to lift the dried milk from the carpet. Then use a vacuum cleaner to hoover up the milk flakes.
Now you need to get the stain wet. Put some cold water in a spray bottle and lightly spray the stain. Remember to only use cold water and never hot.
Then make a paste out of powdered laundry detergent and water. Mix some laundry detergent with a small amount of water until you get a thin silky paste. Apply this to the affected area and use a toothbrush to work it into the carpet fibres.
Thankfully, cleaning spilled milk is a relatively simple process and often only requires the use of common household products.
The simplest solution to a milk stain is to grab some mild dish soap and cold water. You will need a ratio of around two cups of water to one tablespoon of dish soap. Or you could use a commercial carpet cleaner.
Dampen a cloth in the cleaning solution of water and washing up liquid.
Now get to work on the stain with the damp cloth. Work from the outer edges inward to avoid spreading out the stain. And remember to blot or only gently rub. This will stop the milk from being pushed deeper into the carpet.
Rinse the cloth frequently and keep the process going until the water from the damp cloth runs clear.
Now you need to rinse the affected area to remove the soapy residue. Use clean fresh water and a damp cloth to blot the area and rinse it.
Then use a paper towel, dry cloth, or dry towel to blot away as much water as possible.
Even if you think you have removed all of the milk stains, it is a good idea to be proactive about preventing any smell in case you have missed some.
For an odour-free carpet, baking soda is a simple solution to remove the milk smell. Sprinkle it liberally on the affected area and leave the baking soda overnight. The baking soda particles will penetrate deep into the carpet fibres and absorb and neutralise any odours.
In the morning, simply use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the baking soda and you should have a fresh-smelling carpet.
If you are dealing with a milk smell after a stain has been left for too long, you may need to use some additional cleaning methods to remove it.
Check out: How To Clean A Carpet
A simple way of removing a sour smell is to use both vinegar and baking soda. The acetic acid in the vinegar will break down the milk particles and neutralise the milk smell.
Remember to use white vinegar. Something like apple cider vinegar could leave a stain.
You don't need to worry about replacing the milk smell with a vinegar smell as the vinegar odour will disappear once it dries. This can take around a day on a soft surface such as a carpet but it will happen.
Make a vinegar solution with a 50:50 ratio of water. Then spray it onto the affected area and leave it for around 30 minutes. Then go in and blot the area with a dry cloth to remove the moisture.
Now you can use the baking soda method to be doubly sure that you are removing the smell. Sprinkle it on, leave it overnight, and then vacuum it up in the morning.
This is an unusual method but it can get milk smell out of the carpet. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen which can neutralise odours and they can be effective with milk smells.
Take some fresh unused coffee grounds and pour them directly onto the affected area. Leave them for several hours or ideally overnight. Then simply vacuum them up.
Only use this method if the milk stain is completely dry. If there is any moisture left at all, you run a real risk of creating a coffee stain on your carpet.
Milk stain removal once the milk has dried and started to turn yellow can be more tricky but it is doable.
An enzyme cleaner can effectively clean spilled milk. Enzyme cleaners contain good bacteria that release enzymes. These enzymes break down the molecules in organic materials, such as milk, into smaller molecules. The bacteria will then consume these smaller molecules so that they are completely removed.
What does this mean for milk stain removal? The molecules that are causing the stain and/or smell will be broken down and removed which should do the job for persistent stains and spoiled milk smells.
Ammonia is a protein denaturant. This means that it can break down and dissolve protein molecules. Since milk is a protein-based stain, ammonia can be a very effective solution to get milk out of the carpet. And since the molecules are removed, the sour milk odour will usually disappear as well.
Mix one part of ammonia with eight parts of water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the stain and gently dab it in with a clean cloth.
Leave the solution to sit for around 10 minutes before rinsing the area thoroughly with fresh cold water and a new damp cloth and drying.
Remember to never mix ammonia with chlorine-based bleach. This creates a toxic gas called chloramine which can irritate your eyes, nose, airways, and lungs. And can be very dangerous in high concentrations.
To clean milk that has dried and left a yellow stain, an oxygen bleach like Oxi-Clean can be effective. Mix the product according to the manufacturer's instructions and blot it onto the stain with a clean cloth.
Leave the solution to sit for 30 minutes before rinsing with cold water and a new cloth. Then dry.
You should wear protective gloves when using oxygen bleach as it can irritate your skin.
If you have tried all of these methods and there is a remaining milk stain or smell. Or if you're worried about damaging your carpet when trying to clean spilt milk, you can always call in a professional carpet cleaning company.
At the Carpet Team, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to understand a wide variety of stains, including milk stains. And we know the best methods of removing them without causing any damage. We also have access to the very latest industrial cleaning equipment and products to ensure that your carpet cleaning is the deepest and most thorough possible.
While you are here, why not dive into our blog section and read up on our post on how much is carpet cleaning.