Removing a Ketchup Stain from a Carpet

Red stains are always the ones most difficult to tackle. Blood, red wine and tomato ketchup are particularly tough to deal with. In the case of tomato ketchup, children are often the root cause of spills. That burger bun loaded with ketchup, attention taken by the television, that first big bite and splat! The ketchup has squeezed out of the bottom of the bun and landed on the living room carpet.

First here’s the science behind the stain. Tomatoes are slightly acidic and also contain a natural pigment called Lycopene. When the tomato sauce hits the carpet fibres, the acidic Lycopene pigment mix will begin to colour or stain them. It is for this reason that the first thing to remember is to act quickly, but don’t panic. If you rush over and begin scrubbing the ketchup with a dry cloth, all you will do is make the stain bigger. Do nothing straight away, and we all know how thick and sticky dried tomato ketchup is, and that acid and Lycopene mix will be left doing its thing for longer.

The first thing to do is to scrape off excess ketchup with a butter knife or spatula. This will leave you with less material to work on, and avoid the stain being spread. Once the excess is removed, sponge the area with cool water, working from the outer edges of the stain in towards the centre. Again, this stops the stain from getting larger. Never use hot water on stains, counter-intuitive as it sounds, hot water will make things worse not better.

White vinegar

Once the area has been sponged with cool water, neat white vinegar can be used. Blotting or dabbing the area with a clean cloth soaked in white vinegar can sometimes be enough to remove the stain. Once removed, rinse the area with more cool water. The damp area can then be covered with clean absorbent cloth or paper towels, to soak up the moisture. Cover the towels with a plastic bag and put a heavy weight on top such as a thick book. Leave overnight, and by the morning the area will be clean and dry.

Dishwashing Liquid

Mix one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with half a pint of cool water. Soak a clean white cloth in the solution and blot the stained area. Repeat this process until the stain is removed, rinse the area with cold water to remove any remaining detergent and blot dry. Use the same overnight drying process to finish.

Wet Vac

Wet vac the stain immediately after removing the excess ketchup. Spray with shop bought laundry pre-treatment, leave for twenty minutes and wet vac again.


Mix four-parts warm water with one-part ammonia in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray the stained area and work in with a toothbrush. Once the stain is removed, rinse and dry using the methods described above.

We will never be able to stop our children having those little accidents with tomato ketchup, but by acting quickly and using these methods, we can bring our carpets back to their former glory in no time.

Call the Pros

If all else fails, we can clean your carpet for you and remove most stains – including ketchup!