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How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of Carpet

How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of Carpet

If you want to learn how to get yellow stains out of carpet then you have come to the right place.

The most likely causes for yellow stains on the carpet are certain chemicals, household products, photo-oxidation, smoking, tar, spills, foot traffic. Depending on what caused the yellow stain, there are ways to get rid of them.

In some cases, the cleaning will be easy so long as you tend to it quickly. In other cases, it will take a lot of work to attempt to restore the carpet to how it was before the yellow stains showed up.

Main Reasons for Yellow Stains on Carpet

Some main factors that cause yellow stains on carpet include:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Photo-oxidation
  • Household products
  • Chemicals
  • Daily spills or foot traffic

Cigarette Smoke

Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes can cause permanent yellow stains to set in on carpets. The nicotine is the culprit, and the stain it leaves behind is very difficult to remove. It can actually end up damaging the carpet fibers beyond repair.


When carpets are overexposed to sunlight or other atmospheric fumes, the fibers start to degrade. The result is a yellow stain that begins to show up. Many carpets contain a high quantity of yellow dye that, when exposed to sunlight, starts to fade and reveal its yellow tint.

Photo-oxidation can cause yellowing on wool, silk, or polypropylene fiber carpets.

Household Products

Some common household products, such as bleach, furniture polish, indoor plant fertilizers, or insecticides, will react with carpeting and turn it yellow.

The reason for the yellow stain is that these household products contain benzoyl peroxide that creates a yellowing, or sometimes a more orange-color ring to form around it.

Make sure your cleaning products don’t have fluorescent brightening agents in the ingredients.

These agents turn yellow when they are exposed to ultraviolet light. Also, alkaline cleaners that have a pH level of 10 or more can discolor the carpeting, usually on wool or nylon carpets.

Avoid future yellowing stains by using detergents that have less alkaline, are acidic, or are neutral.

Chemicals or Phenolic Yellowing

Some chemicals react with the composition of the carpet fibers. These chemicals come from cleaners that contain high amounts of alkaline detergents or pH that leaves behind a yellow stain, called phenolic yellowing.

Phenolic yellowing discolors the carpet due to the BHT Butylated Hydroxytoluene that is in the carpet when it is manufactured to extend the life of the carpet.

BHT is used in plywood, plastics, latex, or carpet adhesives products and is an antioxidant and ultraviolet inhibitor. The phenolic yellowing occurs because of a lack of oxygen. BHT requires some breathing room when furniture is placed.

If it is not allowed to breathe, the lack of oxygen causes the compound to react by turning yellow.

Also, some antistatic agents, softeners, flameproofing agents, crease-resistant finishes, and silicon protectors can cause the carpet to yellow. Even the loom oil that is used as a lubricant in tufting machines when the carpet is made can cause yellowing.

Daily Spills or Foot Traffic

Sometimes yellow stains appear on the carpet as a result of daily spills or foot traffic. Especially areas of the carpeting that endures heavy foot traffic will start to show yellowing. The yellow stains are caused by dirt or debris that is tracked inside underfoot.

Tar from an asphalt driveway is often the culprit in this regard. Once it is tracked in, it will begin to set into the carpet and develop a yellowish color around the tar stain. Or, it could be from pet urine, coffee, tea, or soda spills that were not properly cleaned up.

How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of Carpet

How to get yellow stains out of the carpet is going to depend on what caused the yellow stains. Here are several methods to tackle each type of stain:

First, some great items to have on hand to tackle any carpet stain include:

  • Cotton cloths
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Spray bottle
  • Rubber gloves

Steam cleaning is a great way to break down ground-in deep dirt. It dissolves some chemicals in the carpet and removes stains. Steam is excellent in killing bacteria and other microorganisms.

However, beware of carpet wicking after any steam cleaning. Wicking happens because when you steam clean the carpet, you may have only cleaned the surface stain.

After a few days, the dirt in the pad underneath the top layer of carpeting begins to rise to the top. The stain reappears.

Baking soda works as a natural cleaner. Mix 1 cup of baking soda with half a cup of water, and apply it to the yellow stain. Use a soft-bristled brush to work the baking soda into the carpet fibers. Continue the process until the stain is gone.

Beware that when you use baking soda, you can actually create a yellowing. To restore the carpet’s color after using baking soda, you will want to use white vinegar mixed with water to apply to the surface of the carpet.

Ammonia-based cleaner often works well on yellow stains. If the carpet is not made out of wool, combine one tablespoon of ammonia with one cup of water inside a spray bottle. Use rubber gloves, and start spraying the mixture directly onto the stain. Work it in with a clean, dry cotton cloth.

Dish Soap works to get stains out of wool carpets. Fill a spray bottle with one tablespoon of dish soap and one cup of water. Spray it onto the stain, and work it into the carpet fibers using a clean cotton cloth.

Any unknown yellow stain

Use a mixture of lemon juice and salt directly applied to the spot, and rinse with water. Use a clean white towel to pat dry the area.

Tar Oil Stains

Remove the tar from the carpet. Blot the area with a clean towel, and vacuum. Apply a carpet cleaning solution or dishwashing liquid to the stain, and rinse with cold water.

Dry the carpet using a hand dryer. If the solution did not work, try using rubbing alcohol or 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Chemical Stains

An acid rinse works well on stains caused by alkaline-based cleaning products. An acid rinse uses an acid-based product to rinse out the chemical stain. It removes any alkaline residue left behind and also stabilizes the carpet’s color to restore it.

Another cleaning method that works with chemical stains is through professional extraction cleaning or by using isopropyl alcohol, vinegar, and citric acid.

Mix 3 parts water and one part white vinegar in a bowl. Use a sponge to apply the mixture to the baking soda stain. Press down with a white towel or cloth, and let the carpet dry thoroughly.

Phenolic Stains

Yellow stains caused by phenolic staining on carpets that contain BHT can be cleaned with adequate air exposure. Phenolic staining is a specific kind of chemical staining. Allowing the carpet to be aired out is often all you need to fix it.

Often, phenolic staining occurs under heavy furniture, so removing the furniture and allowing it to be aired out helps the stain to go away. Every so often, it’s a good idea to move the furniture around to keep yellow stains from forming.

Additionally, you could mix 8 to 10 tablespoons of citric acid with 1 gallon of hot water, pour the solution into a spray can, and spray on the carpet.

Dry the entire carpet with a hairdryer or fans as well as blotting with a white towel or cloth. Vacuum several times to remove all citric acid residue.

Photo-Oxidation Stains

If the carpet has become discolored due to photo-oxidation, it may be beyond cleaning.

It may need to be dyed to restore the original color to the carpeting. Find a carpet dye that matches the original color or is slightly darker. Do not go with a lighter dye, as this will cause the coloring of the carpet to look uneven.

FAQs Section

When should I call a professional?

When you have tried every cleaning method meant to be used on whatever caused the yellow stain, it may be time to call a professional to help.

When should I try to dye the carpet after yellow staining?

When phenolic yellowing occurs and won’t go away even after you have moved the furniture and allowed the area to air out and have used citric acid to alleviate the staining, the discoloration may be permanent.

At this point, your only option may be to dye the carpet to return it to its original color.

When should I replace the carpet after yellow staining?

When all attempts to get the yellow stain out have failed. Or, you have resorted to dying the carpet and that did not work either, or if the padding is also stained and molding, it’s time to replace the carpet entirely.

Final Thoughts

There are various reasons why your carpet is stained yellow. Thankfully, there are also cleaning methods that work. Which method you use to get yellow stains out of carpeting will depend on what caused the staining.

If DIY cleaning methods don’t work, call in a professional to clean the stains. If the carpet is discolored, you may be able to dye it back to its original color, or close to it.

When all stain removal attempts fail, or if the stain has been absorbed into the padding causing mold or mildew, it may be time to replace the carpet.