How to Remove Tar Stains From Your Carpet

How to Remove Tar Stains From Your Carpet

Tar is sneaky. Because it’s used to patch asphalt that’s roughly the same colour, you may end up stepping on tar without realising it. Or maybe you drove on a road repaired with tar on a hot day, came home to find black stains on your car, and immediately cleaned it off (using this Lifehacker article for guidance), but got it on your shoes in the process.

Regardless of its origin, if you inadvertently track tar indoors, it could end up staining your rug or carpet. Here’s how to remove those tricky, sticky tar stains.

How to remove tar stains from carpet

The sooner you take care of the tar stain, the better your chances will be of getting it out. Here’s what to do:

Remove any stuck-on tar

The first thing to do is to remove as much of the actual tar as possible so you can move on to the stain.

Using a plastic knife, scrape off any easy-to-remove tar from the surface of the carpet, being sure to only move the knife upward towards the ceiling (and not back and forth on the fibres) so as not to make the stain worse.

If the stuck-on tar isn’t budging, put some ice cubes in a plastic bag and hold it to the tar until it hardens, then try again. Vacuum up any hardened bits of tar that may have ended up on the carpet.

Tackle the stain

In addition to the spot treatments for rugs and carpets you can buy in a store, you can also use things you already have at home to remove tar stains from carpets.

But before you use any of them, check the manufacturer’s instructions (they should be available on their website) for your carpet or rug — not only for cleaning tips, but also to find out if there are any products or solutions that you should avoid.

Here are a few tar stain removal options:

  • Put a few drops of gentle dish soap in about 1 cup of warm water, and apply the solution directly to the stain. Use a clean cloth to work the solution into the stain, moving from the outside of it in towards the centre (so it doesn’t spread). Use another clean cloth to rinse the stain with cold water. If it appears to be working, keep repeating the process until the stain is gone. Do not use dish soap that contains lanolin or bleach.
  • Pour a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide over the tar stain. Let it sit for one minute, then blot with a paper towel.
  • Spray some WD-40 onto a clean rag, and blot the tar stain.
  • Mix a few drops of Mr. Clean Multi-Surface Cleaner with some baking soda to create a paste. Use a clean rag to apply it to the stain, and gently blot it until it lifts. Then use a different clean rag to rinse the stain with cold water. When the carpet is dry, vacuum any baking soda mess left behind.

Of course, some jobs call for the expertise of a professional, and removing some tar stains from carpet is one of them. So if you’re in doubt about what to do, or are not making any progress with the stain on your own, it may be time to call in the pros.


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