Best way to get mud out of carpet – and the mistakes that will ruin it

The cleaning professional-approved method for quick mud stain removal

hallway with wellington boots
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Muddy boots and pawprints tracked into the hall are the last thing we need, and even if we try and instill a 'shoes off ' policy, accidents happen.

We have turned to cleaning professionals to learn the best way to clean mud off the carpet to leave it looking as good as new, as well as the mistakes that will make it even worse.

Whether you are tackling this task as part of cleaning your entryway or cleaning an area rug, we have the must-have pro tips to erase the stain quickly.

Best way to clean mud off carpet

None of the cleaning tips shared below require harsh chemicals, but instead make use of gentle detergent, warm water and patience.

hallway with wellington boots

(Image credit: Future PLC)

1. Let it dry

The key is to let it dry first, says Kait Schulhof, a sustainable cleaning expert.

'One of the biggest mistakes you can make when cleaning mud off of carpet is trying to clean it while it's still wet! Scrubbing wet mud will simply spread the stain and push it deeper into carpet fibers,' Kait explains.

Leave it to dry for around 24 hours, and the next steps will be easier.

cleaning expert
Kait Schulhof

Kait Schulhof is the founder of A Clean Bee, a website about sustainability-focused cleaning and organizing.

2. Vacuum the area

Once it is completely dry, take your vacuum cleaner and vacuum as much of the dry mud as you can.

'Depending on your carpet pile, it might also help to brush the dry mud
(dirt) to loosen it from the carpet fibers with a soft cleaning brush
before vacuuming,' Kait adds. You can also use a toothbrush to nudge the carpet fibers and help remove the dried mud. If there are large chunks of mud, gently scrape with a credit card or metal spoon.

3. Mist with dish soap and warm water

Then, it's time to treat the stain that's left behind. This can be done either with a gentle stain remover or dish soap and water in a spray bottle. If using dish soap, mix a teaspoon with warm water in a spray bottle, at Amazon, shake it, and then spritz it onto the stain. 

Leave it to sit for a few minutes and then blot with a cleaning towel or paper towel, working from the outer edge of the stain inwards to prevent spreading the stain.

You may like to rinse out the dish soap by blotting the area with a fresh, damp cloth so there's no dish soap residue on the fibers. Dab it dry with a cloth.

You can use a carpet cleaner as a final step for tougher stains, but ensure that you rinse properly. 

Mistakes to avoid

Aside from cleaning while the mud is still wet, using hot water or harsh chemicals, there are a few key mistakes to avoid. First, rubbing the stain will only push the mud deeper into the carpet. 'Stick to blotting,' says James King from Indeanapolis-based cleaning company Deluxe Maid. Using a dabbing motion will prevent you from spreading the stain and making the carpet fibers look disheveled. 

'Using too much water can also lead to trouble, like mold or mildew,' James adds. 'So, try not to flood the area. A light touch with the cleaning solution and thorough drying afterward will suffice.'

James also points out that if you use colored towels or cloths to blot or clean stains, there's a small risk that they may transfer some of their dye, so opt for white cloths or paper towels. 

It might be tempting to leave it to air dry after all that blotting, but it's a good idea to dry is thoroughly to prevent mold. 'Resist the urge to let your carpet air dry after you have successfully lifted the stains,' says Alyssa Pfitscher from Two Maids Cleaning. 'A carpet that remains damp for a long period of time is more likely to grow mold.'


Can mud stains be permanent?

Two factors make mud stains particularly hard to remove, says cleaning expert James King. 'Mud can vary in composition, and if it's mixed with oils or dyes, it might be trickier to remove. Your carpet's material plays a role too; lighter or natural fiber carpets tend to be more stain-prone.'

In any case, treating the stain quickly (provided that it's dry) will make it easier to treat.

So, all you should need is warm water and detergent while avoiding applying too much pressure. Luckily, cleaning mud off walls is a much easier process.

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.