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How to clean up vomit from carpet — and just about everywhere else.

Last Updated: August 30, 2021

When the unthinkable happens and your kid pukes in your bed, or your drunk pal loses it in your car, you’ll be prepared with this complete vomit cleanup guide.

Vomit is the worst. Vomiting is bad enough, but cleaning up vomit — especially someone else’s — is almost too much for many of us to bear.

But when that time comes, hopefully you will have read this article, and you’ll know exactly how to get throw up out of carpet and from just about anywhere else.

Ready? First things first:

How to clean up vomit without vomiting

Vomit clean-up duty is a big drag — especially if puke makes you upchuck. Here’s what to do if you’re that person:

  • Go to your happy place. If you can’t shake the sound of your kid losing their lunch, or your mind’s eye won’t stop playing it back on a video loop, you’ll have to fight much harder to keep your own lunch where it belongs.
  • Put a mint or fresh piece of gum in your mouth.
  • Drop a couple blops of essential oil or a little vapor rub on a cotton ball, and tuck it into your face mask. You won’t smell a thing!
  • Put on a pair of sunglasses. This will protect your eyes in the event a virus got spewed into the air when It Happened. Sunglasses will also help mask the colors, shapes, and texture of the hurl.

Someone suffering from a hangover? Here’s how to feel better quicker.

Things you'll need to clean up vomit

Here’s what you might need to get vomit out of carpet and more, depending on where, what kind, and how much:

Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and Grove Co. cleaning caddy

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Can you get sick from cleaning up vomit?

Yes, you can! Especially if the vomit you’re cleaning up came from the belly of someone infected with the highly contagious norovirus, more commonly known as the “stomach flu,” “stomach bug,” and “winter vomiting bug.” Oh, and “food poisoning” — norovirus is the leading culprit in foodborne disease outbreaks in the U.S. today.

The University of Minnesota Extension offers these tips to keep you and others from getting sick when you clean up vomit:

  • Protect yourself with gloves, a mask (don’t forget the scented cotton ball!), and something to cover your clothes and skin.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces and throw away any food within a 25-foot range of the vomit.
  • Keep pets and other people away from the scene for at least two hours after cleaning.

4 easy steps for vomit clean up

Cleaning products in box illustration

Step 1: Prepare for the task ahead

Suit up.

Pop a mint, don your cotton ball mask, slide on the gloves, and tie on your apron.

Load up.

Gather all of the supplies you’ll need for your particular vomit scenario — don’t forget the big trash bag.

Gear up.

Pause, breathe, and locate your happy place.

Cycle icon

Step 2: Scoop up the vomit

Use one of these methods to relocate the vomit to the big trash bag:

Method 1: Grab ‘n’ bag — best for thick or chunky vomit

  1. Toss some paper towels or napkins over the vomit.
  2. Slide your gloved hand into a plastic grocery bag, and use it to grab as much of the paper towel-covered vomit as you can.
  3. Turn the bag inside out so the vom is now inside, and your hand is not.
  4. Tie up the bag, and toss it. Repeat as necessary.

Method 2: Sprinkle, scoop, ‘n’ sack — best for liquidy vomit

  1. Sprinkle a quarter-inch layer of baking soda on top of the vomit and nearby surrounding areas.
  2. Give it 15 minutes to absorb the liquid and disarm the chunks.
  3. Scoop up the baking soda vomit with pieces of stiff cardboard or plates, and dump each load — cardboard and all — into a grocery bag or trash bag.
  4. Tie up the bag, and toss it.
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Step 3: Clean the scene

Depending on where, how much, and how far the vomiter vomited — and what type of vomit it is (watery? chunky?) — cleaning it up may be a simple, relatively painless procedure, or it may traumatize you for years to come.

We’ll get to the specifics of cleaning up vomit in various locations shortly.

After all traces of vomit are cleaned up, vacate and close off the area for a couple of hours, since norovirus and other infectious microbes may remain in the air for up to that long after the “incident.”

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Step 4: Disinfect the area

When you return to the scene a couple of hours later, come armed with an EPA-registered antimicrobial product that’s effective against norovirus. Follow the instructions on the label, and wipe down all hard surfaces within 25 feet of ground zero.

Seventh Generation Disinfectant Spray is one of the few plant-based disinfectants that’s EPA-approved. Its active ingredient is thymol, a powerful germ killer derived from the herb thyme.

Read our interesting guide on the difference between cleaning and disinfecting to learn more.

How to clean up vomit in bed

Strip the bed: Just fold the whole shebang of bedding over on itself like you’re making a vomit chimichanga. Don’t discriminate — even if the puke didn’t make it to the pillows, strip off the cases, and add them to the pile.

If you need to wash your pillows, bag ‘em for now — but go toss the bedding in the washing machine, pronto.

Wash in hot water to disinfect: Wash the bedding in hot water with your favorite natural detergent — add a laundry booster for extra cleaning power.

If things are really serious, run a hot rinse cycle before you wash. Dry the bedding on the hottest dryer setting.

Clean the mattress: Follow our instructions on how to clean a mattress to get all traces of vomit — both real and imaginary — out of your bed and banish any lingering odors.

Clean the washing machine: Run the self-clean setting on your washing machine to get out any residual smells and waste.

How to clean up vomit from carpet and upholstery

Spray with vinegar: Check for colorfastness, then generously spray the vinegar and water solution on and around the puked-on area.

Sprinkle with baking soda: Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the vinegar-soaked, puked-on carpet or upholstery.

Let it sit for a couple of hours: Once it’s absorbed the remaining liquid and odors, vacuum thoroughly. Immediately toss the vacuum cleaner bag or empty the receptacle in the trash, and remove it from the house.

Disinfect the part of the vacuum that touched the floor or upholstery.

Steam-clean to disinfect: At some point, you might want to take a steam cleaner to the carpet or upholstery to really get in there and kill those microscopic nasties.

Check out just how well baking soda and vinegar can clean a carpet too.

How to clean up vomit from tile and hardwood floors

Mop with microfiber: Combine one part vinegar, one part water, and a big squirt of mild dish soap. Thoroughly mop the floor in the entire room with a microfiber mop and the solution. Squeeze as much water out of the mop as you can if the vomit is on hardwood floors.

Wash the mop head: Toss it in a hot water cycle with a very mild laundry detergent, and line-dry it — ideally in the sun.

Read why microfiber is your best bet for banishing germs.

How to clean up vomit from your clothes

Hopefully, you’re at home when you get puked on. If so, rip those nasty clothes off your body, shake them off outside, wash them on a hot cycle, and dry them on high heat. If they’re delicates, put them in a mesh bag, use warm water and non-chlorine bleach, and hang them to dry in the sun.

If you’re not at home, hoo boy! Here’s what to do:

Find a bathroom: Use paper towels to scrape and soak up anything visible.

Soak a paper towel in warm water: Add a couple of squirts of soap, and rub the spots that got hit.

Rinse: Get a paper towel soaking wet, and rinse off the soap.

Blot dry: Use paper towels to soak up the liquid until you’re dry enough to rejoin whatever wild party got you barfed on in the first place.

How to clean up vomit from your car

If your seats are upholstered in fabric: Follow the directions for cleaning vomit out of carpet and upholstery.

If your seats are leather: Mix a few drops of mild dish soap in some distilled water. Gently rub the affected area with a soft cloth saturated with the solution.

If the puke is in nooks or crannies: Use a damp microfiber duster on a handle to dig into those spots.


How to clean up dried vomit

Scrape it off: Use something like a paint scraper or butter knife (ew) to scrape away as much dried vomit and vomit stain as you can.

Spray it down: Use a spray bottle to generously spray what’s left with the vinegar and water solution.

Sprinkle with baking soda: Cover the spot in baking soda (or cornstarch), and let it sit for a couple of hours to absorb liquid and odors.

Clean and disinfect: Use the appropriate instructions above to clean the surface, then disinfect.

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