How To Clean Poop from Clothes, Rugs, and Other Surfaces

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Steps to clean poop stains, kill germs, and eliminate odors on various household surfaces and fabrics.

A man in a blue shirt and jeans holds his hands over his bottom to hide a poop stain

At some point in everyone’s life, we’re going to find ourselves wondering how to clean poop. Maybe you have a pet or two. Maybe your child isn’t catching on to potty training just yet. Maybe you or a family member caught a horrible stomach virus. Whatever the reason, accidents happen.

How Germy is Poop?

It’s instinctive to feel grossed out when we see or smell poop. Most of us also respond by wanting to scrub and sanitize the surface right away, too. And that’s a good thing, for many reasons.

Poop Can Be Dangerous

Dog poop can contain various parasites that are dangerous to humans, including hookworm, tapeworm, roundworm (okay, a ton of different kinds of worms), along with giardia and coccidia.

While cat lovers may consider their pets cleaner, feline poop is more dangerous. Not only can cat feces contain the same huge variety of worms, but also Toxoplasma gondii, or T. gondii, which is linked to mental illness. (That’s enough to scare the poop out of just about every cat owner!)

Other people’s poop is incredibly dangerous, too. The bacteria in human poop is easily transferred to one’s hands while cleaning, which inevitably leads to what’s known as oral-fecal contamination. Eww, right?

But Your Poop Is Fine.

In addition to convincing yourself that your poop doesn’t stink, you may also rest assured your poop probably won’t make you sick. In fact, some experts — yes, there are experts about poop — say that ingesting your own poop might actually be healthy. (I think I’ll pass on that one — no pun intended.)

But, unless you live alone and never have anyone over, touch anything, or go anywhere, you should still clean up your own poop ASAP, because ew.

How to Get Poop Out of Diapers and Clothes

Equipment:

  • Cleaning gloves
  • Two disposable plastic bags
  • Cleaning cloths or paper towels
  • A laundry stain remover containing enzymes* (I use Zout)
  • Your regular laundry detergent
  • Chlorine bleach or white vinegar

* Enzymes are proteins that dissolve the bonds between the poop and fabric. In addition to cleaning, they’ll help remove the stain, too.

Step 1: Scrape or Rinse

Heat can make poop stains permanent, so you need to work with only cold water at this point. Put your gloves on and carry the item to the bathroom. Dump as much of the crud into the toilet as you can, flushing as needed. For small items, hang onto a corner of them while flushing several times to wash away as much of the mess as possible. Rinse larger items in a bathtub.

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Step 2: Apply Enzyme Cleaner

You can do this in the toilet or tub. Be sure to disinfect afterward. Add roughly 2 tablespoons of the enzyme-containing treatment to the toilet bowl or 1/2 cup to a tub containing a couple of inches of cold water. Let the item soak for 30 minutes. Flush or drain, then squeeze out excess water.

Step 3: Launder and Dry

Now that you’ve treated the stain, it’s time to disinfect it. Wash the item in hot water with a hot rinse using either 3/4 cup chlorine bleach or 2 cups white vinegar and your regular laundry detergent. If you don’t have a washing machine, hand wash the item in a tub or a bucket using 1/4 cup chlorine bleach or 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1-gallon hot water. Once it’s clean, dry it in either your dryer or line-dry it in the sun — both help kill germs.

How to Clean Poop from Upholstery and Carpet

Equipment:

  • Cleaning gloves
  • A disposable plastic bag
  • Something to scrape with (a paper plate you can toss works nicely)
  • White cleaning cloths or paper towels
  • A laundry treatment containing enzymes (like Zout)
  • A bowl
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol (known as surgical spirits in the UK)

1. Get it Off

Put your gloves on and grab a plastic bag. Use a paper plate to scoop up as much poop as possible and dump it in the bag. Wipe away the rest with a paper towel and toss it in the bag, too. Get a few paper towels damp with cold water and wipe, not rub, to remove more crud.

2. Wash

In a bowl, combine 1 quart of cold water with 2 tablespoons of a laundry treatment containing enzymes. Get a white cloth or paper towel wet and dab at the stain to remove poop and discoloration. (Don’t saturate your carpet or upholstery!) The reason for using a white cloth is so you don’t transfer dyes from the fabric to your carpet, and so you can see when it’s time to rotate your cloth, so you’re always working with a clean area. Once you’ve got all the mess up, let the area air-dry.

3. Disinfect

Cleaning is just the first step to getting poop out of carpeting or upholstery. Once it’s gone, you need to disinfect the area as well. To do this, dab the spot with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, which is safe on fabrics and microsuede and microfiber furniture. Don’t saturate the padding; wipe the surface and let it air dry. For carpet, vacuum thoroughly to restore the nap. You may also want to shampoo your carpet, too.

How to Clean Poop on Other Surfaces

Equipment:

Cleaning gloves
A disposable plastic bag
Something to scrape with (a paper plate works well)
Cleaning cloths or paper towels
Disinfecting spray or wipes

Use a Two-Step Process

When it comes to very germy things like poop, you need to use a two-step cleaning process and then disinfecting since too much bacterial mess keeps disinfectants from eliminating all the germs.

So, the first step to cleaning poop involves putting on your cleaning gloves and using paper towels to scoop up as much poop from the surface as you can. Toss the soiled materials into the plastic bag but don’t close it yet. Then, soak some more paper towels with hot water and wipe up the remaining mess. Add these to the plastic bag and dispose of the whole thing.

Then, wet the area liberally with a homemade disinfectant and let it sit for 5 minutes. If you’re using a store-bought disinfectant, use the time directed on the manufacturer’s label. Then wipe the area again with clean water and let it air dry.

And there you have it, the full poop on how to clean poop. Remember, to avoid cross-contaminating other places in your home, you should probably shower and change clothes as soon as you’re done.

Where to Next?

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30 Comments

  1. Does this work on fux leather jakets?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I couldn’t recommend washing faux leather, Layla, but you might be able to spot treat it with an enzyme cleaner. To find out, try a spot test on an area no one can see. (Inside a cuff, for instance, or inside the hem on the back.) If it’s colorfast, and the texture doesn’t change, then you could treat the rest. Don’t get it too wet, and be sure to wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth when you’re done to remove any residue. Best of luck!

  2. What if while bathing a 1 year old she pooped in a full bath tub & I used a plastic cup to get the poop out… How do I make sure the cups are completely sanitized?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Wipe it out, rinse it in the toilet then wash it in a quart of water with 1 tsp of bleach.

  3. Throw the plastic cup away. For the cost of the cup, for the time, effort, and expense of materials to clean it AND, for the possibility of contamination, toss the cup and don’t look back.

  4. John L Pacheco says:

    This has been REALLY helpful. The ammonia and steam iron is a great tip. Thanks from a batchelor and old dad combo dealing w/ accidental “crud” deposit. (*_*)

  5. Do you have any idea on how to get it out of bedding that won’t fit in a washing machine and mattresses?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’d take the bedding to a laundromat that has large, commercial-sized machines. As for the mattress, I have an entire article about how to clean a mattress to get rid of all sorts of stains, including poop. Best of luck!

  6. How can I get the smell out if I accidently put the underwear, that still had poop in it, in the washing machine with other clothes, and now everything that was washed, smells like poop, and no matter how many times I re-wash them, I can’t get the smell out of those clothes…?

  7. What about poop that has gotten out of control from a sick family member and it’s dried in the wood and all into the bathroom walls, floors and the smell in the house?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Open the windows, get out your disinfectants and scrub brushes, and clean.

  8. Had a toddler knock over her potty with poop and pee on wool rug. How best for me to clean? Smell is terrible!

  9. How to get poop stain off of a plastic toilet seat? I’ve searched and no one ever answers this.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Try a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Let it sit there for 30 minutes then rinse with more hydrogen peroxide.

  10. I recommend Natures Miracle for removing odors. You can find it at pet supply stores or Amazon. If it can remove cat urine odor it can remove any gross odor.

  11. If you used a kitchen rag to blot the stain and a kitchen Pyrex for measuring and rinsing, can those be cleaned and sanitized so you are not putting poop in your mouth if you want to use them again?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yes. Both should be washed in hot, soapy water with a bit of bleach then rinsed thoroughly.

  12. How do I clean poop stain that leaked through an upholstery cover onto a down throw pillow?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Sarah,
      I’d take the pillow out of the cover and launder each separately. The pillow can be washed in the machine using the delicate cycle and warm water. Toss it in the dryer with a tennis ball to fluff it, or let it sun dry then fluff it by hand. Wash the upholstered cover depending on the fabric and manufacturer’s instructions. Good luck!

  13. Catherine says:

    I have vinyl type couch and kitchen chairs there isn’t stains just the smell I have used Lysol wipes dish detergent Johnson soap windex and vinegar still not helping

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Catherine,
      Maybe try wiping them with a baking soda and water solution (about 1/2 cup baking soda stirred into 2 cups warm water). Let that sit in place for an hour or so, then wipe with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue. The baking soda should help eliminate the odor.

  14. Hi one of my kids had a sore stomach and had an accident it went through to our suede couch
    I first wipes it with anti bac wipes scrubbed with a cloth and fairy liquid
    Scrubbed again with zoflora
    And after going to the shop for white vinegar
    I made a solution of hot water fairy and white vinegar and sprayed it on and give it a scrub
    It’s drying as we speak
    Obviously I can’t take the couch apart to wash in the machine and I haven’t got a steamer
    Will what I have done be enough and get rid of the germs?
    Thank you x

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’d probably killed the germs with the antibac wipe. Don’t stress over this.

  15. So… my dog wiped his but on my brand new comforter, I really do not want to wash because I’m afraid it will get lumpy. Is there a way to clean the top layer so that it does not go through to the inside padding???

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You can try spot washing the area with a little warm water and liquid laundry detergent on a rag, then wipe it clean with a damp cloth. Disinfect by dabbing it with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol on a fresh cloth and let it air dry. Spot test both steps on an inconspicuous area first, of course.

      At some point, though, you’re going to have to launder your comforter. To prevent lumps, wash it by itself on a gentle setting. Then, add a couple of clean tennis balls when you put it in the dryer. The balls bounce around and break up lumps as your comforter dries, keeping it nice and fluffy.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    While fostering kittens, one pooped in a salad bowl. Is there any safe way to properly clean it ?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It really depends on what the bowl is made from. If it’s something nonporous like glass or ceramic, wipe the poop out with a paper towel, follow with a disinfecting wipe, then wash it in hot water with a splash of chlorinated bleach. Rinse well and dry.

      If it’s porous — wood or plastic — I’d chuck it.

  17. What about a pair of leather dress shoes where the owner had a bout of diarrhea run down their legs and into the shoes? The outsides were cleaned thoroughly with some laundry dergent a little bleach and a sacrificial toothbrush. Can the inside of the heels be treated the same way?

    #old dad problems

  18. NorCalGal says:

    Oh Katie. I so needed these tips when cleaning up after my grandmother several years ago. (I’m sure the dogs will help me use them in the future)
    I tore out the carpet but gagged at the the (formerly lovely) wood floors beneath it in grandmother’s house. It turned out the Bissell was liquidating the poo from the carpet into the wood. Yuk.
    Bleach and lots of scraping the trail…wear gloves, mask and goggles if it’s not your poo. Good ?on your mission.

  19. Loretta P says:

    Thanks for all the info about poop removal! Your solutions were excellent and very helpful! I’m going to write down this link for future reference