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Not all stain removers are born equal!


Stain Remover Characteristics

Selecting a stain remover is like a job interview. There are many applicants to choose from. They all seem qualified according to the label on the bottle to fulfill the job description. It can't be known if the correct solution was chosen until you test its ability to remove a carpet stain.

A true "all in one" stain removal product does not exist.

A particular spot remover may completely remove one type of stain but not budge another kind of stain.

That same spotting agent may safely remove a stain on one type of fiber but cause damage to another fiber type.

Knowing the behavior or characteristics of cleaning products formulated for removing stains will help to:


  • ensure greater stain removal success
  • reduce the risk of damage to the carpet
  • eliminate wasted time experimenting with different cleaning products


What should you include in a stain remover kit?

The general spotting solutions to include in a spotting kit are the following cleaning agents:

Acid spotter (pH 2-3): this solution is on the acid side of the pH scale and is useful for removing coffee and tea stains, browning, water stains and urine or feces stains. This will also help to neutralize alkaline based cleaners and stabilize fugitive dyes.

Neutral cleaning solution (pH 7): Since this spotter is neither acidic or alkaline it should be the first solution utilized on water soluble stains.


Alkaline cleaning solution (pH 9-10): This stain remover is for neutralizing acidic based stains. Examples include many food stuffs, vomit and blood. Some higher pH (over 10) alkaline spotters are effective in removing dye or pigment stains, however, dye loss or color bleeding may occur. Always pretest in an inconspicuous area for colorfastness.


Enzyme Digester: This spotting solution consists of living organisms which breakdown protein based soil into a water soluble stain. Situations that would be suited for this spotter include food spills like milk or blood stains. Enzymes are sensitive to high heat and are not active in cold temperatures.

Volatile dry solvent: These aggressive chemicals are effective in removing non-water soluble stains like gum, greasy and oily stains, tar, and ink. Caution should be exercised when working with this spot cleaner. Eye, respiratory and skin protection should be worn. Apply this stain remover to a towel before applying to a fabric. Never over-apply or pour this spotter directly onto the carpet as it can dissolve latex and may result in carpet delamination.

Non-volatile dry solvent: This stain remover is also known as POG (paint, oil and grease remover) and is effective on non-water soluble stains. Use the same precautions as a volatile dry spotter when working with this form of dry solvent. This solvent is best utilized in situations where more working time and slower solvent evaporation is desired. Water based cleaners may be used to rinse non-volatile dry solvent but rinsing with a volatile dry solvent are most effective in removing any oily residues from non-volatile dry solvents.

Specialized chemicals: This type of stain remover includes a rust remover, an ink remover or a dye remover. These spotting agents are formulated for a specific stain type

Bleaches and Strippers: There are two types of bleaches. An oxidizing bleach(oxidizer) changes the properties of a stain by adding oxygen. An oxidizer does not actually remove the staining material but instead makes it invisible by changing the chemical make up. This type of bleach is considered more permanent. Examples include Sodium Percarbonate (All Color Bleach), Hydrogen Peroxide and Sodium Hypochlorite (Chlorine bleach)

A second type of bleach is a reducing bleach (stripper). This bleach type changes the properties of a stain by taking oxygen away. The staining material is not actually removed by a stripper. Only the chemical make up is changed. The change in chemical make up from a reducing bleach can often be reversed by adding oxygen (from the air or an oxidizing bleach). Examples include Sodium Bisulfite, Sodium Hydrosulfite and Titanium Strippers.

All bleaches and strippers should be neutralized and rinsed after use. Sodium Percarbonate neutralizes strippers and Sodium Bisulfate neutralizes oxidizing bleaches. Bleaches should only be used after other methods have failed. Oxidizing bleaches work best on natural (organic) stains and reducing bleaches work best on synthetic (man-made) stains, however, oxidizers can be used on synthetic stains and reducing agents can be used on natural stains. Oxidizers work faster when an alkaline such as ammonia is added. Reducing bleaches work faster when an acid such as acetic acid or heat is added.

  • Always follow the bleach manufacturer's directions for use.
  • Always pre-test in an inconspicous area or on a carpet sample before using on the urine stain.
  • Use the minimum amount of chemical necessary. Apply solution using a sponge, cloth, or brush.
  • Always work from the outside toward the stain center.
  • When desired results are achieved, flush the stained area thoroughly

Although not included in a general spotter kit the following stain removal methods are listed. These methods require specialized training and practice.

  1. Dye: When dealing with a situation of carpet color loss, an option is to spot dye or redye the entire carpet. Not all types of carpet fibers can be dyed as a method of stain removal. The fibers which can be redyed can only be recolored to the original or a darker color.
  2. Mechanical Action: Utilized when a stain cannot be removed by cleaning. This stain removal method is a last resort and involves replacing the damaged carpet (burns or color loss) with a new bonded insert or "patch".

The spotting procedure begins by applying a stain remover to a clean towel and blot the spot. Checking for color transfer or spot removal.

Wait as the spotting agent reacts with the staining material continuing to check for color transfer or spot removal.

Proceed carefully, working from the outside of the spot toward the center until the spot is removed or there is no further chemical reaction.

Rinse the spot to remove any excess cleaning agent.

If any portion of the spot remains, repeat spotting procedures with the next sequence of spotting agents.

For instance: If the stain is of unknown origin, always start with a volatile dry solvent, followed by a non-volatile dry solvent.

If spot remains, treat with a neutral cleaning product followed by an alkaline cleaning solution then an acid cleaning solution then an enzyme digester.

The next sequence of spotting chemicals begin with specialized chemicals, then bleaches, then dye and finally mechanical action.

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  • Matthew Smith
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