Why is carpet stain removal such a difficult challenge?
It shouldn't be, after all...
- Retail stores are stocked with numerous stain removers.
- The internet is full of formulas and tips for removing stains using homemade or common household products.
- Television infomercials feature the best carpet stain remover that always work on television.
These specialty cleaning products claim to successfully treat everything from pet stains to red wine to coffee spills. Some of these treatments produce satisfactory results. Most do not and the search continues for that "universal" carpet stain remover.
Cleaning products designed to remove carpet stains are a billion dollar industry.
Why does a stain remover work on one stain and not another?
All carpet stains are not created equal. A stain is a general term used to describe a discoloration that distinguishes itself from the material on which it is found. This discoloration can describe:
- a spot, which can be easily removed with normal cleaning
- a stain, which cannot be completely removed with normal cleaning, requires special treatment
The goal of stain removal is to remove the staining material without harming the fabric. The objective is to transform the staining material into a form which can be easily removed.
In other words, by utilizing a special treatment (stain remover) the stain is changed into a spot which can then be easily removed with normal cleaning.
The success of this transformation is related to the following factors:
- The type of fibre and the characteristics of that fibre.
- Carpet fibres are either natural (example: wool, silk, or cotton), synthetic (example: nylon, olefin, or polyester) or a blend of fibres.
- Natural fibres tend to be absorbent, are easily stained and can be damaged by cleaning chemicals. Synthetic fibres are not very absorbent, offer good stain resistance and are more forgiving when cleaning carpet stains. Blended fibres contain the positive and negative features of the blended fibres.
- The type of stain.
- If the origin of the stain is known, an appropriate cleaning agent can be selected.
- In the case of a stain of unknown origin, a bit of detective work needs to be employed to identify or at least categorize the stain. Utilizing our sense of touch, sight and smell or by testing the pH factor may help identify the stain.
- The characteristics of the stain remover to be used on the stain.
- Products to remove stains are designed to break the bond between the staining material and the fibre. The type of stain dictates which cleaning formulation is best suited to break this bond to allow for easier removal. For instance, grease or cosmetic stains require a product that dissolves the stain, whereas rust or urine require a product which will reverse the chemical properties of the stain.
- Equally important is the reaction the stain remover has on the type of fibre. Issues of color fastness, dye loss, fibre damage, and browning are all concerns of stain removers with respect to the type of fibre.
What is the procedure for stain removal?
Each stain is unique in its own setting. Removing carpet stains is not achieved by simply following one set of hard-fast rules, but rather by integrating the knowledge of fibre type, stain type and stain removers.
Some general guidelines do apply to cleaning carpet stains . These guidelines and stain removal methods for specific stains are part of the stain removal guide.
It should be noted that although the subject of this guide is geared toward removing carpet stains, the same principles can be applied to other fabrics such as upholstery, draperies, and even clothing.
Stain Removal Guide
This step by step stain removal guide reveals stain removal tips for cleaning carpet stains. Spills happen but stains don't have to result if the proper steps are taken and an effective stain remover is utilized.
Most of the carpeting produced today is constructed with a more stain resistant carpet fibre or has been treated with a stain protection treatment, but no carpet is stain proof. There are some staining situations that cannot be corrected by cleaning, however, you can ensure greater overall success by following this stain removal guide.
What tools to remove carpet stains does this stain removal guide recommend?
- A closed box container to keep the bottles of spotting agents.
- White bleach-free absorbent towels.
- A bone scraper used for agitation and scraping up solid staining material.
- A short, firm, wooden handled spotting brush for light agitation and to "tamp" a spotting agent into the carpet pile.
- "Duck bill" or "nap shear" scissors to trim fuzz or cut samples from the carpet.
- Rubber gloves, safety glasses, an organic vapor respirator for toxic stain removers and a steam iron.
- pH paper, either Hydrion paper or pH test strips to test the acidity or alkalinity of the stain or stain remover product.
- a carpet cleaning machine capable of extraction or a wet/dry shop vacuum for extraction purposes.
What are the general rules of this stain removal guide?
- Time is of the essence! Immediately blot up as much of the spill as possible.The longer a stain sets the more stubborn it becomes to remove. Use a clean white bleach-free cloth to remove a stain as the color from the cloth could transfer to the fabric or surface you are cleaning. How to Blot: Push your index finger knuckle into a white bleach-free cloth. Work your knuckle forward and backward then left to right across the carpet stain. Twist your wrist in a clockwise direction. Carpet fibres are twisted clockwise. This motion removes stains from between the fibres without causing the carpet to fuzz. Remember to frequently move the towel to prevent the stain from spreading.
- Scrape away the solid or semi-solid stain using a spoon or blunt end of a bone scraper.Never use a knife as it's sharp edges could harm the pile fibres.
- Do not scrub the area.Scrubbing can distort the pile and harm the fibres. Scrubbing can result in making the stain set into the carpet or rug.
- Vacuum away as much of the solid stain as possible.
- Always pretest any stain remover on an inconspicuous area of the carpet.Apply a few drops to each color in the carpet test area. Press a clean, white cloth on the wet area for approximately 30 seconds. Check both the towel and the carpet for color transfer, color change or any other damage. Repeat same procedure with another stain remover if you notice any change.
- Apply a small amount of the cleaning agent to a white bleach-free cloth and then blot to apply to the stain.Do not pour cleaning agents directly on the stain, particularly solvent spotters as they may reach the carpet backing and cause damage.
- Work from the edges of the stain to the center to prevent the stain from spreading.Continue as long as the stain is getting transferred onto the towel. Apply more solution to a fresh area on the towel and repeat the process as long as the stain is being removed. Patience is a virtue as far as this step is concerned!
- Rinse all spotting agents from the carpet,as these can create their own stains if left in the fabric.
- Blot with dry clean bleach-free cloth to remove and dry any moisture from the rinsing procedure.When most of the moisture is removed, you may use clean, dry towels weighed down by flat, heavy objects like a book or brick on the damp area to absorb any remaining moisture. This helps prevent wicking of any deep staining material not removed that will move to the surface as the carpet dries.
This stain removal guide includes specific spotting procedures and stain removers for each type of carpet stain listed below.
Remove Blood Stains
Remove Candle Wax
Remove Chewing Gum
Remove Chocolate Stains
Remove Coffee Stains
Remove Ink Stains
Remove Lipstick (and other makeup) Stains
Remove Pet Stains
Remove Red Stains
Remove Red Wine Stains
Remove Rust Stains