3 Reasons Spots Come Back After Carpet Cleaning

Why do spots come back after carpet cleaning indeed? It's a vexing question that we try to answer everyday here at Zerorez®, I'd like to say that as a professional cleaning company we never face this issue, and I'd be lying. Even as professionals who clean many carpets day in and day out we still face our share of client issues where a spot or stain has reared its ugly head after we've cleaned their carpet.

What is the difference between a spot and a stain?

Often it's not even a question of a spot coming back. If it doesn't want to leave in the first place we call it a stain. Because carpet is a colored and somewhat absorbent fiber there are many substances that can stain it. Think coffee or Kool-Aid. These drinks have either an organic (tannin in the case of coffee) or a synthetic (red food dye for Kool-Aid) coloring agent that can literally re-color your carpet.

It doesn't help that there are many products that we use on a daily basis, such as mustard, ketchup, orange soda, popsicles, etc. that have the ability to stain your carpet.

What causes carpet color loss after spot cleaning?

Unfortunately when something spills it's never at a convenient time. You're rushing to head out the door and your coffee spills. Now what? If you're like most people you grab something from under the sink and apply it to your carpet.

Over the next day or two you notice that the spot looks funny. It has an orange tint to it. What happened? Very likely what happened is that the spot cleaning product you used was of the wrong kind and actually removed or somehow affected the dye in your carpet and therefore created a permanent discoloration.

There are a host of products that can cause these issues: Chief among them being bleach and acne medications. The good news is that these carpet discolorations often can be re-dyed and fixed.

How does a spill become a spot?

When a spill happens and you can get to it quickly, you stand a very good chance of getting it all up off your carpet. These days virtually all carpet has some type of stain blocker applied to its fibers that act as a barrier between the carpet fiber and the potentially staining substance.

You count yourself among the lucky ones - you had a spill happen and were able to get it all up using copious amounts of Folex. Now three days later you notice your spill area is turning a light shade of gray. By the end of the week it's black. Your spill has become a spot. What happened is a function of the residue that you left behind after your spot cleaning. It remains behind on the fiber and acts as a magnet to soil from primarily foot traffic that moves over it.

3 Reasons a spot comes back after being cleaned

We just covered one of the reasons a spot can come back. And technically speaking it's not coming back. It's a new spot that was created due to incomplete spot cleaning. Other reasons are is the layering of carpet and the wicking effect. .

  1. Residue left behind from spot cleaning causes new soil to stick. Primarily an issue in high-traffic areas.
  2. Carpet has great ability to hide soil and its layered construction and installation doesn't help. If a spill is liquid and voluminous enough it can go all the way through your carpet into the padding underneath and even onto your subfloor. This type of spill will be a gift that keeps on giving.
  3. Incomplete removal of a spill can show back up due to the wicking effect. Say you use a fair amount of spot cleaner to clean up your spill and finish by blotting up the tips of the carpet fiber. Now the remaining liquid will carry some of the spill back up to the carpet surface due to capillary action also called the wicking effect. .

How to make sure a spot does not come back after cleaning

There are several steps you can take to make sure that your spot does not come back after you've cleaned it up. First and foremost will be to use a proper carpet cleaning spotting agent, and use as little of it as you can. The principle of "more is better" does not apply here.

If the spill you've cleaned-up was of a liquid nature and rather large, you can ward off the inevitable return by putting a bunch of paper towels (or terry cloth) with some weight (like a book) on top, over it. What will happen is that the soil particles that otherwise would stay behind on the carpet fiber after the moisture evaporates; now get absorbed into the towel. Check, problem solved.

The remaining residue problem can be dealt with by rinsing or blotting the area of the spill and cleaning it up with a water and vinegar mixture (dilute about 1 part vinegar to 4 part water). The vinegar, because of its acidity, will rinse and neutralize soil-attracting residues.

Carpet Spot Cleaning Quick Tip: The absolute best and most effective way to perform do-it-yourself spot cleaning of your carpet is achieved when you use a shop-vac. Or some other type of vacuum that has the ability to suck-up liquids. That way all your spot cleaning attempts will be much more successful and the common issues of wicking and re-soiling will be far les common.


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