Many people consider carpet cleaning as the occasional vacuuming and the immediate wiping up of spots caused by spills, debris and pet accidents. While these are important tasks to maintain a clean appearance, overtime dust, dirt, debris and allergens can accumulate in the carpet fibers.

In areas with heavy foot traffic, dirt and debris is ground in more deeply resulting in harder to remove stains. This build up also causes splitting and deterioration of the carpet fibers which lowers carpet life expectancy. While regular vacuuming and spot cleaning of minor accidents are doable by homeowners, janitorial and custodial staff, removing stains often requires a professional carpet cleaning service.

Spots vs Stains

People are often surprised to learn that carpet spots and carpet stains aren’t the same things. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) R100 Reference guide explains the difference between a spot and a stain in this way: spots are “the result of material adding substance or texture to a fabric or surface,” and stains are “the result of a material adding color (without texture) to a fabric or surface.”

In layman’s terms, a spot is a fresh carpet accident that is often easy to remove because it has only discolored the outside of carpet fibers. A spot becomes a stain when it has been allowed to sit for a while and becomes embedded within the carpet fibers.

Identifying Spots and Stains

Witnessing a spill or accident is the best way to tell a spot from a stain, but sometimes accidents happen out of sight. To tell whether newly discovered carpet discoloration is a spot or a stain, put on a pair of rubber gloves and feel the area. If the area has a different texture (feel) than the surrounding carpet, it is probably a spot on the surface of the carpet fibers. If it feels the same as the surrounding carpet, it is most likely a stain ground into the carpet fibers.

Removing Spots and Stains

Carpet cleaning experts often say the difference between a spot and a stain is about 24 hours, meaning that the quicker spots are cleaned, the less likely they are to become stains. As soon as the spot appears, blot it gently with paper towels or a dry cloth. Don’t rub as rubbing can spread the spot instead of removing it. Clean the area with lukewarm water, not carpet cleaning chemicals. When a fresh spot is cleaned with chemicals, it may create a bigger, darker spot over time. This is because the chemical residue attracts soil, dirt and grime from foot traffic.

Removing stains depends on what made the stain:

  • Water-soluble: These are stains cleanable with water and light detergents like chocolate, mud, wine, ice cream and cola
  • Solvent-soluble: Stains requiring a solvent cleaner include lipstick, crayon, oils, tar, and butter
  • Nonsoluble: Stains with a sticky film-like metal shavings, sand and grit are considered non-soluble and must be vacuumed before applying a cleaning solution.

While practically anyone can remove a carpet spot with a dry towel and a little warm water, removing stains is best left to the experts. Individuals who attempt to clean their carpets without proper training and equipment can fall victim to these carpet cleaning mistakes:

  • Over-wetting: When too much water is used, the excess is absorbed into the backside of the carpet. Not only does this make it difficult to dry carpet completely, it can cause discoloration, shrinking and increases the risk of mold and mildew issues.
  • Over-shampooing: Using too much shampoo makes it difficult to rinse which leaves behind soapy residue. This residue attracts dirt like a magnet and holds it to fibers making it even more difficult to clean in the future.
  • Failure to protect wet carpet from furniture: Placing furniture on carpet before it is completely dry can lead to carpet damage. Wooden furniture is finished with dyes and stains that can seep into damp carpets and rugs, while furniture with metal feet can cause hard to remove rust stains.
  • Too much deodorizer powder: Carpet deodorizing powders are a popular quick fix for bad smells, like pet odors, that can get caught in carpet fibers. While effective for this purpose, they aren’t meant for use as carpet cleaners. Any powder residue remaining on the carpet can leave a residue that attracts dirt.
  • Using wrong cleaning products: Carpets and rugs are made of a variety of fibers and materials, each of which requires different care and cleaning. Using the wrong cleaning product can cause permanent discoloration or damage which may lead to needing a total carpet replacement.
  • Beware of rental carpet cleaning machines: When renting a carpet cleaning machine, make sure it is well maintained and in good condition. Poorly maintained machines can damage carpets. Even when using well-maintained ones, instructions should be carefully read and followed to avoid over-wetting, over-shampooing and other common carpet cleaning mistakes.

This isn’t to say people should never clean their own carpets and rugs, but it is important to understand the complexities of carpet cleaning and how to avoid damaging carpet in the cleaning process.

Professional Carpet Cleaning

Professional carpet cleaners have a variety of effective spot and stain removal techniques at their disposal. One such technique is dry extraction, a moisture-controlled process that prevents over-wetting. It allows the expert to use just enough water to thoroughly clean the carpet while leaving it dry at the end of the cleaning process. There are several benefits of professional carpet cleaning:

  • Deep cleaning with anti-microbial treatments kills dangerous particles like mold, mildew, yeast and other allergy-causing elements
  • Removes odors regular vacuuming can’t with processes like dry extraction that dissolves dirt and removes it without over-wetting the carpet
  • Extends carpet life by using the safest, most appropriate cleaners and treatment chemicals for specific carpet types and stains.

Professionals advise having carpets professionally cleaned once or twice a year depending on how much foot traffic they get. Schedule your odor and stain removal, antibacterial sanitizer treatment, upholstery cleaning or carpet cleaning with the experts at Safe-Dry by calling 1-888-817-8339 today.

Submitted by Safe-Dry® Carpet Cleaning of Nashville