Stain Removal

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:

  1. The type of fiber and the characteristics of the that fiber.
    • Carpet fibers are either natural (example: wool, silk, or cotton), synthetic (example: nylon, olefin, or polyester) or a blend of fibers.
    • Natural fibers tend to be absorbent, are easily stained and can be damaged by cleaning chemicals. Synthetic fibers are not very absorbent, offer good stain resistance and are more forgiving when cleaning carpet stains. Blended fibers contain the positive and negative features of the blended fibers.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 fiber. 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 fiber. Issues of colorfastness, dye loss, fiber damage, and browning are all concerns of stain removers with respect to the type of fiber.

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 fiber 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.

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