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Q: Over the holidays, I came across a few jobs where the customer had knocked over burning candles and the wax got all over the carpet. The toughest one was a red candle. If figured if I used my truckmount and melted the wax out it would be an easy job. It wasn’t. The wax came out after a while but the red did not. What should I have done differently?
—Pete, Albuquerque, NM
Candle wax can be tough. Not the wax itself, since your truckmount generates sufficient heat to remove it via “chop stroking.” It’s the coloring that is a challenge.
Remember that when a candle is knocked over, and it is burning, the wax is very hot and can easily penetrate, driving the red (or whatever color of the candle) into the fiber.
Let’s talk about your truckmount heat and chop stroking, which are short, quick back and forth motions of the carpet cleaning wand. If you decide to use this method, remember that adding heat to the fiber can also drive color into the fiber, because the fiber dye sites are more absorbent when heated. To avoid this, try to get the job done in a few minutes; don’t let the fiber cool and dry, as that makes the color more difficult to remove later.
If you do not have the ability to remove wax with hot water extraction, you can use a heat transfer method with a typical clothes steam iron.
Since there is always a chance of melting carpet fibers, use your clothes iron on low to start and a damp, white cotton towel that can be disposed of, since the idea is to transfer the wax and coloring into it.
Place the towel over the hardened wax and place the iron on the towel and allow it to soften the wax. Gently push the iron onto the towel, allowing the newly-melted wax to absorb into the towel.
Repeat a few times as necessary to remove as much visible wax as possible.
Follow this by using a citrus gel solvent spotter to remove more of the paraffin residues, and extract.
Now that you have removed the wax, what about any color remaining? Try a reducing agent to start with, as odds are the coloring from the candle is from a synthetic source, such as an acid dye. If that doesn’t work, switch to a peroxide-based oxidizer. Always follow manufacturer directions when using these types of stain removal products, as they are in the “bleach” category and can remove carpet color.
If that doesn’t work, and you have exhausted your arsenal of spot and stain removal products, it might be time to consider a total color removal process for that area and recoloring. Or, you can go the route of a bonded insert. These final two options must have customer buy-in and approval.
It’s the middle of winter here and still freezing cold. I’ve done a few commercial jobs where the ice melting salt has been tracked into the reception areas. It’s tough to remove. Which product should I use?
— Dave, Rapid City, SD
Most preconditioning agents are alkaline, and that’s what we default to for most jobs, even those that we shouldn’t.
Old pet urine is a prime example of this. As pet urine ages in the carpet, it becomes alkaline, and an alkaline preconditioner is the wrong choice.
The same with ice melt residues in carpet. You would think those residues could be removed with your trusty alkaline preconditioner, but you need to think of what ice melt products are made of.
A common ingredient in many brands is sodium chloride, which is basically rock salt. Salt is a mineral, and to remove a mineral stain you need an acid. Regardless of the ingredient of the particular product the facility you clean uses for melting ice, it’s most likely a mineral and needs an acid treatment for effective removal.
Talk to your supplier about the best acid treatment to use for ice melt residue removal. Your life will get easier — well, in the winter, anyway.