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Carpet Care

How to remove even the most stubborn spot or stain

February 04, 2008
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Regular cleaning of carpet and upholstery removes most spots without additional effort.

However, there are some spots - ones that can become stains - that require planning and more steps than simple cleaning procedures.

"Catastrophic" spills occur in many homes, businesses and facilities, and need professional skill.

Some catastrophic spills that you should step back and analyze before proceeding include:

  • Large amounts of coffee/tea (entire cup or - horrors - entire pot)
  • Food spills (such as an entire plate of food)
  • Condiment disasters (jar of mustard, ketchup falls and explodes)
  • Juices, Kool Aid, children''s drinks from those "sippy" cups that never work right
  • Potted plant overflow
  • Fingernail polish spill
  • Paint spill
  • Pet urine (they call these "accidents" but many pets seem to know exactly what they are doing...)
And many more... The term "catastrophe" best describes the reaction of the person who either caused the spill, or owns the surface the spill lands on.

As an example, look at this first photograph.

    This "spill" is from two jars of spaghetti sauce rolling off a surface and crashing together on the carpet.

    A catastrophe, especially to the uninformed.

    Even the most thorough occupant isn''t going to be able to easily remove the spotting substance - in fact, if the wrong procedure is used, the spot can become a permanent stain.

    As most professional cleaners know, simply rinsing the sauce from the carpet doesn''t always work.

    It takes some planning.

    The first step to a catastrophic spill is to remove as much of the spill as possible, before applying cleaning solutions.

    This can mean gently scraping, blotting, and then rinsing. And there can be other materials you should concentrate on, such as bits of broken glass if the spill came from a broken container.

    Plan your attack

    When it comes to cleaning catastrophic spills, think ahead.

    After removing the excess spotting material, either by scraping, vacuuming, blotting, etc. it''s time to plan your attack.

    Before applying cleaning solution, think about what the spot is made of. It''s time to ask some questions:

    • Has the customer done anything to the spot, such as used the oven cleaner from under the sink? (As we all know, if the customer tried to clean it first, it can make our job much more difficult)
    • Is the spot organic? If so, would an enzyme digester work?
    • Is it water soluble or solvent soluble?
    • Will the spot "set" permanently if you use hot water? (Some protein stains will do this)
    • Will the spot spread when solution is added? If so, how are you going to contain the migration? (Inks, greases and other spots will spread)
    • Will there be residues left deep in the fabric that can "wick" to the surface? If so, what can you do to stop that from happening? (Click here for a previous tip on preventing wicking)
    • If the spot doesn''t eventually rinse from the carpet, what drastic measures will you take to continue to remove it? You may have to resort to using a safe bleach. (Click here for a previous tip on bleaches and how to use them)

    Even catastrophic spills, such as the spaghetti sauce in the photo above, can be completely removed.

    Proper steps to success

    After scraping the excess away, and rinsing with warm water, an enzyme digester was applied, worked into the fibers, and allowed to dwell.

    Then, after rinsing the enzyme and more of the sauce from the carpet, an alkaline spotting gel solution was applied to help remove the final "haze" of the substance, worked in, and rinsed.

    The results were very acceptable, as you can see in this photo.

    The best way to plan your attack is to think about the ingredients of the spot. Then, you can use the proper chemistry and method for complete removal.

    With some practice, and the right information at your fingertips, you can remove virtually any spot or stain and handle any type of cleaning challenge.

    The Cleanfax magazine Stain Guide has detailed information to help you remove virtually any type of spot or stain.

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