Easy & Difficult Carpet Stains

Have you ever wondered why some really big bad stains are easy to remove while others that you think look easy turn out to be impossible?

Here’s a brief look at stains from a professional carpets cleaners perspective. It might add some clarity and help you manage some of the common spills.

In stain removal we put stains into two categories:

  1. Easy
  2. Difficult

Whilst it may be obvious that some stains are harder than others, what isn’t immediately obvious is the reason why, from a carpet cleaning perspective.

Basically we categorise a stain as easy if it responds to a standard shampoo or spotting agent.

“EASY” stains dissolve or emulsify in the shampoos and spotting agents used in the standard carpet cleaning process. This includes general soiling and many of your common greasy spills from food.

A “DIFFICULT” stain is therefore one that does not respond to shampoo thus requiring a different product and or procedure.

Most “DIFFICULT” stains are coloured stains, that is, they have a pigment to colour the product. Examples of this are: nail polish, paint, ink, cordial and wax. As you have no doubt seen these pigments can be very effective at dyeing carpet 

Difficult Stain Removal
To remove most of these coloured stains, the technician has to have a product that will turn the stain back into a liquid so it can be extracted. In some cases this is reasonably easy. For instance, most nail polish can be removed with acetone or its environmentally friendly alternative. Both these products will turn the nail varnish back into a liquid and allow extraction. Some stains such as ink are not so easy because the carrying agent can be one of many different things. Reliquefying the pigment requires the technician to have a number of different products. This is one of the reasons why removing “DIFFICULT” stains remains highly specialised.

Just to make things a little more complicated, there is another set of “DIFFICULT” stains that require a chemical reaction to fade the stain away. These are stains like tea, coffee, red wine, cellulose browning, some dyes, inks, pet stains, soft drink and cordial. Different products are used to cause this chemical reaction and again some are easier than others.

A carpet cleaner with little or no stain removal expertise will consider these stains permanent when they don’t respond to the cleaning process. It’s common to hear comments like, “it’s set now” or “it’s been there too long.” This is certainly not true as most of these stains can be removed by a technician with the right knowledge and products - no matter how long the stain has been there.

Another common myth spread by carpet cleaners who can’t remove “DIFFICULT” stains is that you have set the stain by your attempts to fix it yourself. While I can’t 100% rule out the possibility of an adverse chemical reaction from your product without all the information, I can confidently tell you, if your attempts to fix the stain have not damaged the carpet, it is highly unlikely to have set the stain. In my experience a good carpet cleaner will simply wash out any extra product that has been applied and treat the offending stain with the appropriate product and procedure and remove it.

There are some dyes and inks that can’t be removed without also removing some of the carpet colour. Generally for these really stubborn stains, removal can’t be done cost effectively. NB: There are very few of these, most can be successfully removed.

Bleach marks are not stains, they are permanent damage done to the carpet dye and can only be fixed by patching, recolouring or replacement.

Easy Vs Difficult
From a Carpet Cleaners perspective, we would rather clean a room completely covered with “EASY” stains no matter how badly soiled the carpet looks. We know these stains will respond to the shampoo and specialised spotters we use in the cleaning process. On the other hand, the one “DIFFICULT” stain over in the corner, although it’s only the size of a 50 cent coin, is likely to be more difficult, take additional time and almost certainly require additional products and procedures.

Hopefully you now have a new perspective on what’s an easy stain and what’s not. This will be especially important if you have difficult stains and are choosing a carpet cleaner. Hopefully I have given you enough information to ask the right questions to make sure you get the right person for the job.