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Why Some Carpet Stains Come Back, And How To Stop It

So you spilled something on your beautiful carpet — wine, tomato sauce, or maybe a child or pet had an … accident. Not to worry! You cleaned the stain, and everything looked great again. But wait! A few days later, you take a closer look, and the stain is back. How did that happen?

The answer is one of two problems: soiling or wicking.

Soiled Carpet Fibers

Soiled carpet fibers occur when the stain isn’t cleaned completely. A small amount of residue stays stuck to the carpet fibers and attracts dirt, which makes it look like the stain has returned. Luckily, it’s an easy fix.

Use the same technique you did to clean the stain originally, wetting and blotting the fibers over and over. The more the better — keep repeating the process even after you can’t see the stain any more to ensure that all the residue is gone.

Wicking The Stain From Underneath

The other cause of recurring stains is called wicking. What this means is that the original stain has soaked through the carpet fibers to the backing underneath, and maybe even to the padding underneath the carpet. This happens with large quantities of liquid and emphasizes the importance of blotting up a stain as quickly as possible before it can soak through.

If you can’t get all the liquid out, the problem is that later the stain trapped in the backing can be wicked back up by the fibers and return to the visible portion of the carpet, re-staining your flooring once again.

Wicking happens most often when your carpet gets wet again. One common source of wicking is steam cleaning with a rental unit — often, rental units aren’t powerful enough to extract all the water that they put into your carpet, so some moisture remains and your old stain can come back to life and become troublesome, much like a zombie.

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How To Prevent Recurring Stains And Spots

Your first line of defense against the worst of stains is to clean up stains as quickly as possible to keep the stain from soaking any deeper into the carpet. Blotting is your friend here — don’t rub stains when they occur. Get a stack of paper towels, a cloth towel that you don’t care about or, better yet, a chamois cloth that’s more absorbent.

Put it on the stain and use a stack of books or some other heavy object to keep the towel pressed firmly against the carpet — in a pinch, just stand on it and use your own body weight to soak up as much liquid as possible. Keep doing that, flipping and swapping out the towel, until no liquid comes up at all. Stack the weight on the stain overnight to keep drawing the liquid out, then start on cleaning.

When you do get your carpets cleaned, don’t cut corners. Professional cleaning machines will extract moisture more effectively, leaving your carpet almost dry and preventing wicking going forward. If you do find that your carpet is still damp after cleaning, use fans to dry them more quickly.

Taking Drastic Measures

If cleaning a soiled or wicked stain doesn’t work, you might need to dry the pad and subfloor more directly. Reinstalling your carpet is a drastic measure, so hopefully it won’t be necessary. If the stain is near the edge of the carpet, you can pull the carpet up yourself and let the floor and padding underneath dry.

If the stain is closer to the center of the room, it might be time to bring in professionals. Expert carpet installers can pull up the carpet without damaging it, repairing the padding and subfloor and putting the original carpet back so you don’t have to completely re-do the room.

If you need new carpet, we are the best choice for premium quality carpeting at about 50% the cost of our nearest competitors. We’ll be happy to help, so please reach out or come in to our warehouse.