Q: I have young children and we are thinking of getting some new carpet. Can you tell me about spots and stains before we embark on such a mission.
A: With children who may constantly spill their drinks, drag in mud from the outside, allow their pets in unapproved areas, and are involved in a number of different spots and stains that end up on the carpet, choosing the right carpet can be a burdensome task. Unfortunately when there are small children involved, there is no carpet that is totally stain-proof. Many times retail salespeople will indicate that their particular product will allow most spills to clean up with just water. That is not an entirely true statement, but once you get educated about proper carpet cleaning solutions, with a little practice, you will be able to remove the majority of spills before they become permanent spots. This will take a bit of practice and lots of patience. Let’s start by distinguishing between spills, spots, and stains.
Check out our article about How to Get Food and Beverage Stains out of Carpet.
How to Deal with Spills
A spill is a fresh mishap. On most types of carpet, fresh spills will come out easily if the soiled area is dealt with swiftly. With most spills, it takes time before they attach themselves to the carpet fibers making it difficult to remove them. If, however, the spill is not dealt with quickly, a spot will most likely develop. A spot will be noticeable after the spill has dried and may require additional measures such as carpet cleaning solutions in order to get rid of the spot. Allow some extra time to deal with this problem. An example might be the can of soda which spills and which has a high sugar content. If the spot is not removed properly, the sugar will continue to attract dirt. You have seen after a time that a spill will reappear. This is because the spot was not removed properly at the time. You might expect that red drink spills might be even more difficult to remove but not know why. The reason is that the carpet industry uses the same dyes that are in red drinks to dye its fibers. Because of that, such spots may require professionals using special cleaning agents or the spots may become a permanent stain. Unfortunately there are some permanent stains that are…well…permanent. Examples of these would include a stain where color is added to the fiber like with iodine or betadine. Opposite examples would include stains where the color has been removed, like with bleach or skin medications. Some stains might be removed and yet still reoccur. Stains that reappear can be caused by a number of reasons, one of which is the use of a detergent solution that attracts soil. Wicking is another factor which might occur. Wicking happens when the stain draws up from the base of the carpet fibers or the carpet backing itself. A red food dye stain may be absorbed by the carpet backing and actually spread. That is why any stains should be treated quickly and thoroughly.
A good idea is to bring in a specialized carpet cleaner at least once every 24 months who will reapply a fresh topical treatment. This will help to prolong the time before stains attach. Such a treatment increases the surface tension and thus spills just bead on the surface. These treatments do diminish over time because of wear and tear and carpet cleaning, so reapplication is necessary ever so often. These suggestions are general rules of thumb for most spills. If you follow these recommendations, the number of permanent stains that you encounter even with your young children and pets will be limited.