Spot Dyeing and Your Client

June 9, 2005
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Spot dyeing is not a perfect science. We mix dyes and add them to the color remaining in the damaged area of the carpet to bring it as close to the original as possible. Sometimes, depending on variables like color, fiber content, type of carpet and the cause of the problem, it can turn out almost perfect. Other times the result may not be as good, especially if the staining material has damaged the fibers. In this case, the fibers may not accept the dyes in the same way they do when they are in good condition. But as you gain experience, you'll also gain confidence, and results will improve.

Dyes are not paint. They do not cover the spot like paint. It is important for the client to understand upfront that in no way do we guarantee that the repair will be perfect. What we do guarantee is that we will do everything possible, and use all our knowledge and experience, to make it as good as it can be.

That said, it is important to understand that if the carpet has lost color, it can be reapplied. Most nylon and wool carpets can be repaired. Sisal and other vegetable fibers present a bigger challenge, and results vary from case to case. In the case of blends, depending on fiber content, it may be difficult to have an even appearance after dye application because different fibers accept dyes in different ways.

Our company does not offer quotes over the phone, nor free on-location estimates for spot dyeing. Instead, we offer inspections, and we charge for them. If the client decides to go ahead with the job, the inspection fee goes toward the price of the job, which will never be less than our minimum service charge for that particular zone. This charge includes the first hour of work, and after that the fee is $125 per hour. The only exception is when we are already at the jobsite providing other services. In this case, spot dyeing becomes an add-on service, and, as we don't have to make a special trip, we discount the price.

Of course, in order to reach the billing stage, you must first listen to your client and address her questions and concerns. Considering the following approach:

"Can I have an in-home estimate?" We don't give on-location estimates for spot dyeing. It takes a lot of time to do that. Because most carpets can be dyed and we have a set pricing structure, let me give you some information to help you determine if you want to have the job done.

We have an inspection fee of X that goes toward the job if you decide to have it done. We charge an inspection fee because we know most spot-dyeing jobs can be done (we also inform the client over the phone about the different situations when the results may not be as good as we could expect. This helps her to decide if she wants to hire us.).

After the minimum service charge, we price this service at X dollars per hour. Most simple spot-dyeing jobs can be done in one hour; in some cases it may take two hours. Very seldom does it go beyond that. It would have to be a very large job, or be a very difficult carpet to dye. The technician inspecting the job will explain your options. At that time he will tell you about how long he estimates it will take. Just remember that if you decide not to go ahead with the service, the inspection fee still applies. Because we price this service by the hour, any call-backs are considered a continuation of the job and additional fees will apply, with a minimum trip charge equal to the inspection fee. (We do this to help eliminate the following-day phone call consisting of, "It looks a little lighter than the rest of the carpet. Can you come out and try a little more?" Remember, we are not promising it's going to be perfect.)

"Is this repair permanent?" Yes it is. We use the same acid that mills use when they dye the carpets.

"Is it going to look just like it did before?" It would be impossible to answer that question. Spot dyeing is not an absolute science. We mix dyes to add to the color remaining in the carpet (where the color has been damaged) to bring it as close to the original as possible. Sometimes, depending on different variables like color, fiber content, type of carpet and cause of problem, it can turn out almost perfect. Other times, the result may not be as good, mainly if the staining material has damaged the fibers.

We always aim for 100 percent, but in some situations we are happy if we get a 70 percent improvement. Depending on the type of carpet and the location of the stain, it may be enough to make it almost invisible.

"Why is it so expensive?" When you hire us, you are buying many years of experience. Dyes are not paint. They do not cover the spot like paint. They are more like watercolors. We mix dyes (usually the primary colors) to make the desired color that, when added to the remaining color in the carpet, will yield the color we are looking for. You could say it's a form of art. Spot dyeing requires a lot of experience and a good eye. It's a specialty that can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars when compared to replacing the carpet.

"What exactly do you do?" We start by neutralizing the stain-causing material to make sure that it will not continue to bleach the dye we are going to apply. The carpet is then flushed and rinsed. We start mixing the dyes and they are applied yarn by yarn with a dropper. As you can see, it's not a simple task. We then apply heat to swell and expand the fiber to allow the dye to penetrate fully. This process repeats over and over again until the color of the damaged area gets as close as possible to that of the original carpet.

"Can I use crayons and do it myself?" Of course. Just know that you will be using a solid color to stain your carpet. The crayon may not be the same color as the carpet, so you'll end up with a different type of stain. Also, most likely the crayon coloring will be washable, and will go away when you get your carpet cleaned, leaving you back where you started.

A majority of the time, answering these and other questions in a manner like this will help you as much as it will the client. In any case, it is prudent to be as well informed as possible by collecting as much information from the client as you can, including:

  • Type of carpet (loop, cut pile, pile height)
  • Fiber content (wool, nylon, sisal, blends of different fibers, etc.)
  • Color
  • What caused the problem (bleach (pure or diluted?), acne medication, pet urine, sun bleaching, etc.)?
  • How did it happen (spilled, drops, foot-step, etc.)?
  • How many spots and how big are they (size of a dime, quarter or bigger)?
  • Where are they located (main traffic area, in a hidden area of a room, etc.)?

    Then there are the instances when color repair may not yield satisfactory results, or it may not be cost effective. For example:

  • The spots are too big, and it will be difficult to get a good color approximation; therefore it will be hard to blend with the rest of the carpet and still will be noticeable though better than before. Some colors are more difficult than others.
  • The bleaching material may have ruined the dye sites in the fiber, making it very difficult for the fiber to accept the dyes being applied.
  • There are so many spots that it may not make economic sense to spot dye, and the results may be less than acceptable.
  • As mentioned earlier, another concern is different fibers in the same carpet (blends), especially blends of wool-sisal, so common nowadays in upscale homes.

    Finally, remember that the client has the final word and, after you provide her with all the pertinent information, both for and against the procedure, she should be the one determining if the job will get done or not. Never forget to have your work authorization ready with this type of information, and to get a signature approving the work to be done.

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