Cleaning & Restoration Tools and Gadgets / Carpet/Rug/Upholstery Cleaning

Spot Removal: The Tools That Make It Easier

In the early years of my carpet cleaning career, you could identify a spot removal expert by whether or not he carried a bone spatula. That, along with a tamping brush and a few spotting towels, was what made up the equipment arsenal for the professional spot removal specialist...


In the early years of my carpet cleaning career, you could identify a spot removal expert by whether or not he carried a bone spatula.

That, along with a tamping brush and a few spotting towels, was what made up the equipment arsenal for the professional spot removal specialist. Spraying a stubborn spot with my pre-spray and then kicking it with my shoe was often my maximum effort. Needless to say, a lot of progress has been made in the last 30-plus years!

The tools and gadgets that have been developed over these decades have made it easier and faster to remove spots and stains that might not have come out using only that bone spatula. This month’s article will allow me to review several of my favorites, but the overall list is longer than space permits.

Stains can be removed by several means including detergency, lubrication, solvents or chemical reaction. When a chemical reaction is involved, adding energy speeds up the process significantly. The use of a vapor steamer, steam iron or wallpaper steamer to provide that energy in the form of heat (along with appropriate chemistry) allows red-colored drinks and other artificial food coloring stains to be removed successfully time after time. There was once a time when such stains were considered permanent.

Another innovative energy source for accelerating chemical reactions is the ultraviolet (UV) flashlight. The right wavelength of UV light, along with the proper oxidizer, works wonders on mustard and a variety of other difficult stains. These stains are out in a jiffy compared to the hours that were once required to get the job done.

Pet accidents have always been a major reason why our customers call for the services of a professional cleaner. Contamination from pet urine and other spills and soil would penetrate deep into the structure of the carpet, making complete removal very difficult. This problem was solved when a cleaner developed a tool that provided sub-surface extraction, which allowed the contamination to be thoroughly flushed out and removed. The carpet and even the cushion (pad) were left nearly dry.

The science hasn’t changed – waterborne spots are still addressed by treating them with a product from the opposite side of the pH scale – but the method for obtaining a pH reading from a stain certainly has gotten simpler. For the price of a few packs of pH paper, a technician can now dampen the spot and take a quick reading using a flat electrode pH meter. There are no more worries about contaminating the reading with something on your fingers. And there is no more chance of an accidental color transfer to the carpet or upholstery, just a reading accurate to 0.01.

In years past, hunting for signs of pet urine involved bringing in a heavy UV light, waiting five or 10 minutes for it to warm up after plugging it in, inspecting an area, then turning off the light and allowing it to cool down before moving on to the next area. Now a lightweight UV flashlight allows rooms to be inspected quickly and thoroughly.

The chemistry of spot and stain removal has improved over time, but enough about that. I am The Gadget Man, not the chemistry man. One thing that many of the new stain removers have in common is that they can be adversely affected by heat. But how do you keep your reducers, oxidizers, bio-enzymes and so forth from over-heating in your van during the summer when temperatures inside the vehicle can exceed 120º F when the truckmount is running? One little noted improvement is an insulated nylon carrying bag for all of your stain removal needs. There are plenty of pockets on the outside to hold your gadgets. I like to add a re-freezable blue ice pack to the bottom of the soft side insulated bag to be sure my products stay at their freshest and most effective every day.

My trusty ole’ tamping brush has acquired many friends, including a variety of brushes and handy grooming tools to open up matted fibers, work in cleaning agents, loosen soil and restore the original appearance of the nap.

Even my bone spatula has been upgraded to a chemical-resistant hard plastic tool that fits ergonomically in my hand as the firm teeth loosen gum, crusty residue and other soils.

I’ve saved one of my favorites for last. Every company will get calls when all the customer wants is one or more spots removed, not an overall carpet cleaning. And who hasn’t experienced a customer who points out one more spot that they want you to give some extra attention to? This is often just after you have rolled up all your hoses and put your cleaning wand back in the van. A small spotting extractor is so much easier than pulling out all those hoses and cranking up the machine just after you shut it down. For the spot removal only job, you won’t need to tie up your expensive equipment for what’s just a small job. Now add a heater to that spotter and you have a useful and easy spotting tool!

I eagerly await the coming years to see what new labor-saving and money-making spotting tools will be introduced to our industry.

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