Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Focus on Chemicals: Out, Out Damned Spot

March 10, 2002
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When you approach spot removal, the most important point to make to the owner is that they recognize that it is their spot, not yours. However, it's up to you to do everything you can to remove it.

Spots, classified as surface discolorations, do not penetrate the fiber but literally stay outside the fiber. Obviously, a spot on a fiber that is coated with a discolorant is easier to remove than one based on staining, at least in accepted theory. There have been cases, however, where spots can be very tricky to remove.

Spots are unique in that they can easily ruin a $l0,000 carpet by being in the middle of the room. Whether the carpet is blue, red or green, a spot stands out. One thing for sure: There is no substitute for classes based on IICRC. You should sign up for one as soon as possible.

For beer, alcohol, certain foods and light soils stains, the heat and pressure from a truckmount does well when coupled with the right cleaning solution. There are a myriad of cleaners on the market having a pH grade of 8.0 to l0. Watch out for printed carpets, which usually do not fare well with high pH.

For spots that turn into stains, such as cola, coffee and tea, that acid rinse should be within reach. Use it at the rate of 8-l2 oz. per gallon of water. It will dilute discolorants, such as tannin, for easy removal with a truckmount wand, and is particularly good for urine spots, which might reacquire even higher concentrations. Keep in mind that removing urine spots will do you proud, but the residual odor may require a deodorizer system to break down urine salts. Essentially, you have a double facet exposure in order to eliminate both odor and spots.

For oil-based spots, a solvent is needed to dilute these spots for their removal. The key word here is 'blotting.' Apply the solvent to a towel and blot. Do not pour or spray heavily on the carpet as damage may result to the backing or adhesive underneath. As a skin precaution, use gloves when handling solvents.

Solvent spotters are basically used on carpet adhesive, greasy food spots, certain types of pen inks, lipstick, butter, asphalt, hair oils, dog hair, etc. Asphalt is an interesting spotter because of its tenacity to lock in on fiber. Solvents will remove the initial phase of carbon lockdown, but that faint yellow-gray appearance remains. It is here that expertise comes into play, if you treat the spot as a stain.

The key to carpet longevity is maintenance. Without it, carpet loses out. Whether stain proof or spot proof, carpet soiling must be attended to as quickly as possible. If a carpet spot is taken care of in the first 5 minutes of a spill, 90 percent of it will be removed.

Just remember the three questions before you begin cleaning:

l. What caused the spot?
2. Did you do anything to try to remove it?
3. Do you want me to use a professional spotting kit and try to remove it?

I know that carpet manufacturers don't like to hear that a carpet is an enlarged sink area. Everything falls on it, then it gets walked on, scuffed, and exposed to other types of natural and unnatural elements. Carpets, basically, take a tremendous beating and must be maintained for any longevity. Without the care that carpet cleaners provide, carpet can become an expensive commodity with a short life. Stain and spot removal is part of the care that is a must in carpet maintenance.

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