ICS Magazine

Color Repair

September 14, 2004

So you are considering adding color repair to your menu of service offerings? There are some very good spot-dye kits, manuals, and training videos that can help get you started. However, there is no substitute for the two-day IICRC Color Repair Technician (CRT) course to begin building the foundation for this area of expertise.

I always preach to my students that once they have completed the course work, their journey to become an expert at color repairs has just begun. Daily or at least weekly practice using their newly learned skills is absolutely necessary to become truly proficient.

I first became interested in color repair when I began encountering stains and discolorations in the carpet that I could not remove using conventional cleaning techniques. As a matter of fact, I found that one out of every two carpet-cleaning jobs had stains and discolorations that I could not deal with. As far as I was concerned, this was money being left on the table, so I started keeping a list of those jobs to call the customer back once I was able to offer a solution.

The first issue the CRT professional must confront is to figure out whether the problem they are faced with is a stain or a discoloration. A stain is defined as any color that is added to the carpet fiber, leaving a darker color that cannot be removed with conventional cleaning techniques. A discoloration is defined as any color that is removed from the carpet fiber, leaving a lighter color that cannot be corrected with conventional cleaning techniques.

Once you have determined what the problem is, how do you deal with it? Let's start with stains, since most cleaners already deal with this problem. Since stains are added color, your job is to try and remove it without damaging the original color of the carpet. There are many great products available to the professional cleaner today that can effectively deal with stains like Kool-Aid, magic markers, food-dye, hair dye and more. However, we all know that it is possible to damage the original color of the carpet during the removal process. If this happens, then you have the other category of problem: discoloration. If you have already prepared your customer for this possibility, then you have no problem. If not, and the original color is indeed damaged, then, in the eyes of your client, it becomes your problem. The CRT professional solves the problem easily by re-dyeing the discoloration to match the original color of the carpet. Since re-dyeing is part of his or her arsenal of skills, the CRT professional can be confident in correcting any stain without worrying about damaging the original carpet color in the process.

Discolorations are a result of color being removed from the carpet. Lighter in color than their undamaged surroundings, discolorations appear in many different sizes, shapes and colors, including yellow, pink, green, off-white, orange, violet, or any shade in between.

This is where most carpet cleaners that have no color-repair training get themselves into trouble. For instance, when encountering a light-green discoloration on a tan carpet, they innocently apply a light-tan dye to correct it, only to end up with a slightly darker green spot. Whoops.

The CRT professional, on the other hand, knows what is needed is the correct shade of red to apply to the green discoloration to bring the color back to tan. One reason is that dye is transparent, and will mix with an existing color to form a different color. If dyes acted in the same manner as pigments, then the addition of whatever color you apply would be what you end up with. An example of this would be painting over a green wall with a shade of mauve or pink. The wall would end up being the mauve or pink color, not a shade of tan.

So how do you determine which color to use on a discoloration? As long as the discoloration has the appearance of being lighter than the original color of the carpet, with no hints of any other color, you could apply a proper dye mix that would match the original color of the carpet to the discoloration and correct the problem. However, this scenario is only found about 20 percent of the time at best, so an understanding of color theory is essential to know how to proceed.

Next time we'll look at how the primary colors - red, yellow and blue - are used to perform all types of color repair, along with explaining color theory and how it is applied in on-location color repair.