Did you ever notice that some carpet stains are more stubborn than others? Some stains respond well to cleaning; they disappear and are never seen again. Other stains seemingly have multiple lives; they disappear when cleaned, only to reappear a short while later. What is it that causes some stains to reappear – even after a professional cleaning?
It isn’t the staining material – it’s the carpet cleaning method. Either the carpet cleaning fails to address the entire stain, or it contributes to new stains on its own.
Soaps and detergents are very effective at removing staining materials from fabrics. We see ample evidence of this each time we do our laundry. But cleaning carpets isn’t the same as doing laundry: we can neither rinse nor dry our carpets as well as we can our clothing. As a result, a sticky residue of soap can remain in the carpet after cleaning – despite the best efforts of the technician.
If a residue of soap remains in the carpet, it will attract dirt, grime, and likely whatever caused the initial stain. If the dirty high-traffic area you just cleaned has a sticky residue, continued traffic will soon bring about another stain.
Overcoming this issue requires using carpet cleaning methods that do not leave a sticky residue. In the Olympia, Washington area where I live, the local Meridian Chem-Dry uses a carbonated solution instead of detergent; this method does not leave a sticky residue. You should be able to find a Chem-Dry or other company in your area that likewise does not use detergent.
As mentioned above, stains that are not completely addressed can reappear. Effective removal of stains requires dealing with the stain at all levels – not just the surface. Some cleaning efforts very effectively remove the stain from the carpet surface, but fail to address the staining material at the base of the carpet fibers. If staining material remains at the base of the carpet, it can work its way back to the surface.
In order to remove stains down to the base of the carpet, two cleaning practices should be followed:
First, the use of cleaning solution should be kept to a minimum. Why? Any solution that’s applied to the carpet and not extracted will retain the staining material. Cleaning methods that require less solution will leave less behind. Next, you’ll want to use cleaners that use powerful extraction equipment. Look for professionals that use truck-mounted extraction equipment; these will be more powerful than portable extraction systems.
In addition to reducing the likelihood of recurring stains, professionals that follow the two practices above should also yield cleaner carpets that dry more quickly. With this in mind, it’s definitely worth asking any prospective cleaners a question or two about the methods and equipment they use.