By Randy Pierce
Most customers, especially residential customers, probably can’t tell the difference between a good cleaning job and an outstanding one. But the one thing they will notice — and the factor that will either turn a customer into an advocate or a critic — can be summed up in one word: stains.
But going from “They did a decent job, but they couldn’t quite get that stain out” to “I can’t believe it. The stain is gone.” isn’t simple. Before choosing a stain removal strategy, you need to know four things:
· The age, material, construction method and dye of the carpet
· What the stain is
· How long the stain has been in the carpet
· Whether the carpet has any stain resistant treatment
· What the homeowner or other cleaners have done to remove the stain
The key is to remove the stain without damaging or changing the color of the underlying carpet. How? By making sure you have the right materials and chemicals, and know how to use them.
Stain removal toolkit
At a minimum, you should always carry:
· White paper towels or white terry towels
· A variety of chemicals and cleaners from your chemical/equipment supplier
· Spray bottle for applying detergents and special solutions
· Spoon and dull knife
· Materials for carpet repair, including spot dyes
· Carpet stain removal guide
Every chemical and cleaner will tell you when and how it should be used. If you’re not 100% sure of what type of carpet, dye and stain you’re dealing with, test the cleaner/stain remover you think will give you the best results in an inconspicuous corner. Apply a small amount, then rub with a white paper towel or white terry towel. If the carpet dye comes off on your towel, try a different cleaner.
Your carpet stain removal guide should tell you what to use for every stain you can identify. What if you’re not sure what the stain is? Start with a general purpose spotter. If the stain remains, use a paint, oil and grease spotter or a citrus gel.. Follow with a thorough rinsing so no cleaner residue is left in carpet. Remove all liquid by blotting or extracting if necessary. Air dry as quickly as possible.
Because the stain and area around it will probably require more liquid than the amount of cleaning solution used in the rest of the carpet, extracting as much liquid as possible, and drying the area as quickly as possible, is critical. If not, the area will attract dirt faster than the rest of the carpet and cause a reoccurring stain.
How to prevent wicking of reoccurring stains
· Blot until all of the liquid is removed
· Extract if necessary
· Dry the carpet as quickly as possible using carpet fans or some type of air mover.
· Use a carpet rake, which can decrease drying time by at least 30%
· Do not over-wet the carpet
Other stain tips
The critical factors in stain removal are technique, chemicals, time and temperature. Some stains can be eliminating by simply pre-spotting the stain before cleaning, while others require specialized cleaners to eliminate, Always make sure you give your chosen chemical time to do its job. The longer, larger or deeper the stain, the longer many chemicals need to work. Remember, too, that many steam cleaning solutions are more effective as the temperature of the cleaning solution is increased.
Some stains, of course, such as bleach, damage or remove carpet color to the extent that only spot dying can cover the stain. Again, test in an inconspicuous spot to ensure a color match before beginning work on the stain.
Keep in mind that some stains will require more than one product for complete cleaning. If your cleaning chart shows that one product, then another, is needed, do not shortcut or rush the process.
After the stain is gone
Once you’ve removed the stain and cleaned the remainder of the carpet, recommend a stain resistant treatment to help keep stains from happening again, or being as difficult and time consuming to treat. Keep in mind, though, that no treatment you can apply is permanent, and should be reapplied periodically.
Randy Pierce is president of Worldwide Cleaning Industry Resources, LLC, an educational resource for carpet and upholstery cleaners. He is a TheCleanTrust formerly/I.I.C.R.C. Instructor and Certified Master Cleaner, holds a number of other professional certifications, and has travelled the country teaching textile cleaning courses for the past several years. He was the owner/operator of a successful textile cleaning and restoration company for 20 years; that company is still successful and being managed by his son.