Reappearing Stains

Have you recently had your carpets cleaned, only to find a mysterious stain appear where it may not have been noticeable before? Or was the cleaner successful in removing certain stains when the carpet was just cleaned and still damp, only to have some stains reappear after the carpet had thoroughly dried?

This common situation known as reappearing or wicking stains is caused by staining matter from a prior spillage having dried down at the base of the carpet pile. Although the surface staining may have been partially or fully removed from the tips of the carpet pile fibers, some of the discolored matter remained behind and unseen, hidden down in the pile.

During a thorough wet cleaning, the hidden stain normally becomes moistened or wetted. Once wet, the stain becomes mobile and wicks up to the top surface of the pile as the carpet dries. Since wall-to-wall carpet dries from the bottom up, this leaves the top part of the pile as the last to dry completely. And this is how the mysterious staining matter now wicks or finds is way up to the carpet surface.

You can usually remove most or all of this reappearing stain by moistening it and then blotting with absorbent white toweling. Lightly mist the stained area with water and blot with towels. Cover the stained area with toweling, add a layer of aluminum foil or wax paper on top of the toweling, and then weight it down (for example, with a telephone book). Wait 30 minutes or so and then remove. Repeat as needed until the stain is removed.

A second approach is to use a multipurpose carpet spotter or dry cleaning fluid type spot remover—that is, if you've used such products before and know they are safe on your carpeting. Follow the manufacturer's directions exactly and pretest the product for safety before using. Use the product sparingly; don't overdo it. You can also rinse lightly and again blot with absorbent towels as the last step.

A third alternative is to apply one of the dry extraction carpet cleaning compounds (a "powder" type carpet cleaning product). Lightly massage or brush the cleaning compound into the stain. Leave it to work for 30 to 60 minutes to absorb the staining material and then thoroughly vacuum. Like the above methods, any of these approaches should remove most or all of the reappeared stain.

Consumers who try to remove stains by using the wrong cleaning products, compounds or methods may only make the stained areas more noticeable. If in doubt about any of these procedures or their safety, contact us.