Navigation Menu+
Commercial Flooring News

How To Avoid Getting Into A Spot Of Trouble

CLEANING technicians frequently encounter customers who – in a state of panic – have used a proprietary brand product, or even washing up liquid in a far too concentrated form when attempting to remove a stain. There are also some technicians who also subscribe to the ‘three glugs’ school of chemical application as well.
Put out a spotting kit on a training course and it’s the ‘fly’s around the jampot’ syndrome, everyone wants to see which chemicals other technicians carry. I have to admit being equally guilty of doing this.

The trick is not to duplicate the chemical in your own kit per se, by allmeans purchase these chemicals, but do not use them until you are familiar with just how they work. This means experimenting on samples, NOT on a
customer’s carpet or furniture.

You’ll quickly learn that dry solvents react best with oily spots, that alkaline spotting agents work with protein spots and that tannin removers (acidic) are good when dealing with sugar, etc.

One tendency is to be heavy handed in the application, which I suspect is due to the technician’s impatience.

The application of too much chemical, too concentrated solution, plus the possibility of over aggressive agitation, or excessive heat, will invariably damage the fibres or textile, maybe even setting the stain rather than,
what you intended, speeding up its removal. Over application of a dry solvent spotter often leads to the softening of the latex in the backing construction, which in turn results in delaminating the secondary backing of a tufted carpet, bubbles on stuck down installations, decomposing rubber or foam secondary backings, texture changes
on upholstery fabrics, oily residual deposits left behind and, last but not least, volatile fumes.

The procedure for usage is to apply the dry solvent to a towel, or Q-Tip if dealing with a small spot; then apply the towel or Q-Tip rather than pour the solvent directly onto the spot or stain.

Applying more detergent solution, shampoo or other pre-spray than is necessary leaves sticky residues that contribute directly to rapid resoiling after cleaning. The correct amount of detergent is designed to emulsify
and suspend most soiling within the carpet fibres or textiles.

If insufficient is applied the soil will not all be suspended and some will remain after the cleaning process.
If over applied, all the soil will be suspended, but detergent will be left and will find its way onto the fibre surface. It can be difficult to rinse out completely, which results in call-backs to deal with the resoiling problem.

The original attempt to speed up the job has now severely extended the time and will cost the company concerned both in monetary terms and loss of confidence by the customer. The answer, therefore, is to
read the label instructions, mix and apply as instructed, nomore and no less.

The NCCA training courses teach the principles of pH, and the importance of neutralisation. This is not only to maintain the chemical balance of the textiles being worked upon, but to ensure that the spot or stain being treated is not made more difficult by using too strong or toomuch of an alkaline or acidic spotter.

Note: Neutralising spots and stains by applying a small amount of spotting chemical twice is better and safer than overapplying once. Some spotting chemicals involve using heat to transfer soft drink dye stains to a ‘host’ absorbent pad. This procedure is definitely the one that should be experimented with before using on-site.

The chemical applied is a complex penetrative and suspending surfactant designed to surround the dye ready for the absorption procedure.

Heat, using an iron over a damp absorbent towel, is introduced as a catalyst for the chemical reaction. It is wise to remember that most dyes used in soft furnishings today are heatset during the manufacturing process, likewise if enough heat is applied to the soft drink dyes those too will become fixed in the same way.

Excessive heat can also remove some of the original dye fromaround the stain edges leaving a lighter or even white ring around it.

The answer is patience. Use the lowest setting on the steamiron; just apply for a few seconds at a time without using any pressure on the iron. This procedure can be repeated several times. Do not allow the carpet to become hot.

Remember some fibres have lower melting points than others. The transfer of dye to the absorbent towel may have ceased. Do not add more chemical. Rather increase the heat, apply pressure with the iron or extend the time.

Allow it to cool for a few minutes and then start again and you will often getmore of the dye out. Other points to remember are that too much agitation can cause distortion or fuzzing of the textile surface. Agitation and excessive heat will ‘felt’ wool fibres.

In conclusion: Thoroughly inspect the item to be dealt with before carrying out the work. Match the customer’s expectations with reality. It’s essential to submit a report in writing!

Read labels, use chemicals as directed, take notice of, and adhere to, all safety aspects when using any particular chemical. Rinse one chemical out thoroughly before trying another. Do not indulge in over application, and control the amount of chemical used.

Rinse out the area following treatment. Some chemicals, if left behind, will continue to work long after you have completed the job.

Derek Bolton is an honorary member of the National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA)

The National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA) provides training in Advanced Spot and Stain Removal. A
courses is scheduled for October 19.
T: 0116 2719550

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them online at