Carpet Spotting Basics

Steve Hanson

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When you consider all of the time that a good cleaning staff spends in cleaning and maintaining a good quality carpet, it would be a real shame to see a spot or stain that simply won't come out. After all, any discolorations, or blotchy places take away from the overall appearance of an otherwise beautiful carpet. That is why carpet spotting is an important practice for keeping up the appearance of a building. In fact, it is more common for a business to replace a carpet because of stains and an overall “dirty" appearance, than it is due to the carpet being worn out.

Most spots are a result of regular, everyday substances that are dropped or spilled onto the carpet, and then further rubbed and ground in when people walk on them. The most common culprits are dirt, mud, coffee, soda, and other common substances. Any of these will become a deep soil, or even a permanent stain if they are not treated promptly and properly. If left untreated, they will not only look unappealing, but will also cause the fibers of the carpet to wear, leading it to wear out more quickly.

Without a good carpet spotting routine, a spot or stain that took only seconds to form, can become an issue that will remain as long as the carpeting is on your floor. Therefore, by taking a few small carpet spotting steps, you can avoid that entire issue.

Be careful which cleaning agents you use for carpet spotting. Remember that some substances will take the color right out of your carpet, along with the stain. This discoloration is just as unsightly as the stain was. Bleach is a primary offender in this situation. When you're not sure about a product, or you're trying something new, test it in an inconspicuous area first, before using it somewhere more noticeable.

The first step for carpet spotting is to determine what the offending substance is. If the substance was a liquid, the carpet spotting trick is to re-liquify it by using water to flush the area, and then use a carpet spotting solution. Once the carpet is wet, use a clean, white towel to blot (NEVER rub) the water. Repeat this step as many times as necessary. Be careful not to over-wet, however, as you don't want to spread the stain. This is the same reason that blotting, and not rubbing is critical. You want to keep the stain localized to as small an area as possible. By rubbing, or over-wetting, it gives the chance for the staining substance to move across other carpet fibers.

If oil or grease has spilled onto the carpet (or has been tracked in on someone's shoes) use a cleaning agent specially designed for dissolving oil and grease, in order to emulsify it.

Above all, remember to be patient. It's better to take your time and do a good job, then botch the effort by rushing.

Steve Hanson is co-founding member of The Janitorial Store (TM), an online community for owners and managers of cleaning companies who want to build a more profitable and successful cleaning business. Sign up for Trash Talk: Tip of the Week at and receive a Free Gift!


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