Ever had a stain in your carpet that wouldn’t come out? How about a stain that disappeared after being cleaned only to come back? Why do most stains come out, but others don’t?
Although carpets are easier (and better) to clean than they have ever been before, there are still a few things you should know.
The History of Stain Resistant Carpet
If we go back to the 70s and 80s, there was only one type of stain resistance. The carpet was made and something called Scotchgard Stain Release and it was sprayed on generously. It was applied with high pressure nozzles at extremely high temperatures. This stuff was amazing, but it was our only line of defense.
Stains and dirt had a very difficult time sticking to the carpet. This stuff was like magic, any and all debris would literally roll off. The only problem was, after 4 or 5 professional cleanings, the Scotchgard was gone and the carpet had zero stain resistance left.
So the solution seemed simple enough, make a stain resistance that lasts longer… but before we go into that and the swath of improvements made, it’s critical that you understand the difference between a stain and a dye.
Difference Between Stains and Dyes
There are products in every home that do not stain the carpet, they dye it, meaning it needs to be replaced. (Warranties as a whole cover food and beverage items so most of these are covered by the warranty.) For example, there is a red dye in some foods and drinks (Powerade/Gatorade, some teas, mustard, etc.) that can permanently stain the carpet. The other colors are usually not an issue. You can’t clean these out, and the carpet needs to be replaced.
In addition, there are acids in vomit that may come from pets (and humans) that, if left unattended, will dye the carpet. Motor oil and/or grease are not covered by warranties, but will usually come out. (That’s why we tell everyone to hang on to some scrap pieces of carpet and to store them after they install new carpet. It’s a matching dye lot and makes problems of this nature easy to fix.)
We had a customer that said they were experiencing some weird spotting in their carpet (primarily in their hallway). When we got out to their home, there were perfect little white circles that stood out on their blue carpet that covered most of the hallway and well into a bedroom. When we examined them closely, it looked like the color had just disappeared in these circles.
They were spread out about 3′ apart and covered about a 15′ stretch in a kind of line. After asking all the tough questions it was revealed that the daughter had been dying her hair in the bathroom. And would drip on the carpet back to her room. Yikes! Bleaches can wreak havoc on carpet, so you’ll want to keep bleach secured in kitchens, bathrooms, and basements and far away from carpet.
However, for the most part, the elements that cause problems are dragged in from the outside. Back to the technological advancements.
Modern Stain Resistance in Quality Carpets
The days of spraying stain resistance on are behind us. The manufacturers are still doing this but the carpet itself has huge stain protection built into it when it is being made. In other words, the Scotchgard (or today’s version of it) is still put on; but the carpet itself has made large advances in its own protection.
When the carpet is in a liquid form, stain resistant properties (much stronger than the original Scotchgard) are put into the chemical DNA to help it resist most stains. Teflon is an amazing product that most people are familiar with. A version of it is used in most better, quality carpets today. Just like the protection it gives to a frying pan; anything that wants to stick to a carpet has a very hard time because this chemical causes almost everything to simply fall off. The most important leap this technology they’ve made however is that this product cannot be cleaned off like the previous carpets.
Stain Proof Vs Stain Resistant
There is a carpet in most retail stores today that labels itself as stain proof, not just stain resistant. It is called Solution Dyed Carpet. It is, in fact exactly that, stain proof. Carpets today are all made white in color before they are dyed into any number of colors. In the Solution Dyed process, the color of the carpet is added while the carpet is still in a liquid form. In other words it skips the additional dying process altogether. Although this solves stain issues, the one drawback is the limitation it puts on the color you want. The process cannot produce the gorgeous variety of colors that a normal manufacturing and dying process does. There have also been questions raised about the performance of these carpets.
Another staining issue that can occur has nothing to do with the carpet itself, but the padding underneath. The carpet cushion (or what is most commonly called the “carpet pad”) goes under the carpet to make the carpet feel and wear better. However, sometimes a spill may penetrate the carpet and go through to the pad underneath. Since most pads are a cushion of sorts, it sucks up whatever staining agent was spilled on it.
Later when the carpet is cleaned, the suction of the cleaning pulls the stain out of the pad and into the carpet — re-staining it in the process. Usually the carpet cleaner leaves everything looking great for a few days until a stain shows up in the same place it was before. This can happen over and over again. Today however, there are pads that are available with moisture barriers that prevent this from happening — I highly recommend them.
If you are worried about buying a carpet that may stain, I have some great advice for you.
First, buy a good piece of carpet from a reputable dealer in your area. If it gets stained and the stain won’t come out, call that dealer and tell him you are not happy. Dealers that are strong partners to manufacturers don’t play by warranty brochure rules. We are all people trying to make sure our customers are happy so they will continue to buy from us again and again. The manufacturer wants the dealer happy so the dealer will buy more carpet from him (the manufacturer). The dealer wants the customer happy for the same reason — it’s a mutually beneficial relationship to all parties.
As a result, the dealer will call the manufacturer and say, “Mrs. Smith bought a really good piece of your carpet, but it stained and she’s not happy. Guess what? You’re replacing the carpet.” The manufacturer will laugh and say OK. That’s how things get done when you buy from the right person. The same thing happens if it’s not wearing good enough or any number of other issues. Meanwhile, if you buy a cheap carpet, don’t expect the same treatment from those manufacturers or dealers — their job is to get as many carpets out the door before you realize you need something better.
When you invest in your carpet, you are investing in the relationships that the dealer has with their manufacturers. So does a customer really need to worry about which carpet is the most stain resistant? No, just make sure you buy something good and let the dealer fight with the manufacturer for you if there’s a problem.