It’s like a magic trick, you spot clean a stain and it disappears. Your carpet looks like nothing ever happened and you can go on with living life as usual; until you walk past the area just to find the spot has magically reappeared.
You are probably wondering how in the heck something like that could happen. You took every precaution when cleaning the stain, you blotted and didn’t rub, you followed all the directions for the stain remover to a T, and yet there it is back to haunt you.
There are two possible reasons why the stain could have reappeared: soiling and wicking.
Soiling is the result of left behind cleaning residue. The solution used to treat the stain was not completely rinsed away. Extra solution left to hang out on carpet fibers will attract dirt and soil to the very spot you just cleaned causing it to become soiled once again.
Wicking is another cause of a reappearing stain. Wicking is the result of a stain reaching deep into the carpet and soaking into the carpet backing and sometimes even the pad underneath the carpet. When you spot treat a stain you are cleaning the surface of the carpet. Spills that absorb deep into the backing or pad can get reabsorbed into the carpet fibers and make its way back up to the top of the fiber. This action is very similar to what happens in the wick of a candle and is where the name originates from.
In most instances, wicking will occur with carpet that is damp for a long period of time. Sometimes when the carpet is cleaned with a DIY machine or by a cleaner that used too much moisture wicking will occur.
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Preventing Reappearing Stains
The best way to prevent stains from re-appearing like a bad magic trick is to treat spills as soon as they happen whenever possible. If you don’t see the spill happen treat it as soon as you notice it. Getting to a stain before it has time to soak deep into the floor is critical to prevent any potential for wicking. After any spot treatment make sure the cleaning solution has been rinsed away and all excess moisture is absorbed into a clean white cloth or paper towel. When no more moisture can be absorbed leave a towel or cloth weighted down with a heavy object, such as a stack of books, over the damp area overnight to get it dry faster.
You also want to make sure you are hiring an experienced carpet cleaner that uses hot water extraction and is not over-wetting your carpet. Hot water extraction simultaneously injects cleaners and solution while extracting dirt and water back out. It uses much less water than other cleaning methods and reduces the chance of wicking.
Clean the spot as you did the first time it appeared on the carpet and use the towels and a heavy object to keep the carpet as dry as possible. If the spot reappears again it is time to call in a professional carpet cleaner.