Mysterious Spots

August 22, 2018

Posted by D. A. Burns

Mysterious Spots

Ever wonder why, after successfully blotting up a spill on your installed carpet or area rug, a “stain” reappears later in the same spot?  Or, why new stains suddenly appear after having your carpet or area rug professionally cleaned?

The Forgotten Spill 

Sometimes, new stains are caused by old stains resurfacing. A spilled substance on your carpet, which did not immediately create a noticeable discoloration, may travel deep into the carpet’s pile (and often into the backing and pad) only to “wick up” to the carpet’s surface over time (or with cleaning) becoming very conspicuous.  Because the carpet fibers act as wicks, moisture rises to the fiber tips, evaporates, and leaves the discoloration behind.  This is the forgotten spill.


Here is one common example of forgotten spills: Young Benjamin turned seven years old and several of his best friends were invited over to help him celebrate.  Everybody had a great time. There were games, presents, plenty of cake, ice cream, soft drinks and apple juice to go around.  A couple of hours later, it was time to clean up the aftermath of the “storm”. A thorough vacuuming took care of most of the cake crumbs and other small debris.  The carpet seemed to have survived the frenzy without suffering any major damage; it looked like you wouldn’t have to call your local carpet cleaning company (D. A. Burns & Sons, Inc., of course).

Fast forward two months and you are preparing to receive guests again, mostly adults this time.  Suddenly, you notice spots on the carpet that seem to have appeared out of nowhere; dozens of small round spots that are slightly darker than the surrounding carpet, and one larger, dark, dirty area.  What happened?!  Where did all these spots come from?  The answer: Dozens of drops of soft drink and apple juice had splashed out of the kids’ cups during Benjamin’s party, flying through the air until they landed and disappeared deep into the carpet.  Also, one entire cup of juice got tipped over accidentally (landing under the table), but this was (of course) never reported to you.  The colorless sugar remained on the carpet fibers, and after long exposure to the air, they turned into bothersome brown stains, making your home look dirty.  Time to call D. A. Burns!

Professional cleaners have an arsenal of speciality cleaning and stain removal treatments to improve the appearance of “the forgotten spill”.  However, even with the best treatments, some colored residue or caramelized sugar stains resulting from prior spillage may remain.

When that accidental spill occurs, act quickly to blot up the spill before it travels down into the base and backing of your carpet.  Our Carpet Spot Removal Guide offers more detailed information.  We recommend the reapplication of a carpet protector (Scotchgard™) following professional cleaning to keep your carpet and rugs clean and protected longer.

Bleached Spots

Another form of mysterious spots on installed carpeting happens when bleached-out areas appear for no apparent reason.  The affected areas can look orange, yellow, or a bright white; they can vary in size, but often each spot is smaller than a dime.  And usually, the homeowner has no idea what might have caused the problem.  More than once we have heard from a client that they are absolutely certain nothing was ever spilled in the affected area.  Could it be something that is rising up from the subfloor?  Or maybe the carpet is defective? 

It is our experience that bleached spots are often caused by one of the following:

Toilet bowl cleanser seems to find a way of coming into contact with carpet, often in the hallway just outside the bathroom door, causing unsightly color change or color-loss.

Acne medicine can also find its way out of the bathroom and onto carpeted or upholstered areas.  Benzoyl peroxide is a strong bleaching agent that is used in some acne medications and many other home products, and it only takes a tiny amount to cause bleach damage in carpet or furniture.  It can come into contact with them by being spilled, or by being touched by human skin that has benzoyl peroxide residue. 

Pesticides or plant food.  Overspray or splattering from these products can land on carpeting and cause color loss or discoloration that cannot be removed with cleaning methods.

In each of the cases listed above, even though color loss can occur right after the chemical touches the fibers, it usually does not appear until sometime later.  The damage may remain dormant for weeks or even months.  Noticeable chemical reactions can then be accelerated by heat and moisture, and the bleached spots may appear after rainy weather or soon after a carpet or upholstery cleaning.

Unfortunately, color loss is not something that can be removed by any cleaning methods or procedures.  If the bleached spots are highly bothersome, carpet repair or “carpet surgery” (as it's sometimes called) may be the solution.  Check around to see if you have any remnants left over from your carpet installation, to use as patching material.  If you don’t, there is still hope. You may have installed identical carpet in your closets.  A small rectangular section removed from a closet or other unnoticable area can serve as a donor piece.

A skilled installation specialist can carefully cut out a rectangle of carpet including the bleach-damaged area and replace it with the matching donor section.  Keep in mind that the new (or at least newer) piece may stand out at first, especially if the surrounding carpet is worn from heavy traffic or is faded from exposure to ultraviolet light.  In time, it will blend in and not draw your eye as much as the bleached spot once did.

For a referral to a carpet installation specialist, please call D. A. Burns at 206-782-2268.

Please don’t forget that besides being your Greater Seattle and Eastside go-to cleaner for installed carpet, D. A. Burns also cleans Oriental & Specialty Rugs; Stone, Tile & Grout; as well as Fabric & Leather Upholstery.  And we provide Carpet Edge Treatments and Hand Repair & Reweaving for your Area Rugs.


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