This article was originally published by Cleaning & Maintenance Management
There are many reasons why a carpet may lose color, from chemical spills, cleaning solutions inappropriately used, sun fading, fume fading, old urine stains, cleaning products that contain chlorine bleach, medications — and more. All of these create unsightly discolorations that cleaning will not affect. But, a general rule of thumb is that, if color can be removed, it can be repaired. Color repair can be a lucrative add-on service for contract cleaners and a skill that in-house facility cleaning technicians can use to keep their buildings in top condition. While there are several dye methods used for dyeing fibers and carpet during production, acid dye treatments are typical for wool and nylon fibers. It is wool and nylon that experience color loss from a variety of scenarios presented above. This article will outline practical steps for repairing color loss for wool and nylon, specifically from sodium hypochlorite, commonly referred to as chlorine bleach. But, despite the cause of color loss, the principles of color repair — temperature of dye bath, pH, etc. — are basically the same.
Although most cleaning technicians use the term "bleach spot" or "bleach stain," we are really talking about a "discoloration." A spot is substance added to a fiber and is typically found on the surface of the fiber. A stain is color added to the fiber, typically absorbed into the fiber. A spot adds texture to the feel of the carpet surface; a stain does not always have this characteristic. When color is removed, damage to the dyes occurs. Reapplying appropriate neutralizing chemicals and dyes, a skill that takes time to develop, is then necessary.
Your goal with discoloration repair is to improve the appearance of the damaged area. Never make bold promises to repair the area so that the customer or facility occupants will not see the damage. Instead, stress the fact that you will do your best, and that the discoloration will not "draw the eye," but will rather be less noticeable to anyone entering the room. If you under-promise and then over-deliver, there are fewer disappointments when the job is completed. Until you have plenty of practice under your belt, target your efforts on very small discolorations and work your way up from there.
Jeff Cross is the senior editor of Cleanfax magazine and an industry trainer and consultant. Cross offers Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) technical training seminars for carpet and furniture cleaning, spot and stain removal and carpet color repair. He also offers carpet cleaning, disaster restoration and contract cleaning marketing seminars through Totally Booked University. He can be reached at JCross@NTPMedia.com.