CARPET DISCOLORATION

Most of our business is the result of carpet discoloration. At one time or the other everyone who owns a carpet encounters a discoloration problem. Until Color Your Carpet®, we all had to "live" with this problem. Although to nearly anyone who has ever had this problem the most obvious solution was to "dye" the offending color back to match the original carpet color, expertise in this field was non-existent.

Since the late 1970's, Color Your Carpet® has been providing expert, on-site carpet dyeing, design dyeing and color restoration services. Our only business is dyeing! More than 20 years of research, testing and actual use of our proprietary products has created our International system of expert on-site carpet DyeMasters. We have successfully provided solutions for virtually every type of carpet color situation.

In the 200+ communities in which we operate our proven track record has resulted in the recognition as the solution provider and undisputed expert authority in carpet dyeing and color services. Our reputation with carpet owners, carpet retailers, carpet cleaners and property managers in these communities has created the need for us to expand our markets to include virtually every city in the world. As we do so, we would like to share some of the valuable education we have accumulated with you.

Our greatest challenge is to educate the public to the much needed, hard-to-find consumer information about carpet color and carpet in general. We are constantly amazed at the lack of current, accurate and comprehensive disclosure in the multi-billion dollar carpet industry. More so, that very sophisticated property owners and managers routinely either neglect or ignore this topic. Oddly, they all have access to their own historical data with regard to carpet costs, carpet problems and property maintenance which directly affect their related business profit margins.

The most frequent questions we are initially confronted with from customers have a common theme: carpet discoloration. In on-site carpet inspection, the first step in considering a discoloration problem is to decide whether the discoloration represents a gain in color or a loss of color. This article primarily deals with comparing various discolorations and will provide some clarification. Here are the most common, and some very uncommon, carpet "discoloration" problems as well as other typical fading and color loss problems. If your carpet discoloration problem isn't listed here, feel free to contact us and we will include it.


Carpet Discolorations & Causes

BHT Yellowing

One of the segments in this category recently has to do with BHT discoloration. The carpet industry was beset with claims of "off gassing" and color loss as a result of BHT. The carpet industry has successfully explained that BHT is rare and mostly occurred in the residential installation of carpet but the have failed to disseminate the information regarding the identity and recognition of the BHT discoloration occurrences. BHT yellowing typically occurs in residential carpet uses.

Recent reports in the carpet industry reveal that a number of conditions listed below cause yellowing, mostly comparing it to be similar to BHT. BHT yellowing is best described as a "lemon yellow". So as part of our effort to enlighten the consumer as to how to differentiate carpet color problems including BHT discoloration, we have created this basic "Carpet Discoloration" article.

Ozone Fading

Occurs primarily where humidity is high for most of the year; i.e., coastal areas and Hawaii. However, ozone fading is very rare in most of the USA today. Ozone prefers and attacks blue dyes first. Since most carpet has very little blue, the yellow and red components are usually left unaffected. But the loss of blue causes the carpet to turn a dull orange, not yellow. This of course depends on the original carpet color too. On a purple carpet which had no yellow in the original color, the carpet would actually turn to a rose or red type color. In these cases, this is not a gain of color but rather than a loss of color.

Chemical Overview of Ozone Fading

An oxygen molecule (O2) is made up of two oxygen atoms and has a very stable bond.

While most molecules contain two oxygen atoms, ozone contains a third atom in which the bond is very unstable. By passing oxygen across a highly-charged electrical field under controlled circumstances, we can mechanically bond this third atom.

The ozone then begins a process of breaking down (oxidizing) chemical structures of other items into more stable and simpler compounds. Ozone begins reacting with airborne odors as it becomes airborne and converts them into more stable compounds of carbon dioxide, water and oxygen.

Moisture helps to speed up the reaction of ozone. However, when the ozone becomes moist, a mild form of hydrogen peroxide can be produced. On some fabrics, the result then becomes a bleaching (color loss) effect. When using ozone in the presence of people, plants, animals, furs, natural rubber or latex, or situations with high humidity, exercise great care if you don't want problems.

Asphalt Sealants

Primarily found in areas where foot traffic enters directly from newly paved or sealed asphalt parking lots. The discolorations are very dull brownish yellow in color and more pronounced at the entry points. The depth of discoloration diminishes as the contaminant is transferred onto the carpet the further into the property the carrier walks. It is therefore most visible in the entry traffic lanes near the door and is less noticeable farther into the property. This occurs primarily in commercial situations.

Calcium Chloride

This chemical is used primarily to melt snow and ice. It is tracked onto carpet in the winter. The result is a dirty white discoloration, not yellow in color, and can usually be removed with water. Left unattended, this area will attract soil and the color can turn from dirty white to dingy yellow to brown to black.

Incorrect or Excessive Stain Blocker Application

In the first few years of stain resist treatments, phenolic stain blockers were used (circa 1987-89). These chemicals did cause yellowing in many instances. The misapplication at the mill of these old time stain blockers caused a very dull, brownish yellow film on the carpet, which is easily distinguishable from the lemon yellow caused by BHT. Reportedly, the new stain blockers are chemically different and do not turn yellow.

After Market Stain Resister Treatments

Although the chemical manufacturers have improved their stain resister products applied at the mill, the actual performance still hasn't caught up with the claims. The after market treatment doesn't work at all, and is rarely applied properly and evenly. It certainly doesn't perform at all like the mill applied process, which is still of questionable value in any case. In fact, Scotchgard® (a 3M® product line) has been removed from the market {in 2000} due to some harmful effects caused by certain ingredients and processes used in its production. See our special report on Scotchgard® and on Stainmaster®.

Application of after market stain resisters, in the hands of the carpet cleaner, will still cause yellowing or browning. The carpet cleaner pitch to consumers of on-site "stain resist treatment" is simply a "hyped sales gimmick" to increase profits.

Also unlike mill applied stain resister treatments there are other problems when applied by carpet cleaners on-site. As an example, if very high temperatures are used in carpet cleaning, the after market substance will become "gluey" and bond with soil in dirty water while cleaning. The result is trapped dirt and a dull or dingy or graying carpet appearance even right after cleaning and every subsequent cleaning thereafter.

More importantly, this substance whether applied correctly or not, blocks dye sites. Unless an after market stain resister previously applied by a carpet cleaner is removed by a properly applied "stripper" the carpet will rarely look or remain clean. Further, the build up of the chemical will cause yellowing or browning. For the record, since some carpet cleaners think that the way to increase profits and compete in this over-saturated maintenance industry is to dilute products, the chances are fairly good that very little, if any, actual stain resist chemical was used in the on-site application. And since most carpet cleaners use extremely high pH cleaning chemicals (alkaline), the residue will act like a magnet to dirt and soil.

"Optical Brighteners" - Clear Dyes

Optical brighteners are not carpet dyes as alleged, but are sometimes used in cleaning agents. Optical brighteners in this case, are supposedly "clear dyes" which in theory fill unused "dye-sites" which theoretically prevents stains from entering carpet fiber. Not!!! These "clear dyes" will eventually turn yellow. For many years Shaw Industries (the largest carpet manufacturer in the world today) has provided maintenance literature to consumers that specifically recommended against the use of these optical brighteners, not because of yellowing but because of their tendency to mask the carpet color resulting in a chalky appearance.

"Optical Brighteners" - Reducing Agents & Oxidizers

During the last decade many products have emerged claiming to miraculously "clean and brighten" even the dirtiest stains from all types of surfaces. These products primarily incorporate  "oxidizing agents" or "reducing agents". And, they are great for almost all hard surfaces, if applied properly. Some are even good for cleaning certain laundry items. However, they are not compatible with most textiles, especially carpet! The products are readily available on the store shelf, but many are the products hawked on TV info-mercials.

The real problem is that when applied to carpet, the product initially does appear to work magic. Sadly, the carpet dye is chemically attacked very slowly over time, and the result is overall color loss or fading and again the chemical residue creates a magnet to dirt. Another part of the problem is that the reducing agent causes a very slow bleaching or fading affect. At the top of the list of "products to avoid" in this category is Rezolve and any of the "Oxy-whatever" products. As an added warning - never touch a wool carpet with any product that doesn't specifically state that is safe on wool carpet.

Pesticides

Two new dyestuffs were introduced to the carpet industry in the early 1980's. It was soon discovered that they were susceptible to discoloration by organophosphate pesticides. In this case, the carpet turned green, not yellow. In response, these production of these dyes were discontinued within a year.

Still today, some pesticide service companies apply certain pesticides which cause color loss. Most noticeable around baseboards, these pesticides typically attack the blue component of the carpet color. Thus a light pink or peach colored line about 1 or 2 inches wide appears along the baseboard of a gray carpet or wherever the pesticide was applied. On a green carpet the result would be more of a light beige or light mustard color. Again, the color loss is very slow.

Silicone-based Carpet Protectors

Silicone stain resister chemicals were were used in a base of crude mineral spirits in the early 1980s. The mineral spirits residues sometimes turned dull yellow. Other problems such as carpet delamination and fire hazards caused manufacturers to discard this product line and to warn against any use of silicone in stain resisters for carpet. And, use of silicones void warranties.

Fiber Abrasion

In properties with heavy traffic areas or at almost all beach properties which are subjected to "sharp dirt" such as sandy soil, the carpet fiber gets scratched or cut, which caused the fiber's luster to become dull, but no change in color occurs. This can be greatly reduced or eliminated by the placing of "cover rugs" at main entry areas and frequent vacuuming.

Animal protein (urine, feces & vomit)

Although on light colored carpets, urine can result in yellow spots, the appearance of the discolored area will vary depending on the original carpet color. The result is usually a very dull yellow unlike the lemon yellow of BHT spots. Urine glows a yellow-green under UV light (black light) and the odor is quite recognizable. Carpet discoloration from feces and vomit will depend on the content of the digested food or the dyes contained in the food.

Oxides of Nitrogen Yellowing

In the manufacturing plant, when undyed nylon is stored for long periods in areas where air circulation is poor, "stale air" is created and thus this rare phenomenon occurs. Yellowing may occur if oxides of nitrogen are present from gas-fired process equipment or gas-powered lift vehicles. The affected areas of the carpet cannot be dyed because dye sites are blocked. This does not happen on normal property carpet, residential or commercial. This yellowing only occurs in the mill. Carpet manufacturers took steps to eliminate stale air years ago.

Formaldehyde Fading

During the 1970's, formaldehyde emissions from particle board sub-floors and furniture were cited as the culprit in discoloration under furniture. This caused some carpet areas to turn dark green, not yellow. This problem was all but eliminated by 1980 because formaldehyde emissions were brought under control by environmental regulations.

Oxidation of fiber spin finish

Carpet manufacturers today routinely screen their finishes to insure that these spin finishes are not used. Some spin finishes used in years past have been demonstrated to turn a very faint, dull or dingy yellow. With the growing trend of light colored carpets being purchased for residential properties this type of yellowing is an even more important consideration since it doesn't respond to traditional acid treatments.


Carpet Fading

Fading will cause a carpet color to appear lighter than the original color in the affected areas. Fading is a type of color loss. All carpet fades about 4% to 8% per year. This number is higher in the sunbelt. Fading is less obvious on very light colored carpets. Even a severely faded or discolored carpet may look normal until the furniture is moved. Fading can be the result of many causes.

Sunlight is the most common cause of fading. The dyer will examine the color closely for disparity and the pattern of the carpet if any and the path of the fading. Sunlight faded areas usually have less definition of shape than other types of color loss. In the case of sun fading, examination would reveal a noticeable difference in the color of the exposed surfaces and those surfaces not exposed to the light. The sun faded area does not usually have a consistent or equal color loss in the entire faded area. Where exposed to direct sun light, the carpet would exhibit the most severe fading where the sunlight is the most direct and is exposed more frequently such as in front of sliding glass doors. Anytime a window is facing east or west, there will be sun fading in the path of those windows.

Artificial Light

Halogen lights, UV tanning lamps, and some fluorescent lights will cause fading over time.

Fume Fading

Many household chemicals contribute to fume fading. The fumes of Chlorine bleach in laundry, kitchen and lavatory areas of the property can cause carpet color fading. Containers of dry pool or spa chlorine if not tightly closed will cause fume fading to nearby carpeted areas. Certain air fresheners, insecticides, cleaning chemicals, perfumes, medications and cosmetics can create fumes especially if in spray form can cause fume fading.

Chemical Reaction

Many common acne medications, medicated cosmetics and shampoos that contain benzoyl peroxide or other peroxides will cause color loss or fading.

Teenagers often after applying acne medications (like Oxy-10 or Clearasil) neglect to wash and rinse their hands. The next thing you know that teenager is sitting on the carpet, leaning back on his hands, leaving residues of the medication to slowly fade the carpet color. Or he runs up the carpeted steps tapping every step with his medicated palms as he goes. Or in some cases, the medication is applied to large areas of the back, so that when that teen gets horizontal for his sit-ups or exercises and works up a sweat he transfers the medication to large areas of the carpet.

Mom is not free of guilt either. When hair preparations contain certain medications or peroxides, drops from her hair can find the carpet or damp towels used during the process if allowed to come into contact with carpet will invade the carpet color and cause fading as well. And we can't leave Dad out, foot medications often contain the same fading causatives. OOPs, we can't forget Fido or Kitty, yep some pet hair preparations contain chemicals that cause color loss.

Fading can be caused by some cleaning methods, even "professional" carpet cleaning. Usually harsh or improper chemicals that are used by the carpet cleaner. More so if the carpet is left with residues. Especially in the case of too frequent cleaning with high alkaline chemicals. Although the technology is available, most carpet cleaners don't check for after cleaning residue and don't rinse carpet thoroughly.

Even fewer carpet cleaners will check the after cleaning pH of the carpet. If the pH is found to be high, the carpet should, in the least, be thoroughly rinsed with plain hot water. For best results that rinse should contain a pH reducer, such as acetic or citric acid, often called an acid bath. This is similar to a high breed vinegar, but without the odor. Just as carpet left in a high pH (7.5 and above), which will attract and trap dirt and soil, a carpet that is left in a neutral or low pH (between 6 and 7) will have a good tendency to repel soil and stay cleaner longer.


Bleach & Peroxide

You too can cause fading in your zeal to maintain a clean carpet. More often than you could imagine, customers call us to say that they thought it would be okay to put some bleach in their own carpet cleaning machines. Needless to say the result is always horrible, leaving the carpet a myriad of blotchy, uneven and faded colors.

Never use bleach to remove a stain from carpet!

For the record - YOU CANNOT RINSE BLEACH OUT OF A CARPET! Once it's there, it stays there unless professionally removed. One chemical characteristic of bleach is that it stays in the fiber. There is only one antidote and it is not available in the consumer marketplace. Bleach neutralizer, a common chemical in the textile industries and to us as carpet dyers, is not produced for end consumer use.

In discoloration of carpet, alkaline products (high pH) tend to release dyes while acids (low pH) tend to set dyes. Most food coloring is made with acid (low pH) dyes. The same is true of cleaning chemicals. A high pH cleaner is supposed to release stains, but if the stain is already a high pH, it will not release the stain but instead will "set" the stain. Conversely, if the stain is a low pH, a high pH cleaner should release it while applying a low pH cleaner will tend to "set" the stain permanently.

Carpet Cleaning & Spotting Products

Customer calls we receive involving color loss more frequently are found to be the result of some highly advertised "miracle" carpet stain removers such as Resolve (HEXYLOXYETHANOL), SpotShot and OxyClean. The chemicals may contain a reducing agent, an oxyidizer or other ingredient that will cause color loss. Look for words or word parts like: oxide, oxy, oxybis, chlor, chloride, hypoclor, triclor, trioxide, bichlor, benzyl, trichloro-s-triazinetrione, potassium monopersulfate (peroxygen salt) or methoxy. There are many more ingredients that can cause color loss on your carpet.

The best rule of thumb is to blot (DO NOT RUB!) the excess with a clean white towel as soon as a spill occurs. Always blot from the outside of the spill toward the inside. Then apply a neutral mild cleaner in warm water and blot again. Exceptions to applying any water are if you know it's a bleach product. If the spill contains oil or grease, it is important to blot up as much of the spill as possible before applying any water and the water should be very warm with a small amount of Ivory or Dawn dishwashing liquid. Both have good grease cutting agents unlike other household surfactants.

Always communicate your concerns with the technician. It is your responsibility to let the dyer know what you expect and to clearly express your needs. You should accept the risk of rejection if the dyer thinks your expectations exceed the results we know are possible. Think of your alternatives. If you want a carpet color or color repair result that cannot be achieved, the dyer will tell you so. Or, he may opt to try a small area and if you approve he will proceed at your risk. Some jobs are just impractical for the dyer to accept, he will advise you of the most practical, cost-effective solution.


Red Stains

Red stains are a big part of the carpet color correction market. Kids love red pop, Kool-Aid, fruit punch, jello and popcicles. And, kids will get the stuff on the carpet. Color Your Carpet® technicians can remove these red stains perfectly almost every time. As an example, if you have a light beige carpet and children who had a major red drink spill and tracked it all over the room or red jello fight and rubbed it all over a large area of the carpet you have 3 options that are practical and one that is not.

1.    Dye the whole carpet to Kool-Aid Red or a darker Red like Burgundy. (Probably NOT a color you want)
2.    Dye the carpet to a dark enough color which has red in it to reach an acceptable color. (The lesser of all evils)
3.    Have the dyer remove all the red stains and redye the carpet back to beige or any other color light or dark.
*VERY EXPENSIVE & TIME CONSUMING TO REMOVE LARGE AREAS OF RED STAINS (more than 3 Sq Ft of stains).
4.    Buy a new carpet (EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE!!!)


Discoloration, Stubborn Stain and Faded Carpet Warning

*Note: Very few carpet cleaners are proficient in the science of tough stain removal. Most stubborn stains even if removed by a carpet cleaner will result in removing original carpet color too. And,  they can't put the color back! Only an expert carpet dyer should be called to remove stubborn stains because they can often remove the stain without taking additional color from the carpet. Or if original color has to be removed to eradicate the stain completely, then the carpet dyer can match and restore the original color. Caution: There are a very small number of carpet cleaners who claim to be able to dye. But, their business is really carpet cleaning, not carpet dyeing. Consequently, any of the few carpet cleaners who profess to be able to dye, do so as a very small part of their business. Which should lead you to the obvious conclusion they are not and cannot be considered as "carpet dyers".

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